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Siesta Key Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018 1 month ago

Siesta group files revised Big Pass challenge

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The city is discussing a possible response to an amended lawsuit contesting a Lido Key renourishment project.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Less than two weeks after a judge dismissed Siesta Key residents’ challenge to the proposed dredging of Big Pass, the island group has filed a revised lawsuit regarding the project.

On Oct. 23, the Siesta Key Association and resident David Patten submitted an amended complaint that once again attempts to block the Big Pass dredge. The city of Sarasota and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are planning to use sand from Big Pass to renourish eroded portions of the Lido Key shoreline.

Although the city has obtained a permit from the state for the project, the complaint argues the dredging fails to comply with the city and county comprehensive plans. The Siesta Key Association believes the city is required to obtain permission from the county to proceed with the project.

The Siesta Key Association, which represents approximately 1,700 residents, made a similar claim in its previous circuit court lawsuit. Twelfth Circuit Court Judge Andrea McHugh dismissed that challenge Oct. 12.

Previously, an administrative law judge recommended moving forward with the project in response to a separate challenge from the Siesta Key Association.

Siesta Key Association board member Catherine Luckner pointed to what she believed was an important distinction in the amended complaint. The group also filed a petition for writ of mandamus, which would order the government to comply with a legal duty. Luckner believes the initial circuit court complaint was dismissed for procedural reasons, not on its merit.

The proposed dredging has been a source of discord between Siesta Key and Lido Key. Luckner said Siesta residents were not attempting to harm Lido residents with the suit. Instead, she said, the group believes the city has failed to comply with necessary regulatory steps.

“It is specifically directed toward the city as a government,” Luckner said of the complaint. “This is specifically a governmental duty.”

The city has 20 days to respond to the amended complaint. Through a spokesman, the city said it is still discussing a possible response to the first count of the litigation.

City Attorney Robert Fournier believes the second count — the petition for writ of mandamus — is a completely different cause of action and does not qualify as an amended version of the initial complaint. The city does not intend to respond to that count until the court issues an order to show cause.

After the Oct. 12 dismissal, City Manager Tom Barwin expressed hope Siesta residents would end their efforts to contest the project and work collaboratively with the city. Despite multiple failed attempts to block the dredging, Luckner still thinks the onus is on the city to amend the project to address Siesta Key residents’ concerns.

“We’re trying to get the best project,” Luckner said.

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