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Court sides with Dunedin in suits challenging code enforcement and development standards

DUNEDIN — Lawsuits attacking Dunedin's code enforcement and development standards were defeated in federal court Monday, netting years-old victories against a south Dunedin couple and a luxury condo developer.

Michael and Kim Conley sued the city in 2008 after code inspectors fined Michael, a handyman, for owning a too-tall truck and a shed without a permit. He accused the city of overlooking other violations and unfairly fining them $150 a day since 2006.

But a judge wrote in a summary judgment that officials did not unfairly target the Conleys, excessively fine them or illegally search their property on Squire Court. Though the continuing fines now near $200,000, the judge wrote they are "relatively small," compared with the state statute allowing $250 a day, and that the city cannot be blamed because "the Conleys have allowed a small fine to grow into an enormous one."

"How much can they fine somebody before it's considered excessive?" Conley said when told of the order. "My wife made $15,000 last year. When it's all said and done, I don't think I made 3 ($3,000)."

City officials told the St. Petersburg Times in October that Conley could ask for a reduction of the fines after complying. Conley said he had not yet read the motion and may appeal.

"Bottom line: Little guy just doesn't matter," Conley said. "Congratulations. You've taken away my house, my job and pretty much my license. Hope you're happy."

In the second case, which began in 2006, the developer of the proposed Dunedin Marina View condos said city commissioners changed site standards and dismissed the project though it had already been approved in early planning.

A federal bankruptcy judge ruled "across the board" for the city Monday, according to City Attorney John Hubbard. A state judge had previously sided with the city.

Kelly Prior, listed as the project applicant and owner, could not be reached for comment.

Court sides with Dunedin in suits challenging code enforcement and development standards 01/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 7:44pm]
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