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Judge: Cape Harbour owners can close fuel lines

By Staff | Sep 7, 2017

A judge ruled Wednesday that the owners of the parking garages at Cape Harbour Marina can shut off the fuel lines due to a discrepancy of where the fuel tanks lie.

In an expedited hearing, Judge Alane LaBoda said that as a result of one of the witnesses unable to know exactly where the tanks lie, and because there was no evidence of a third-party agreement, Realmark had the right to cut off the fuel lines, which they maintain could be a liability issue and which the owners of Cape Marina said play an important part in public safety on the water.

Sara Hall, attorney for SHM Cape Harbour, which owns and operates the Cape Harbour Marina, argues that fueling station is of utmost importance to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in their search and rescue missions.

“It’s concerning. If Realmark makes the decision to shut down the fuel lines, it’s possible that lives would be put in danger, especially with the upcoming storms,” Hall said.

Jane Kirkman, an employee at Cape Harbour Marina, said it was her job to file the necessary paperwork to the county and state on things such as the underground gas tanks at the marina.

However, much of what was presented as evidence was declared irrelevant by LaBoda. As a result, items such as the permit for tanks was limited to what Kirkman put down.

She also said she could not tell exactly where the tanks were located, at least without a map. One tank is believed to be on SHM property, the other on Realmark property.

Douglas Szabo, the attorney representing Realmark, made the motion that Realmark be given the right to close the pumps, as there was no contract or evidence of third-party involvement, which was granted despite Hall’s efforts to reiterate the benefit to public safety.

Lee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chris Nyce testified the LCSO uses the marina to fill up for its mission readiness. By shutting those pumps off, it would affect readiness and response.

Under cross-examination, attorney Douglas Szabo pointed out that Tarpon Pointe was nearby, and the LCSO could get gas there. Nyce said it would slow things down if they went elsewhere for fuel.

LaBoda did not decide on the parking situation as time did not allow for that. That issue will be discussed at a future date.

Tim Hoffman, owner of Fathom’s and Fresh Crest, two eateries at Cape Harbour, said the parking garage closure was affecting his businesses, especially on Tuesdays, which is his busiest night of the week.

Under cross-examination, Hoffman said there was shuttle service to those needing to get to his establishment, but that parking was still insufficient.

On Aug. 9, Realmark closed the two parking garages the company owns, then threatened to shut off the fuel lines serving Cape Harbour Marina.

Despite the dispute, Hall said they are still committed to reaching some sort of agreement with Realmark.

“SHM is always looking toward a resolution. The safety and happiness of the Cape Coral community is the No. 1 priority. We’ll continue to work to put things back in place,” Hall said.

Douglas Szabo, attorney representing Realmark, did not comment.