Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bayou Bonita homeowners may settle dock lawsuit out of court

ST. PETERSBURG — After two years of courtroom drama over dock ownership, residents of Bayou Bonita and the city have begun settlement talks.

The goal, according to both sides, is to reach a legal agreement that would allow the homeowners to retain rights to their land and docks while allowing the city to keep its easements for utilities and oversight of publicly used land.

The turnabout gained traction last week, a day before a judge was to decide if the city could move forward with its lawsuit involving nearly 40 residents on Sunrise Drive, according to City Council member Karl Nurse.

"Tangibly, I don't understand how it sort of got here, but it did get here, and I think we can step back and fix this," said Nurse, who represents the neighborhood and learned about the case after being contacted by the Times.

"We've been asking for this to happen for two years," said Ira "Dusty" Rhodes, who formed a trust with neighbors Terry Clarke and Bart Barbalich to fight for their docks.

At the root of the dispute is a strip of grass from 39th Avenue S to 46th Avenue that separates Little Bayou from Sunrise Drive. Beneath the grass are city easements for utilities.

The dispute began when Clarke applied for a city permit to repair his dock. The city said no. But historical records indicate that the land up to the seawall, including the dirt beneath the city street, was part of the homes.

The neighbors contacted an heir to the company that developed the land in 1917. A judge allowed Sam H. Mann Jr. to sign the deed of the "upland" parcel, which he did in favor of the homeowners.

But to determine ownership, the trust had to sue the city. The homeowners say their intention was never to take over land that is widely used as a public park, but only to maintain rights to the docks.

The plot thickened when the city filed a countersuit against the trust and three dozen other homeowners, seeking to dismiss the original suit and get compensation for years of maintenance. In court papers, city lawyers argued the property belongs to the city because it has maintained the property for more than 20 years.

Previously, the city refused to talk to the homeowners because it was being sued. Now, both sides say an out-of-court legal settlement may achieve what both parties want.

Assistant City Attorney Jeanne Hoffmann and attorney Laura Bamond, who represents the trust, both declined to comment until a settlement is reached.

When the parties go back to court is unclear. A hearing before Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge J. Thomas McGrady has been indefinitely postponed.

Luis Perez can be reached at (727) 892-2271 or [email protected]

Bayou Bonita homeowners may settle dock lawsuit out of court 02/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 5:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Empire' star Grace Byers keynotes USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy luncheon

    Human Interest


    TAMPA — The first University of South Florida graduate to address the USF's Women in Leadership & Philanthropy supporters, Grace Gealey Byers, class of 2006, centered her speech on her first name, turning it into a verb to share life lessons.

    Grace Byers, University of South Florida Class of 2006, stars on the Fox television show Empire. She delivered the keynote at the USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy luncheon Friday. Photo by Amy Scherzer
  2. Southeast Seminole Heights holds candlelight vigil for victims' families and each other


    TAMPA — They came together in solidarity in Southeast Seminole Heights, to sustain three families in their grief and to confront fear, at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night in the central Tampa neighborhood.

    A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
  3. It's not just Puerto Rico: FEMA bogs down in Florida, Texas too

    HOUSTON — Outside Rachel Roberts' house, a skeleton sits on a chair next to the driveway, a skeleton child on its lap, an empty cup in its hand and a sign at its feet that reads "Waiting on FEMA."

    Ernestino Leon sits among the debris removed from his family’s flood-damaged Bonita Springs home on Oct. 11. He has waited five weeks for FEMA to provide $10,000 to repair the home.
  4. McConnell says he's awaiting Trump guidance on health care

    STERLING, Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor if President Donald Trump makes clear he supports it.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “not certain yet” on what Trump wants.
  5. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series


    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.