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Margaritaville challenge continues to Court of Appeal

By Staff | Oct 14, 2019

A Fort Myers Beach resident is taking her challenge of the Margaritaville Fort Myers Beach Resort to Second District Court of Appeal.

Chris Patton, who lives near the planned development, filed an appeal Thursday, asking the court to overturn a decision issued Sept. 11 by Judge Alane C. Laboda of the 20th Circuit Court in Lee County.

The appeal contends the Laboda did not apply the “correct law when affirming the Town’s practice of contract zoning” when she found for the Town.

Through a series of lawsuits since August of 2018, Chris Patton has alleged that the Town of Fort Myers Beach did not follow its own Land Development Code when applying specific variances to how many rooms Margaritaville was allowed to build, the height of the structure, and her concern about the traffic concentration that will occur near her home, which is within the impact area of the construction.

She maintains this will impact her overall quality of life.

Patton dropped the civil suit earlier in the year, but continued her filing for a “writ of certiorari,” a request that the court examine the Town’s internal proceedings and verify that it did or did not act in line with regards to its land development and zoning laws.

Laboda ruled that Patton was provided adequate due process at the public hearings and her due process rights were not violated. The ruling also found, “the Town’s approval of the deviations and rezoning was consistent with the Town’s LDC, applied the correct law and was supported by competent substantial evidence in the record.”

“Christine Patton still believes the proposed Margaritaville 254 unit resort far exceeds the allowable 84 units of density allowed by use of the Town Code equivalency factor and also exceed the 3 story height limit currently allowed by the Code in this part of Fort Myers Beach,” Ralf Brookes, Patton’s attorney said via email Monday. “We are seeking a review and a ruling by a 3 judge panel in the higher court that would uphold the density and height limitations on the property that are applicable to any other property. We do not believe the ‘exceptional circumstances’ that the Town used to approve a higher density and height than allowed is constitutional because it lacks any objective standards.”

Town officials continue to maintain its actions through the process were proper.

“The town of Fort Myers Beach will continue to aggressively defend the unanimous decision of the Fort Myers Beach town council relative to TPI,” Mayor Anita Cereceda said Monday. “It is unfortunate for many people that Mrs. Patton was not satisfied with what took Judge Laboda over a year to craft in her comprehensive and conclusive decision. The effect of this appeal doesn’t just complicate the life of the employee owners of TPI but of every business and property owner in our downtown. This delay will add to the cost the taxpayers of of Ft. Myers Beach have had to bear because of the displeasure of one individual. It’s a real pity and such a waste of time, money and resources.”

Groundbreaking for the project planned by TPI Hospitality Inc., was expected by late 2019 or early 2020 after Laboda denied Brookes’ request to overturn the town council approval.

The appeal will move on to a higher court, of which there is no current timeline for its proceedings, creating another hurdle for developers.