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Largo mobile home park loses annexation challenge

No Go Largo Village, 1760 Clearwater-Largo Road, was annexed by the city a year before Key Largo Communities bought it in 2006.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2006)

No Go Largo Village, 1760 Clearwater-Largo Road, was annexed by the city a year before Key Largo Communities bought it in 2006.

A mobile home park previously cited for a spate of violations is still in Largo.

Almost two years after Key Largo Communities, the owner of No Go Largo Village, sued the city, claiming its park wasn't in Largo, a circuit court judge dismissed its case.

Judge J. Thomas McGrady previously found that Key Largo didn't have standing to file the suit. The dismissal last week prevents the owner from filing another case challenging the annexation of its property.

Michael Rodriguez, the owner's attorney, said his client plans to appeal. But City Attorney Alan Zimmet said it is unlikely an appeal would be successful.

"We have been arguing all along they don't have standing to challenge the annexation," Zimmet said.

Key Largo bought the property in 2006, a year after the park was annexed. And the previous owner didn't file a legal challenge.

The park at 1760 Clearwater-Largo Road, which has homes up to 50 years old, sits in the middle of an area targeted for redevelopment. But it isn't part of the city's Clearwater-Largo Road redevelopment district.

"It's almost like an enclave in the middle of our redevelopment area," said City Manager Mac Craig.

The park was excluded because Pinellas County commissioners last year chose not to support Largo's request to add the park to the district. They cited concerns about the litigation.

The city is again seeking to add the park property and others nearby to the district. Inclusion will allow developers more units per acre and incentives for building affordable homes.

Mayor Pat Gerard said the suit's resolution may encourage developers to initiate projects in the area.

"I'm glad it's resolved and we can move on and get some redevelopment happening there," she said.

Daniel Grieco, who owns property next to the park, was planning to build townhomes, but now says he and his partner are thinking about building apartments.

His property also was excluded from the redevelopment area — and the incentives — because the city had sought to include his property in the district at the same time it tried to add the contested park property.

Friction between the city and the park owner traces back to 2006, when city inspectors descended on the park and found 150 code violations, including exposed electrical wiring, construction without permits and leaking sewage. Thirteen rental units were later condemned.

In November 2006, Key Largo filed its suit. The city has spent more than $100,000 on litigation.

At one point, Largo offered to de-annex the park to end litigation. The park owner refused.

In May, McGrady dismissed Key Largo's suit, but gave the owner 20 days to file a new challenge.

In June, the park owner asked the court for more time, saying it was "communicating and/or negotiating with governmental entities" who might join the suit.

That month, Andrea Trani, who heads Key Largo Communities, met with Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel and County Attorney Jim Bennett. Seel then said she encouraged Trani to try to work things out with the city.

The owner's attorney later canceled the hearing on its request for more time.

Earlier this year, Key Largo announced a plan to evict tenants and turn the park into a modular home community for "work force heroes."

Last week, the park appeared mostly abandoned. About five units have been removed. A few have cars or trucks parked out front.

Shauna Denton, 53, said she and her husband moved out last weekend. About five people were still living there, she said.

Meanwhile, the future of the property is in question. In August, Hudo Lending LLC filed a suit against Key Largo Communities, Trani, 58, and her partner, Helene Provenzano, 45, to foreclose on a $1.4-million loan used to buy the mobile home park. The suit also seeks to have a receiver appointed to oversee the property.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or 445-4155.

Largo mobile home park loses annexation challenge 09/20/08 [Last modified: Sunday, September 21, 2008 6:35pm]
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