CLEARWATER — Five years after the Memorial Causeway Bridge opened to traffic, residents of a nearby condominium are still suing the city over it.
Pierce 100 residents say their once-peaceful way of life is history since Clearwater rebuilt the bridge closer to their homes.
There's the whooshing of cars. There's the vrooming of motorcycles. And then there's the view.
"We used to look out all the way to Tarpon and now we look out at concrete," said condo association president Terry Sue Turner, who's lived there since 1976.
The battle between the residents and the city traces back well more than a decade. Pierce 100 residents opposed the plan before city leaders approved it. And twice before this, residents were defeated in court over complaints that the bridge project's financing or its approval process were improper.
Then in 2005, the condo association filed this lawsuit, claiming, among other things, their waterfront view has been obstructed. Since the bridge was built, residents claim the value of their units has dropped, and they're asking for compensation. The case is set for trial in April.
About two weeks ago, city leaders approved an additional $200,000 for an outside firm, which specializes in such cases, to continue representing the city.
Clearwater assistant city attorney Dick Hull questions the validity of the Pierce 100's legal claims. He says residents no longer have to deal with a number of nuisances they used to with the old drawbridge, like boats honking their horns or cars driving over the metal grating.
And as for the view, he said, "There was a bridge there before."
But residents say height is the issue.
The clearance of the old bridge was about 25 feet. The new one rises 74 feet. At its closest point, the new bridge is about 200 feet from Pierce 100. The old one was hundreds of feet farther, according to the resident's complaint.
The bridge sits at eye level with Frank Spatuzzi's sixth-floor condo. Spatuzzi and his wife, Inge, say they sometimes keep the windows closed to avoid the almost-constant whir of traffic.
But there's little they can do about the view. Out their windows, they can see much of the bridge, which spans more than 2,000 feet. The south wall of their condo, near their dining room table, is covered with mirrors. They can see a reflection of the bridge there, too.
"We have dinner with the bridge every night," said Spatuzzi, 92.
Lorri Helfand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4155.