By REID TUCKER
The City Council unanimously rejected the Florida Department of Transportation’s demand to be reimbursed more than $500,000 for property transferred to the state for the reconstruction of U.S. 331.
The city obtained the parcel in question from property owner Diane Pickett and in turn deeded it to FDOT, which needs the property to complete the project to four-lane the major highway. FDOT compensated the city the appraised value of $586,650 for the property and is now asking for the same amount to be refunded as the Department’s legal counsel now claims the transfer by which the city obtained the property was invalid. FDOT claimed in a June 18 letter addressed to the City Attorney Clayton Adkinson, that, based on its review, the deed was not in compliance with the provisions of Sec. 689.01 of Florida Statutes.
Though the FDOT letter did not elaborate on how exactly the deed’s transfer was ineffective, Adkinson said the city relied on the validity of the deed when it obtained the property from Pickett. Adkinson went on to say in his written reply to FDOT that city staff and the Council are of the opinion that it was Pickett’s intent to donate the property to the city and he enclosed documents to that effect in his reply. Adkinson also expressed his incredulity that FDOT would take issue with the transfer’s execution now, after it accepted the deed four or so years ago.
Adkinson advised the Council at its regularly scheduled July 8 meeting to reject the demand for the city to reimburse DOT for the transfer, saying that “the best remedy” may be for the validity of the deed to be decided in court.
Having dealt with that matter, the Council moved to tackle an agenda packed with discussion items, though none occupied as much time between the open forum held prior to the regular meeting and the meeting itself, as renewed talks about what to be done regarding the city’s growing problem with Canada geese. Multitudes of the migratory waterfowl have set up more or less full-time summer residence along the shores of Juniper Lake and Lake Stanley, becoming quite the nuisance in the process. The birds’ water-borne droppings are a main concern as bacteria creates the potential for the lakes to become unsafe for swimmers, while droppings on land have at times filled the lakeshores.
Assistant City Manager Bill Holloway’s report to the Council conveyed his recommendation for the city to mail out letters to homeowners notifying them of the appropriate permits needed to purchase and apply chemical means of controlling the geese as the individual homeowner sees fit. Both lethal and non-lethal products are available on the market, but the option of relocating the geese discussed at last month’s meeting was dismissed due to the likelihood of the birds simply returning to their now-habitual summer homes on the local lakes. Also, killing the birds is looked on unfavorably by some homeowners who like having the birds on their property, thus the Council’s unanimous decision was to advise the affected property owners of their options.
Finally, the last major item before the Council was approval of a promissory note to FDOT for the relocation of utilities necessitated by the ongoing U.S. 331 widening project. The new note, in which the city promises to pay FDOT a sum of $625,925 in 15 installments, replaces the note entered into in April. The bid cost for the relocation work came in substantially less than the $1.13 million originally projected by FDOT, necessitating the new payment arrangement.