Finally, the ruling has been issued in the Chris Patton/Robert Conidaris lawsuit against the Town. Judge Alane Laboda found that “the Town’s approval of the deviations and rezoning was consistent with the LDC (Land Development Code), applied the correct law and was supported by competent, substantial evidence in the record.” Anybody who had followed the whole saga and has better than fourth-grade reading/comprehension skills came to the same conclusion a year ago when the lawsuit was first filed.
So what was accomplished by this fiasco? Nothing good.
The official “plaintiff,’ Patton, acting as a shill for Conidaris, will be remembered by a very few neighbors and friends as a hero, fighting for individual property-owners’ rights. To everyone else, she will be a pariah, whose only accomplishment was delaying the Margaritaville project by a year, keeping the unsightly area from development, denying the Town of tax revenue and costing a pile of money in defending the suit. Lani Kai owner Conidaris will be remembered as the guy who didn’t have the guts to put his own name on the suit and whose irrational rants against TPI CEO Tom Torgerson showed just how low someone will go to try to prove an untenable position.
The “Whale-gate” episode, in which two council members were recorded betraying their oaths of office to defend the Town, found them leaving under a cloud. Dennis Boback, claiming he had done nothing wrong, chose to run for re-election. The outcome proved that the town’s voters disagreed. Tracey Gore chose not to run again, a good decision.
The recent revelation that it took seven weeks for the Town to prepare and Mayor to sign the final ordinance approving the TPI project reflects the efforts to delay the ordinance that she and Boback voted for. Contrast that to the fact that when, in her last council meeting as mayor, she pushed through (outside of proper procedure) an extension to the town manager’s contract. She signed that one within 24 hours.
So now the project can move forward with demolition scheduled to begin in early 2020, unless, of course, Patton and Conidaris are stupid and reckless enough to appeal the judge’s decision.
There is an interesting irony in all this that’s worth noting. Since the lawsuits were filed, two new construction projects on the east side of Crescent Street are underway. These huge two-story houses, built to the FEMA height requirements, effectively close almost all of the open space that existed between Patton’s house on Primo and the Margaritaville hotel site. They will provide both a sight and noise barrier, effectively shooting down the bulk of Patton’s claim, even if she had prevailed.
Finally, Mayor Anita Cereceda was quoted as saying that this was not a time for vengeance – that we should just move on. I both agree and disagree with her. I’m not looking for vengeance. I’m just looking to be made whole and to recoup the cost to me and all the other taxpayers of this frivolous, ill-conceived and poorly-executed fiasco. It may be that the price of trying to do this will outweigh whatever might be gotten back. If it is, so be it. But at the very least, the current Council should look into it. They should also make public exactly how much the actual costs to the Town are. Then we should move on.
By Jay Light