Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

818 Land Trust conflict flares again in Aloha Gardens

HOLIDAY — Just three weeks ago, Bigelow Drive residents thought they were close to buying a piece of important real estate: their back yards.

Their lawyer was talking to a lawyer for the 818 Land Trust, which owns the 20-foot-wide strip of land running behind their homes. The residents offered $1,146 — the same price the land trust had paid in March for the delinquent tax property — then waited on a counteroffer.

It came: $1.5-million.

And so the conflict with the anonymous land trust has escalated again after nearly a month of relative quiet in Aloha Gardens. Now it's back to the old routine: The land trust dispatches contractors to tear down a resident's shed on its property, and neighbors call sheriff's deputies, who broker a tenuous peace.

But residents say the trust has taken a creepier, meaner tone, including a new Web site featuring video footage of the backs of their homes. They worry about who is going to show up at their neighborhood next.

"At the end of any given day, there's not going to be a happy ending," said neighbor Bill Cody. "I haven't heard anything this bizarre in a long time. This guy is not only wanting money. He's also crazy."

Mid morning on Thursday, two 33-year-old Pinellas County men who had seen the trust's latest Craigslist ad about the shed drove up. They walked toward the shed on the trust's land, near Sam Dennewitz's side yard, and started pulling off the door.

Dennewitz, who stores equipment in the shed, saw them and called the authorities.

The shed has become a focal point of the entire Aloha Gardens dispute. At one point, Dennewitz offered to rent the property from the trust. But he changed his mind, he said, because he felt like he was being "extorted" and because he saw the shed as the last line of defense: Once the shed is removed, the trust could more easily access the rest of the property.

One of the two workers on the scene Thursday, John Heaston, said a trust representative had told them to take anything they wanted out of the shed and to document the scene with a camera. He said he changed his mind as soon as he arrived.

"There are some things not worth the money," he said as he hung back to stand with the neighbors who had gathered.

But his friend, David Hoover, was more persistent. He said he was committed to the project because he had the owner's permission.

What followed was nearly two hours of waiting and negotiating, phone calls with county officials, temper soothing. Dennewitz, who had started taking his tools out of the shed, said if they got rained on and ruined, he'd sue the land trust.

Ultimately, a code enforcement officer told the two men they needed contractors' licenses to dismantle the shed. Sheriff's deputies, not wanting to settle civil matters on the fly, said the owner needed a court order to remove the shed.

"The guy wants it done soon," said an exasperated Hoover. "He's just going to keep hiring people."

In a relay phone call, the land trust told the Pasco Times through an operator that the Sheriff's Office and county code officials were treating it unfairly and "making up rules on their own whims."

Back at the scene Thursday, Hoover answered his cell phone and leaned against his pickup, which bears a bumper sticker saying, "Lead Me Not into Temptation, I Can Find It Myself."

On the other line was someone from the trust, a "John Hinson," he later said.

"I'm ready to see it through, man," he told the caller. "I know you're going to keep pressing."

But not that day. The deputies asked him to move along, and he did.

Dennewitz, for his part, said he's through with his own protest. His sons are coming up this weekend, and they are going to help him clean out the shed. Then he'll just let the land trust come, tear it down and haul it away.

"Tired of this whole mess," he said. "It's gone from bad to worse."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

818 Land Trust conflict flares again in Aloha Gardens 06/20/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 27, 2008 7:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Even with their losing streak extending to five the night before, Rays officials were continuing Tuesday on their same track in trade talks leading up to Monday's deadline seeking a proven reliever and a right-handed bat.

    Looking to buy.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  2. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries

    Blogs

    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  3. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, left, and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience Tuesday at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9.
  4. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.
  5. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.