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Sans Souci Bay developer plans to sue city, civic organizations, individuals

By Staff | Aug 3, 2010

IAK Florida Builders LLC, developers of the Sans Souci Bay condominium project, intends to file a lawsuit against the city claiming that City Council’s rejection of the project was in direct violation of state law and their right to due process.
In a notice of intent to sue received by the city on Tuesday, Aug. 3, the letter claims that a “number of City of Cape Coral residents and members of community associations and organizations actively misrepresented the facts, poisoned the positions of City Council members and interfered with IAK Florida Builders, LLC Partners’ due process rights with distortions and untruths.”
The letter also states that individual residents could also be named as defendants in the lawsuit.
City Council voted 6-2 to reject the project on May 25.
The project has gone through three years of approval and rejections, coming back before council again this year after winning a special magistrate hearing in which the developer made special concessions that were approved by the city in 2009.
This year, city staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission both approved the project.
City Council also asked the developer to make additional concessions, which IAK spokesman Chris Spiro of Spiro and Associates said his client, Michael Kerner, complied with.
When the project was rejected by City Council, Spiro said, Michael Kerner did not feel he was given due process, especially after complying with multiple concessions.
Spiro also said his client felt City Council was trying to prognosticate the project’s financial success, and instead should have based its decision on whether the project could provide a financial impact to the city.
Spiro said previously the project — valued at $384 million — would provide 100 to 600 jobs a day over the project’s 10-year life span, $8 million in impact fees and an influx of hundreds of millions of new dollars into the local economy.
“We’re seeking damages for lost income on this,” Spiro said. “This is not a lawsuit where we’ll be standing on soap box making a point, this is a legitimate lawsuit. Everyone has the opportunity for due process but we do not feel we were given the opportunity for due process on an equal playing field.”
Spiro added that once officially filed, the lawsuit may include both individually and collectively, members of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, the Pine Island Civic Association, the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, Friends of the Charlotte Harbour Estuary and the Charlotte Harbour Preserve.
“We’re putting those that interfered with the process on notice,” Spiro said.
Stella Peters, president of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, said she had nothing more to add than what was previously said during the public hearing comments on May 25.
Everyone that made a comment had to do so under oath, that all comments made were done so honestly and in good faith.
“We did testify under oath at the hearing, our remarks are on the record,” Peters said.
City spokeswoman Connie Barron said the city does not comment on pending litigation.
Mayor John Sullivan, who voted against the project, declined comment on the pending lawsuit.
Councilmember Marty McClain, who voted to support Sans Souci Bay, said he was not surprised by the lawsuit.
He said City Council should not approve or deny projects based on their potential success or failure.
“It’s not our position to tell them what to do with their money, or to decide whether or not they will be successful,” he said.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail, who’s district would have been home to Sans Souci Bay and voted against the project, could not be reached for comment.