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Keys City and RV Park Reach Sewer Impasse

June 16, 2010 by · Comments Off on Keys City and RV Park Reach Sewer Impasse 

Longstanding hopes for a settlement between the city of Marathon, Fla., and residents of the Key RV mobile-home park over sewer fees appear to have gone by the wayside.

Key RV’s homeowners association sued the city in October 2008. It alleges discrimination in assessing the park residents more than $1 million combined to connect to the system, which is still under construction, according to the Keynoter.

City Attorney John Herin told the Keynoter the residents of the mile marker 50 park shot down what several city council members said was a final offer in lieu of a trial. The offer was made after a two-hour closed session of the council in late March.

Several versions of an offer bounced back and forth between city and Key RV attorneys, but no agreement was reached. One was reportedly agreed upon that would see the city refurbish and take ownership of the park’s existing waste system.

“The city wanted oversight as to how they spent the money to make sure the system they put in was an up-to-date legitimate system. I think that’s what killed the deal, frankly,” Councilman Dick Ramsay said.

“They rejected it outright. We’re headed to court,” Herin said. He said the trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in September in front of Acting Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker.

City Manager Roger Hernstadt said Key RV attorney David Paul Horan hasn’t contacted the city since the park rejected the city’s final offer.

“We sent them something. It wasn’t a matter of them saying we don’t like this amount, they said, ‘No, thank you,’ and didn’t offer anything as a counter offer, so I assume they decided to go to court,” he said. Hernstadt added he still believes hope remains for a settlement.

“There still is an opportunity for settlement in between now and when the judge makes a decision,” he said. Horan did not return two calls for comment Tuesday (June 15).

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 $5,700 per EDU, which is what Key RV residents were slated to pay. There’s also reportedly been wrangling over who will install and be responsible for maintaining sewer lines at the park.

Ramsay has been pushing for a settlement for quite some time, to no avail. He now says there’s “no resolution on the horizon.”

“I feel personally they had a legitimate good offer that I advised them to consider. They had a meeting of their board and weighed all the pros and cons. Their decision was they felt they needed to go to court and present their case,” Ramsay said. “I tried to explain the downside if they don’t prevail, which has major consequences.”

Settlement on Sewer Deal for Keys RV Park Near?

April 1, 2010 by · Comments Off on Settlement on Sewer Deal for Keys RV Park Near? 

It appears residents of the Key RV Park in Marathon, Fla., will have one last chance to settle a lawsuit over sewer fees against the city of Marathon, according to the Florida Keys Keynoter.

The city council held a two-hour closed session after its regular meeting March 23 to discuss settling the case rather than going to trial. It agreed on what’s likely a final offer to residents of the park at mile marker 50.

Councilman Pete Worthington said the offer would be the city’s last attempt at a settlement. Several versions have reportedly been offered, to no avail.

“It’s all up in the air and they have very limited amount of time to make a response. We threw something at them and if it doesn’t’ stick, we’ll see them in court,” Worthington said.

City Attorney John Herin, who can’t comment on case specifics, said the offer “is being worked on.” Key RV attorney Dave Horan told the Keynoter he’s not seen it and knows little about what it includes.

“I don’t know what the specifics are but I would think it has something to do with the way we’re going to get our wastewater connected up. There has to be some kind of a resolution,” Horan said.

Key RV’s homeowners association sued the city in October 2008. It alleges discrimination in assessing the park residents more than $1 million combined to connect to the system, which is still under construction.

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 (EDU) in the city based on the form of ownership. The park switched to a condominium form of ownership in 2004.

Single-family homeowners in Marathon pay $5,700 per EDU, which is what Key RV residents were slated to pay. There’s also reportedly been wrangling over who will install and be responsible for maintaining sewer lines at the park.

According to Councilman Dick Ramsay, who called for the session, the council’s vote was unanimous on the makings of an offer to send Horan.

“The vote was unanimous at the meeting to make this proposal and we expect in the next few days to have the offer back from our attorney to make sure that’s what we said, and at that point we’ll send it off to Key RV,” Ramsay said.

Ramsay added that there weren’t major changes to the agreement, though public details of the ongoing case are limited.

“I don’t think they were major changes. We’re looking forward to putting this situation to bed and doing so without going to court,” he said.

The lawsuit was thought to be on the verge of settlement in February, but the City Council rejected revisions made by Horan to its latest offer.

No Deal on Florida Keys RV Park Sewer Dispute

March 1, 2010 by · Comments Off on No Deal on Florida Keys RV Park Sewer Dispute 

A sewer-fees lawsuit thought to be on the verge of settlement is now back to square one, as the city council in  Marathon, Fla., on Feb. 23 rejected revisions made by Key RV Park attorney David Paul Horan to its latest offer, according to the Florida Keys KeyNoter.

The mobile-home park’s homeowners association sued the city in October 2008. It alleges discrimination in assessing the park residents more than $1 million combined to connect to the system, which is still under construction.

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 $5,700 per EDU, which is what Key RV residents were slated to pay.

Horan said two Keynoter articles were partly responsible for the city’s decision. That includes a story detailing Key RV/Mobile Home Condo Association board member Greg Coldiron’s outline of a proposed settlement.

The Keynoter obtained an audio recording of a board meeting in which Coldiron said the city would foot a roughly $1 million bill to install new pipes and be responsible for maintaining them. He also said residents would get a break on monthly sewer charges totaling $34,000 per year.

The city’s adopted methodology for assessing sewer fees says it will not install sewer infrastructure in condominium properties.

“What it did was portray the Key RV as getting a sweetheart deal. We definitely were not getting a sweetheart deal. We were paying the full boat on everything and that didn’t come through in the article. It wasn’t the intent of the article, but it didn’t come through,” he said.

The other article pertains to a complaint Knights Key Inn owner Lance Kyle filed with the state Commission on Ethics against city Finance Director Peter Rosasco.

Kyle claims, among other things, that “Mr. Rosasco (during his time as interim city manager) secured a ‘sweetheart’ sewage infrastructure deal for his CPA client, Greg Coldiron, at Key RV Park.” Rosasco said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting he’s never represented Coldiron.

“Both of those are disturbing to the elected legislators of the city,” Horan said.

Councilman Dick Ramsay said despite Coldiron’s claims, he still hopes for a settlement.

“If we make a settlement that exposed the city to others coming forward, then what we do is potentially create an ongoing situation that we can’t allow to happen,” he said, referring to possible additional lawsuits from condo associations. “Any settlement has to be fair for everyone in the city, and that is the real hang-up.”

“The council looked at it and we need to look at all the ramifications of going through with the deal that we had,” Councilman Pete Worthington said.

Horan said a “basic premise” for a settlement remains in place and he’s hopeful it will happen in lieu of a trial.

“I don’t think it’s to either of our best interests to litigate it. The way we’re trying to get this thing done doesn’t give us any kind of ‘sweetheart’ deal, and people don’t understand that,” he said.

Acting Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker on Jan. 18 denied cross motions by both parties to dismiss the case and said the issue warrants a full-blown trial. Her office told the Keynoter Friday no hearing date has been announced.

Florida Keys RV Park Suit in ‘Serious Negotiations’

January 21, 2010 by · Comments Off on Florida Keys RV Park Suit in ‘Serious Negotiations’ 

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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