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Florida Keys RV Park Suit in ‘Serious Negotiations’

January 21, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

The battle between the city of Marathon, Fla., and residents of the Key RV mobile-home park over sewer fees may go to trial after all.

Acting Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker on Monday (Jan. 18) denied cross motions by both parties to dismiss the case and said the issue warrants a full-blown trial. But it may never reach that point, as city attorneys and Key RV attorney David Paul Horan are working behind the scenes to settle the case, according to keysnet.com.

Horan said he “can’t admit or deny” an agreement is near, while interim Marathon City Manager Peter Rosasco said negotiations are ongoing.

“The city is in serious negotiations to settle the matter,” Rosasco said in an e-mail to the Keynoter Tuesday.

But Rosasco said sewer-fee scales similar to Marathon’s have held up throughout Florida and that Becker’s ruling is a good thing for the city.

“The city is very pleased with this ruling. We believe the ability for the city to bring forward expert witnesses and a mountain of evidentiary material to support our position is a good thing and we welcome that opportunity,” he said.

The case boils down to whether it’s legal for the city to charge Key RV’s individual owners the same sewer fees as other equivalent dwelling units in the city based on the form of ownership. The mobile-home park switched to a condominium form of ownership in 2004.

Becker’s ruling says “there are issues of fact precluding an award of summary judgment.” That’s when both parties agree on facts and the court makes a decision based on law.

Becker’s order likely eliminates the need for a scheduled Friday court date to hear further oral arguments.

City attorneys and Horan argued before Becker in early December, but Becker delayed ruling on a city motion to have the case dismissed because she was unable to review a recently filed motion by Horan.

Key RV sued in October 2008 alleging discrimination by the city in assessing them nearly $1 million combined to connect to Marathon’s under-construction sewer system. That’s $4,700 for each of the park’s 200 owners and equal to what owners of single-family homeowners pay.

That fee does not include another $1,030 connection charge single-family homeowners pay. Key RV, like other condominium associations, will pay a single connection charge split among its owners.

The 200 property owners purchased the park in 2004, but doing so required them to form a condominium association to obtain bank loans.

That set Keys RV owners up to be charged as individual EDUs, like other condominium associations in Marathon. But Key RV maintains it should be assessed based on historical water flow, like other mobile home and RV parks. That’s determined by averaging a property’s highest average three-month usage over a three-year period.

Becker’s ruling did not include a date a trial might begin.

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