County judge leaves Holmes Beach case

County judge leaves Holmes Beach case
Judge Edward Nicholas has recused himself from taking any action in the legal action between the city of Holmes Beach and the owners of the Bali Hai Resort. - Kristin Swain | Sun

MANATEE COUNTY – Manatee County Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas has recused himself from taking any action in a lawsuit involving both the city of Holmes Beach and the owners of the Bali Hai Beach Resort.

The order of recusal was completed by Nicholas on Aug. 3 and filed with the Manatee County Clerk of Court on Aug. 4. No reason was given for the recusal.

The recusal came after a July 31 order from Judge Charles Sniffen on the city’s emergency motion for ex-parte relief in the matter. The order states that Sniffen reviewed the emergency motion because Nicholas was not available and that he denied the city’s motion. Sniffen additionally ordered that the entirety of the motion and all requests for relief should be heard by Nicholas or another assigned judge on or after Aug. 3.

At press time for The Sun, the case had not yet been reassigned to another judge and a hearing date had not been set.

The case revolves around the city’s assertion that work was done at the Bali Hai without a permit and in violation of a stop-work order issued by Holmes Beach Building Official Neal Schwartz.

According to the lawsuit filed on May 22, Schwartz and Code Enforcement Supervisor James Thomas visited the property on Jan. 24 and observed extensive work being done on the property without a permit. Schwartz issued a stop-work order and notified West Manatee Fire Rescue Fire Marshal Rodney Kwiatkowski that the structure under construction also was being occupied. Kwiatkowski verbally ordered the occupants to cease, desist and vacate the premises.

Schwartz and Thomas returned to the property on March 2 and noted that additional work had been started in violation of the stop-work order. Due to the scope of the work observed, the lawsuit states that the work would require a major site plan review before it could be approved and permitted by the city.

As of the filing of the lawsuit, the city asserts that the resort is still in use and that no permits have been applied for, no site plan has been submitted for review and no certificate of completion, allowing for occupancy of the building, has been issued. As a result of the allegedly unpermitted work, a multi-purpose room was transformed into a bar/lounge area which also is a change of use.

Through the lawsuit, the city seeks an injunction to either comply with the city’s ordinances and codes or to cease use of the building where the work took place until it’s fully compliant with all building codes.

The Bali Hai is a beachfront resort with 43 rooms, a private pool and a private lounge for guests of the resort. The hotel is located at 6900 Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach.

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