Holmes Beach wins Bert Harris victory

Holmes Beach logo

HOLMES BEACH — Holmes Beach scores one point in the battle between the city and the Bert Harris Act.

City leaders received notice March 22 that the court had rendered a final judgment in favor of the municipality in the Bert Harris case for 626 Key Royale Drive. Kathleen Morgan and Leah Marie Enterprises LLC own the property.

The property owners have 30 days from the date of the judgment to appeal the decision. The court retained jurisdiction over fees and costs.

Accompanying the notice was an e-mail from attorney Jay Daigneault advising he would prepare motions to recover both court costs and attorney fees for the city.

According to the notice, the city did misinterpret the Florida building code when representatives of the building department applied the 30 percent rule to the Key Royale Drive property. However, the court ruled against the property owner because the Bert Harris Act did not apply to the case.

The 30 percent rule is a Florida statute which prohibits the remodeling of more than 30 percent of the total area of a structure’s roof. The property owners’ initial building permit application in 2013 specified replacement of the entire roof and raising the home’s ceilings.

The Bert Harris Jr. Private Property Act allows homeowners to appeal for relief to a municipality which has unduly restricted the owner’s use of a residential property through legislation or ordinance.

In this case, the Bert Harris rules didn’t apply because the court found the error was in the interpretation of the building code, not created by an ordinance.

The case was filed in 2015. The home has been under first a stop work order then a revoked permit, causing it to remain in an unfinished condition since 2014.

Another Bert Harris case comes to town

It wasn’t all good news for the city with regard to Bert Harris.

Mayor Bob Johnson received a summons March 23 regarding a Bert Harris case for 106 75th St. The property is a duplex owned by Swackhamer Investments VI LLC, Bmeehan Investments VI LLC, and Kmeehan Investments VI LLC.

The summons requires the city to respond within 20 days of the notice date, March 21, with a written defense to the claims asserted by the property owners.

The owners assert the city unduly restricted the future development and use of the property with new restrictions. Issues listed in the summons are restrictions on the number of bedrooms allowed at a duplex property in the R-2 zoning district, the amount and size of recreational water features and occupancy.

The owners filed a Bert Harris claim with the city in October 2016 asking for relief or $225,000 in compensation. The claim’s 150-day response period lapsed in early March. The city is maintaining its stance on Bert Harris claims, refusing to offer compensation or amend its ordinances to appease claimants.

Holmes Beach had received 37 Bert Harris claims as of press time.