NEW PORT RICHEY — The court battle over the former Gulf Harbors golf course is heading to its second round.
Circuit Judge Declan Mansfield has denied Pasco County's motion to dismiss a lawsuit from Gulf Harbors residents Susan Levine and Diane Theriault Kobernick, who are challenging the validity of the purchase.
"Fabulous,'' Levine said when she learned of the ruling. "We'll have to see what (Pasco's) answer is to our complaint.''
The women contend the county acted illegally last fall when commissioners voted to acquire the closed course for $1.2 million and to split the cost with neighborhood property owners. The county is preserving the land through its Environmental Lands Acquisition and Management Program, and 1,791 neighbors are being asked to pay a five-year assessment to offset half of the purchase.
Levine and Kobernick say the county failed to provide proper legal notice of the Sept. 27, 2016, public hearing and commission vote and that creating the municipal service benefit unit to collect the assessment violated the county's own codes.
"The county will file an answer and affirmative defenses, and then a motion for summary judgment," Senior Assistant County Attorney Nicki Spirtos said after receiving the ruling.
Spirtos had argued for the dismissal, saying the women's claim was legally insufficient and failed to state a cause of action. The county also said it met the legal requirements for notification and noted that both Levine and Kobernick attended the September commission meeting and offered testimony during the public hearing prior to the commission vote. During the commission hearing, Levine said she didn't oppose the park preserve, just the assessment on property owners.
On April 17, the two sides argued for 90 minutes on the county's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Two days later, Mansfield signed the ruling, which states: "It is the court's position that the motion to dismiss filed by Pasco County is lacking and is therefore denied.''
The 50-acre golf course opened in 1971, but was shut down more than a decade ago. County acquisition keeps the site from potential development. The purchase cost is being split because the sale price of $1.2 million was twice as high as a county-obtained appraisal. The seller had sought $1.7 million.