That’s what Fort Myers Beach homeowner Eddie Rood tells us after he was notified that the town would not be making any modifications to its offer that would allow Rood and his neighbor Kurt Kromer to build a walkover from their house to the beach. That means more lawsuits are on the way and more of your money out the door.
The town made an offer to Rood and Kroemer that would give them the special exception they would need for the walkover if they allowed the public to use it as well. Rood and Kroemer rejected that offer for liability reasons. With the walkover on their property, they did not want to be held responsible for anyone that may get hurt. They were willing to allow access to the few homes that are in their neighborhood that have also lost access to the beach due to naturally occurring changes in the Critical Wildlife Area.
So far the town has spent at least $500,000 fighting Rood and Kroemer.
Rood says his next step is to file his Bert Harris lawsuit against the town. That lawsuit will claim that through the town’s actions – denying them access to the beach – their homes have been devalued by several million dollars.
The State of Florida enacted the Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act in 1995, which provides a specific process for landowners to seek relief when their property is unfairly affected by government action.
There are several possible outcomes to a Bert Harris lawsuit. The town could win the case and prevent the walkover from being built while being forced to pay the difference in the value of the homes, whatever that’s determined to be (which taxpayers will foot the bill for). Also, a judge could determine the town wins on all fronts, preventing the walkover and denying the claims of Rood and Kroemer.
There’s another issue at play here and that’s Rood’s lawsuit against the state of Florida, which he says he will drop if he gets the walkover from the town. There’s a possibility the Critical Wildlife Area behind those homes could be completely wiped out. Rood and Kroemer have filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida challenging the state’s claim of ownership of the property behind their homes. The suit will confirm whether the property owners own the land that has formed behind their properties over the last twenty years. Rood has said, if he doesn’t get the special exception from the town and they win the quiet title lawsuit against the state he will dissolve the CWA. In that case they wouldn’t need a walkover, they’d have direct access right outside the back door of their homes.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy has told his colleagues on the council that he had a discussion with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Chief Council Justin Wolfe who told him that if Rood and Kroemer ever filed a lawsuit to get the Critical Wildlife Area they have a real good shot at winning because of problems with the way the Critical Wildlife area was set up.
Town Attorney John Herin has apparently convinced at least three members of the town council that he can win this case in court. Councilman Jim Atterholt appears to be the swing vote on this. Councilman Dan Allers is in the same camp as Murphy with Vice Mayor Hosafros and Councilman Bill Veach strongly opposed to granting the special exception.