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Florida Keys News
Monday, October 28, 2013
Condo owners balk at charges

A slew of condominium groups and apartment homeowners associations along North and South Roosevelt boulevards allege the city of Key West is unjustly collecting stormwater fees in a lawsuit that is very similar to two last year involving Stock Island properties.

How much money at stake is still a guess, but it will likely be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars as the list of plaintiffs includes nearly every condo property along both boulevards.

The lawsuit filed on Sept. 25 in state court claims "no city-owned or maintained stormwater facilities collect or treat the stormwater generated on any of the plaintiffs properties."

In short, the condo owners claim the properties on the boulevards, which are owned and managed by the Florida Department of Transportation, are not managed by the city of Key West, said the plaintiffs' lawyer Barton Smith.

The case last year involving the golf course, its neighbors and Lower Keys Medical Center was filed before chief circuit Judge David Audlin, the same judge who ruled in November that the city of Key West was not entitled to an estimated $400,000 in stormwater fees it levied against those properties.

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

Whether that will be the case in the new suit remains to be seen, but Smith conceded both cases are very similar.

"It's the same principle," Smith said.

The boulevard condos case is actually the third time the issue has been raised. Circuit Judge Mark Jones ruled in January 2012 that the city owes similar fees it collected from Florida Keys Community College.

In that 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 onsite system.

Audlin cited the college case in his decision regarding the golf course and hospital matter.

As of Friday, the city of Key West has yet to file a response to Smith's complaint in the most recent case, said city-contracted attorney Michael Burke. He added that until that public response is filed via the court system, it would be improper for him to comment on the case.

Key West International Airport officials also have been at odds for years over the amount of stormwater fees the city has levied there. No lawsuit has been filed and that matter remains unresolved.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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