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East County Wednesday, May 13, 2020 1 month ago

Manatee County faces another Tara lawsuit

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Lake Lincoln attorney says lawsuit would cover damages related to land use restrictions.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

The Lake Lincoln development saga at the 3.3-acre site at the Tara entrance continues as the developer is considering a lawsuit to collect more damages from not being able to commercially develop the site.

Sarasota attorney Bill Moore, who represents Lake Lincoln, said a new lawsuit by the developer against Manatee County likely will be coming in the fall and would cover future lost revenue. A modification to the original suit in November 2019 covered losses from that point back to 2012, when that suit was filed. Lake Lincoln claims it was denied the ability to earn revenue from the property during that period.

The new lawsuit covers future lost revenue from not allowing commercial development at the site.

“They have inordinately burdened the land by taking away its commercial use, which the Comprehensive Plan says we have,” Moore said of the new lawsuit. “The residential use makes the property much less valuable.”

Moore said a second lawsuit has not yet been filed, though his office is following statutory guidelines by notifying Manatee County of a pending claim under the Bert J. Harris Private Property Rights Protection Act. It protects landowners from having government “inordinately burden” a property — limiting a property’s use, so the owner cannot get its “reasonable, investment-backed expectation” for the land — without compensation.

Manatee County has until Aug. 24 to respond.

Moore said the county can either make concessions or hold steady.

“One way or the other, chances are we’re going to file the suit right away,” Moore said.

Manatee County assistant attorney Chris De Carlo said the attorney’s office cannot comment on a case under active litigation.

Moore said Lake Lincoln, in its initial suit, should still be compensated for not being able to use its land over the past decade.

“For almost 10 years, we had no use,” Moore said, noting it’s much like the county “rented” the land. “It’s a constitutional complaint. We need to get paid for that period off the market.”

An appraisal provided by Durrance & Associates for Lake Lincoln indicates a loss of $3.61 million in value, when combining the temporary loss and permanent loss of value for the property.

Associations representing the Tara residents had intervened in the original lawsuit after Manatee County reached a settlement agreement with Lake Lincoln in June 2017. Their efforts effectively resulted in 12th Judicial Court Judge Lon Arend in August 2018 asking the commission to reconfirm the settlement agreement, which it subsequently rejected in April 2019.

Attorney Robert Lincoln, who represents those groups — Tara Golf and Country Club, Tara Master Association and Fairway Gardens II at Tara Condominium Association— said he must prove again residents should have the right to intervene. A hearing on the topic has tentatively been set for early June.

He said he expects Tara residents to petition the court to intervene again if Lake Lincoln brings forward a second lawsuit under the Bert Harris Act.

Tara’s developer, Lake Lincoln, in 2012 filed a lawsuit against Manatee County, alleging it had taken away its property rights to land at the southwest corner of Tara Boulevard and State Road 70 during a 2010 land-use hearing. At that time, county commissioners said the land could only be used “for open space and wetlands.”

Manatee County and Lake Lincoln had reached a settlement agreement in June 2017 that would have allowed up to 19,500 square feet of commercial development on the land. The agreement had to be approved by a judge. At that time, residents of Tara asked to participate in the case.

After hearing testimony, Judge Lon Arend asked commissioners to reconsider their settlement agreement. Manatee County commissioners this time rejected the settlement and instead offered to allow residential development on the site. 

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