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Mobile home park stays in city limits

The owner of No Go Largo Village, formerly know as Sunpiper Mobile Home Park, will go back to court after a judge ruled Thursday that the city’s 2006 annexation of the property would stand.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

The owner of No Go Largo Village, formerly know as Sunpiper Mobile Home Park, will go back to court after a judge ruled Thursday that the city’s 2006 annexation of the property would stand.

A troubled mobile home park is still in the city of Largo despite its owner's contention to the contrary.

No Go Largo Village mobile home park — once known as Sunpiper — was purchased by Key Largo Communities Corp. in June 2006, a year after the city annexed the park.

On Thursday, a Pinellas-Pasco judge dismissed a lawsuit contesting Largo's annexation of the property at 1760 Clearwater-Largo Road, saying Key Largo did not have legal standing to make the challenge.

During a court hearing, City Attorney Alan Zimmet argued the park owner could not legally challenge the annexation because it did not own the property when it was annexed.

So Judge J. Thomas McGrady posed the question: "If a person moves into an area that's already been annexed, how can they complain when they knew about the annexation before they moved in?"

And what's to stop someone from challenging an annexation 10 or 20 years later? he asked.

The park owner's attorney, Michael E. Rodriguez, countered that the annexation itself was improper because the man who signed the annexation petition didn't own the property at the time.

Zimmet told the judge that one of the man's companies later bought the property. And that same man signed a deed conveying the property to Key Largo.

But Zimmet focused chiefly on the owner's right to challenge the annexation and two other issues outlined in state statutes. He said the owner didn't follow the proper procedure to contest the annexation and waited more than 30 days to do so.

"This case was filed a year and half after the annexation," Zimmet said.

Key Largo filed the suit in November 2006, three months after Largo cited the park for numerous violations and tagged more than a dozen mobile homes as uninhabitable.

For nearly two years, the city and the property owner have butted heads over health, safety and jurisdictional issues.

Several months ago, when the case was assigned to a different judge, city leaders offered to de-annex the property to end litigation. Key Largo refused.

Former Judge Amy Williams found grounds to challenge the annexation. But she also ruled that Key Largo was not an affected party under the statutes dealing with annexations.

In January, the owner's former attorney Brian Battaglia asked to withdraw from the case, citing "irreconcilable differences."

That same day, he filed a claim saying Key Largo owed him about $50,000.

In March, Key Largo president Andrea Trani announced plans to turn the property into a community called Kokomo with Key West-style modular homes.

Thursday, Rodriguez said his client respects the judge's decision, but plans to return to court.

"We're going to continue fighting this," Rodriguez said. He has 20 days to file an amended complaint and said he intends to do so.

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

Mobile home park stays in city limits 05/10/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 12, 2008 10:27am]
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