Fearing the city could be subject to hefty legal fees, City Attorney Bob Fournier recommended the city commission approve a request for one of its tenants to sue the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office.
Jack Graham Inc., which operates Marina Jack on city-owned property, wants to challenge in court the property appraiser’s decision to collect $1.5 million in taxes on the property — $300,000 for the current year and $1.2 million for unpaid back taxes.
The city’s lease with the company states it is responsible for any property taxes, but company and city have argued that Marina Jack serves a public purpose and, therefore, should be exempt from paying property taxes.
“If the city says ‘no’ (to the lawsuit), the tenant would sue anyway and would name the city as a defendant, (because) the city is violating the tenant’s constitutional right to access to the court,” the city attorney said.
Fournier made it clear that voting to allow the lawsuit in no way means that the city is joining the suit or is taking a position on whether Marina Jack should pay property taxes.
The commission voted 4-1 to OK the lawsuit, with Mayor Kelly Kirschner dissenting.
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