Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Stormwater fees 'illegal'

A judge ruled Friday that the city of Key West was not entitled to an estimated $400,000 in stormwater fees it levied on the Key West Golf Club, hospital and surrounding neighborhood.

Chief Circuit Judge David Audlin presided over a three-day trial in May in which both sides agreed that if the judge ruled the city was not entitled to the fees, there would be an evidentiary hearing to determine the exact dollar amount it owes to the golf course, Lower Keys Medical Center and the neighbors.

Audlin called the fees, which the city began collecting in 2003, "illegal."

The lawsuit was filed in 2009. There is a four-year statute of limitations that will allow the plaintiffs to collect only fees going back to 2005.

"We are pleased by the judge's ruling, but we will wait until the evidentiary hearing to comment further," said attorney Barton Smith, who represented the Golf Club and neighbors.

City-contracted attorney Michael Burke did not return telephone messages on Friday and it was unknown whether the city would appeal the ruling.

It's the second time in a year the city has lost on the stormwater fee issue. Circuit Judge Mark Jones ruled in January that the city owes similar fees it collected from Florida Keys Community College.

In the community college case, attorneys for the college argued the city does not have a stormwater system installed on Stock Island near the college, and that the school handles its own stormwater with its on-site system.

Audlin cited the college case in his decision Friday.

Key West International Airport officials also have been at odds for years over the amount of stormwater fees the city has levied there. The matter remains unresolved.

tohara@keysnews.com

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