Longstanding Keys Sewer Issue Near Resolution?
It's now up to the Marathon, Fla., City Council whether to accept terms of a settlement reached Sept. 21 in the two-year legal battle over sewer fees with Key RV mobile home park located in the Florida Keys.
As expected, at least 60% of the park's 201 individual owners voted in favor of the settlement at an Oct. 17 Key RV board meeting. It appears likely the settlement will be approved by the city council, as well, Keys Net reported.
"Basically, they want to be treated just like everyone else [living in a single-family home]. I think it's only right the city put in the system and turn over control once they're finished with it. It's a win-win for everybody," Councilman Pete Worthington said. He attended the court-ordered mediation session in September.
According to a copy of the packet the park's board sent out to owners detailing the settlement:
- The city agrees to install and pay for a sewer system and be responsible for connecting it to a U.S. 1 connection point. No part of the current system will be reused.
- After the new system is complete, Key RV will be permitted to "inspect and take ownership of the system."
- Key RV will operate and maintain the system.
- Paying for the lateral connection from each unit to the new system will be the responsibility of individual owners. However, the park board plans to use its reserve funds to pay for laterals not covered by grant money.
- The connection fee will be $1,049 for each owner, as it is for each single-family homeowner in Marathon.
Councilman Dick Ramsay has long hoped a settlement could be reached in lieu of a pending trial. He said he's reviewed the terms of the deal.
"It seems fair and equitable not only to the city and city residents, but to Key RV. I'm leaning in favor of getting rid of the lawsuit and settling this issue once and for all," he said.
Ramsay said he's seeking a Florida Commission on Ethics "release" to vote on the agreement. He has a conflict of interest in that his son-in-law, local contractor Chris Gratton, bid to construct the park's sewer system.
"My vote would be to vote on a settlement agreement, not vote on a contractor," he said.
Mayor Ginger Snead and Vice Mayor Mike Cinque declined comment until the council meets as a group. Councilman Rich Keating couldn't be reached for comment.
The Key RV homeowners association sued the city in October 2008. It alleged discrimination in assessing park residents more than $1 million combined to connect to the citywide sewer system. Several versions of potential settlements bounced around but were never agreed upon.
The lawsuit essentially boils down to whether it's legal 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.
Single-family homeowners in Marathon pay a combined $5,700 per equivalent dwelling unit; that represents the connection fee and a system development charge, which is what Key RV residents will pay.