Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Homeowner, alleging politics, appeals road ruling

ISLAMORADA -- Venetian Shores resident Jim Bellizzi has appealed the recent circuit court ruling that the roads in the Plantation Key neighborhood are public.

"I have every reason to appeal this decision because I think it's grossly cloaked in politics," Bellizzi said last week.

The move has the potential to impact the village's plans to sewer Venetian Shores beginning in April.

"We have to look at the legal stuff and figure out what options we have," said Village Manager Ed Koconis, who declined to elaborate.

Through his attorney, Frank Greenman, Bellizzi filed notice of the appeal on Dec. 2, but has yet to submit a brief arguing the grounds for why the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami should reverse the Oct. 21 ruling of Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia.

Garcia granted the village summary judgment in the case, meaning that the town won on the merits of the evidence without a trial.

Bellizzi contends that documents from the early days of Venetian Shores in the late 1950s show that all but two streets west of the main Venetian Boulevard, as well as most of the boulevard itself, were dedicated as private. But the village has managed the roadways as public based on a deed bestowed upon it from Monroe County at the time of incorporation in 1998.

In his ruling, Garcia found that Venetian Shores builder Daroe Development made clear in a 1957 declaration that it intended to retain ownership of the roadways until they could be handed over to a neighborhood association for general usage. He further concluded that a 1959 plat, referenced by Bellizzi in his case, only granted adjacent property owners use, not ownership, of the roadways.

Prior to last month's ruling, Bellizzi's lawsuit had held up sewer work in Venetian Shores for close to three months. The village can sewer public roadways as a right. But to gain easements to dig sewers on private roadways, the town must get approval from property owners.

Sewer work on public roadways in south Plantation Key began in the late summer. Contractor Layne, known locally as Reynolds Water Islamorada, must complete the $99 million project by the end of 2015 in order for the village to be in compliance with state law.

After the ruling last month, village officials said they would go forward with the Venetian Shores work. The town hopes to trench the sewers in coordination with the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, which has waterline work scheduled for early next year in the neighborhood of more than 400 homes.

The village could choose to move forward with the project despite Bellizzi's appeal, which has the potential to take many months to resolve.

Bellizzi last week asserted that his goal is to protect his property rights, not to slow the sewer project.

He stopped short of saying whether he would petition the court for an injunction should the village attempt to go forward with the trenching before the appeal is settled.

"I'll do anything that is necessary to preserve and protect my rights," he said.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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