Deadline actually was Oct. 8, assistant county attorney acknowledges
Late on the afternoon of Oct. 5, Sarasota County finally was served the Petition for Writ of Certiorari Siesta Key resident Michael Cosentino filed in June, alleging the County Commission violated the county’s Comprehensive Plan in voting on May 11 to vacate a portion of North Beach Road.
Robin Bayus, administrative specialist for members of the commission, responded to a Sarasota News Leader request to be notified after the service took place.
As it turns out, Oct. 3 was not the deadline for Cosentino to make sure his legal challenge was served.
The News Leader learned this week that Assistant County Attorney David Pearce — who is handling the matter for the county — mistakenly put Oct. 3 on his calendar. The deadline actually was Oct. 8, Pearce conceded in an email that was shared with the News Leader.
Cosentino had been telling people that the end of the 120-day period for service of the complaint was Oct. 8, based on the June 10 filing date, sources had told the News Leader.
Cosentino also has been seeking signatures of registered county voters on two amendments to the County Charter. One would rescind the commission’s 4-1 vote to vacate the 357-foot-long segment of North Beach Road at the request of three couples who own property on that part of the road, or require the county to buy the property back. The other amendment would make it impossible for a future County Commission to vacate any segment of county road on a waterway.
Last week, the News Leader reported that Cosentino’s attorney, Ralf Brookes of Cape Coral, had failed to correct errors he made in Cosentino’s name when he filed the petition. Records in the Office of the Clerk of Circuit Court and County Comptroller this week indicated those mistakes were remedied and service of the summons of Brookes’ amended complaint — which corrected the errors — was proposed on Oct. 3.
The email from Pearce that was shown to the News Leader said Brookes tried on Oct. 3 to hand-deliver a “notice of commencement of the action” and a request for a waiver of the service of the summons to commission Chair Al Maio. Pearce informed Brookes, Pearce wrote, that such notice and waiver had to be “‘dispatched by certified mail, return receipt requested,” under Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. As a result, Brookes told Pearce he would walk from the County Administration Center in Sarasota, across Ringling Boulevard, to the post office and send the documents by certified mail.
On Oct. 4, court records also show that Brookes filed a Motion for Extension of Time for Service of Summons. He had taken that action, Brookes wrote, “in an abundance of caution due to (1) approaching Hurricane Matthew and (2) corrections that have been requested from the Clerk to the summons” he filed on Sept. 29. The latter did not properly reference his amended June complaint, when he used Cosentino’s full name and spelled the last name correctly.
He noted in his Oct. 4 motion, “Sarasota County received courtesy copy of the Amended Complaint on the date it was filed and is aware of the Amended Complaint.”
Brookes added, “It is expected that the summons can be issued and served upon Sarasota County, Florida in care of the Chair or Vice Chair of the Board of County Commissioners within a short period of time,” 15 to 30 days.
The easement matter
In a related matter, the new owners of the property at 99 Beach Road and a submerged parcel west of it — Holderness Enterprises LLC and Siesta Beach Lots LLC, respectively — appear to have been the hold-up in the filing of easements proffered by the original parties to the petition for the road vacation.
One “perpetual, nonexclusive access easement” was to allow continued public use of the road segment except by means of motor vehicles. Driving on the section of road has been prohibited since 1993 as a result of repetitive storm damage the county never repaired. A second easement provided for a 5-foot-wide public path across part of the property seaward of the road section.
Other easements pertained to county utility lines in the immediate area.
County staff finally had given Charles Bailey III of the Williams Parker firm — the representative of the petitioners — a Sept. 26 deadline to provide the easements in recordable form to the county’s Real Estate Department.
On Sept. 27, County Administrator Tom Harmer emailed the commissioners, saying, “[T]he County received materials from Mr. Holderness yesterday afternoon regarding the public easement. The staff will evaluate the materials and provide an update to the Board.”
In response to the News Leader’s request for a copy of the documents Harmer had referenced, staff emailed four pages with the heading Exhibit “C” and the notation that the materials were prepared by and should be returned to Bailey at his downtown Sarasota office.
The grantors identified in the Public Access Easement are Holderness Enterprises and Siesta Beach Lots LLC, both with a mailing address of 7333 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.
Siesta Beach Lots was established on Aug. 9 by Mike Holderness, state Division of Corporations records show. Holderness also is the principal of Holderness Enterprises.
Although Christy S. Ramsey owned the house and land at 99 Beach Road when Bailey filed the paperwork with the county for the road vacation, Ramsey sold the property to Holderness Enterprises on Aug. 12 for $3 million. The same day, Ramsey sold her parcel seaward of the road to Siesta Beach Lots for the “recorded consideration” of $100, Sarasota County Property Appraiser Office records show.
The 2016 value of the 4,824-square-foot Gulf-side property is $500, county records note. It is just to the south of the seaward parcel owned by Dennis and Wendy Madden, who also were among the May 11 petitioners for the road vacation.