It’s a Bert Harris win for Holmes Beach

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HOLMES BEACH – City leaders have reason to celebrate as a win comes in for Holmes Beach in a Bert Harris case filed by residents Robert and Ellen McCaffrey.

The news came in the form of a judgment from 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Lon Arend dated Nov. 2. The trial for the Bert Harris case was held Aug. 15-18 in Manatee County.

In the case, the McCaffreys, owners of a Holmes Boulevard property since 1993 in the R-2 residential district, alleged that the city’s ordinances setting a maximum living area ratio based on lot size and restrictions on the number of bedrooms and pools associated with duplex units, along with onsite parking requirements seriously affected the couple’s plans to redevelop the property and sell it in order to retire.

Court documents show that due to the LAR restrictions, the McCaffreys are limited to redeveloping the lot with new construction to a home or duplex with a total of 3,350 square feet of living area. The duplex restrictions require a connected duplex with a maximum of three bedrooms per side rather than the five the lawsuit says the couple had planned. The lawsuit also alleges hardships due to required driveway size and onsite parking requirements as well as restrictions on pool location and size for duplex units. The McCaffreys requested $15,000 in relief.

In his judgment, Arend said the McCaffreys failed to prove they are entitled to relief and that the claims against the city were invalid. Because the McCaffreys had not proceeded with redevelopment of the property prior to the ordinances being enacted, Arend said the case was based on a theory of use rather than an actual use of the property. The judgment also says that since the use of the property as a duplex vacation rental property with a pool is still allowed under the new ordinances, the use of the property is not impacted. The judgment goes on to state that “It was speculative and unreasonable for Plantiffs (the McCaffreys) to expect to develop their property with unlimited LAR, pool size, and parking based only on the premise that other in the R-2 district had done so.”

In an email to city leaders, attorney Jay Daigneault, representing the city, said that he would work to recover court costs but doubted the city’s ability to collect or entitlement to be reimbursed for attorney fees in the matter. He said the victory in this case will help the attorneys to prepare for the other Bert Harris cases being heard in the coming months.

The McCaffreys have 30 days from the date of the judgment to file an appeal.