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Attorney for developer threatens suit over site-built homes in park

The lawyer for a local developer says they will fight in court if the city does not approve the construction of site-built homes in Gull Aire Village.

The city's Planning Board rejected developer William Buckner's proposal to add site-built houses to the mobile homes in Gull Aire. Board members said they feared expensive site-built homes would make it difficult for current Gull Aire residents to sell older mobile homes.

The city planning staff has given the project conditional approval. Senior Planner Marie Dauphinais has stipulated that the site-built homes must have a similar architecture to the existing homes.

City Council members are expected to weigh the staff and board recommendations during a discussion about Gull Aire tonight.

Buckner's lawyer, Alan Zimmet, says his client shouldn't have to go through this process at all because Florida law prohibits cities from discriminating between different types of housing.

Rather than pursue the matter legally, Zimmet said, Buckner decided to follow the normal process.

"My client decided we would try to work with the city rather than sue them," Zimmet said. "We're trying to work with them. We've agreed to some of the city's conditions."

In the section of Florida statutes relating to development is one sentence that reads, "Such local requirements and rules which may be enacted by local authorities must be uniformly applied and enforced without any distinction as to whether a building is a conventionally constructed or manufactured building."

That is the law Zimmet says makes it clear Buckner should be able to build either manufactured or site-built homes in Gull Aire.

City Attorney Thomas Trask says there is a problem using that law because Gull Aire has mobile homes, not manufactured homes.

"You can't use them interchangeably," Trask said. "It is my position, the city's position, that everything out there today is not manufactured homes. All of them are mobile homes."

Trask said Florida law distinguishes mobile homes as those that have a plate or sticker on them from Housing and Urban Development.

Zimmet said he is hoping the council will have an open mind about the project because Buckner would rather not go to court.

"We hope we never get there," Zimmet said, "but this is an extremely important issue to Gull Aire and we'll have no choice at that point but to file litigation."

Also at tonight's meeting, Mayor Jerry Beverland is expected to select a new vice mayor. He said he had considered both the incumbent and newly elected members but Monday wanted to keep the choice a surprise.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m. at 100 E State St.