Judge rules in favor of Sarasota County in Beach Road Battle
SARASOTA — Sarasota County’s challenge to the constitutionality of two amendments to the county charter survived the first skirmish in the ongoing litigation.
On May 10, Circuit Judge Andrea McHugh rejected a joint motion filed by Mike Consentino and Reopen Beach Road that sought to dismiss the county’s cross-claim challenging the constitutionality of the two amendments.
Those two amendments, overwhelmingly approved by voters in November 2018, require the county to reopen the vacated portion of Beach Road, and secondly, severely impacts county officials’ power regarding the disposal of public lands.
The entire litigation involves a May 2016 decision by county commissioners to vacate a portion of Beach Road, a decision that Consentino argues is in violation of the county’s comprehensive plan.
He has made numerous attempts to get the commissioners to undo that decision, and failing that resorted to the courts.
He also sought, and was successful in getting the two charter amendments on the ballot where they passed.
After the election, the county’s attorney’s filed a cross-claim in the pending litigation arguing that the two amendments were unconstitutional because they were inconsistent with the Florida statutes and were void for vagueness.
In the motion to dismiss, Consentino’s attorney argued that the county had failed to state a cause of action, that it was not viable since it depended on the original filed complaint, and that the cross-claim was a strategic litigation against public participation, commonly referred to as a SLAPP lawsuit.
McHugh, in her ruling, dismissed all three arguments.
She found that on its face, the county’s cross-claim did state a cause of action, that it presented separate and distinct issues from the original complaint, and that since the county had stated a valid cause of action, there was no SLAPP lawsuit.
During a hearing on April 29, Consentino’s attorney raised other arguments that McHugh also summarily dismissed. She also ordered that Consentino and Reopen Beach Road respond to the cross-claim with their answer by the end of the month.
The case has not yet been set for trial.