Laurel Park residents apologize for statement about Woman’s Exchange legal challenge

Association president responds to attorney’s explanation of rules for judicial procedure

Image from the association's website
Image from the association’s website

The Laurel Park Neighborhood Association has responded to a statement issued last week by the attorney representing the Woman’s Exchange in its petition to have the 12th Judicial Circuit Court overturn an April 11 City Commission decision regarding the Exchange.

Robert Lincoln of Sarasota had explained in a news release why he included the Association in his Petition for Writ of Certiorari, which was filed on July 29. Just as Lincoln had copied the news media, so did Sundstrom in her statement, issued Aug. 6:

“In June, the Sarasota City Commission ruled that The Woman’s Exchange cannot build a loading zone on Rawls Avenue,” Sundstrom’s statement began. “That action was in response to the Laurel Park Neighborhood Association’s appeal of an earlier ruling by City Staff.

“The Woman’s Exchange is now appealing the City’s decision in Sarasota County Circuit Court and named the Laurel Park Neighborhood Association (LPNA) as a party in the case. This came as a shock to the LPNA.

The Woman's Exchange is on Orange Avenue in downtown Sarasota. Image courtesy City of Sarasota
The Woman’s Exchange is on Orange Avenue in downtown Sarasota. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

“The LPNA Board of Directors issued a statement questioning the reasons for including LPNA in the suit.

“After additional consultation with counsel, we realize that LPNA’s inclusion in the appeal is actually required by the Florida rules of procedure and was not a decision by the Woman’s Exchange leadership. The LPNA Board of Directors regrets attaching any motive to LPNA’s inclusion as a respondent in the case,” Sundstrom concluded.

In the statement it issued on Aug. 3 in regard to news of the legal action against the City of Sarasota, Sundstrom wrote that Association expected the court to see the inclusion of the Association in the case “as a transparent and inappropriate attempt to stifle civic participation.”

A day later, Lincoln pointed out in his response that because the Association challenged the decision of city staff to issue a building permit in November 2015 for a Woman’s Exchange addition on Rawls Avenue — which would have included a loading zone — that meant the Association was a party to the proceeding. Therefore, he said, because of requirements in the Appellate Rules, the Association had to be named as a respondent in the case. Instead of attempting to “stifle civic participation,” he added, his petition would lead to the Association having an opportunity to make the same arguments to a judge that it made to win the City Commission’s 3-2 decision in its favor.

City Attorney Robert Fournier has said he expects to file an answer to the petition by next month.