City’s resolve crumbling in beach access dispute

 

Santa Rosa Property Appraiser's Office

The map shows the disputed land between two homes on Eufala Street in Gulf Breeze.

Doubts are spreading among City of Gulf Breeze council members about continuing a long-running legal battle against two residents over a narrow strip of land between their houses that leads to the shoreline of Santa Rosa Sound.

“It just doesn’t seem like we can win this,” said David Landfair, a council member who for years was in favor of the city’s right to the 30-foot wide path between the homes of Marine Corps retiree Pete Peters and former dentist John Reese.

Landfair made a motion Wednesday to drop the city’s court claims. Although it failed by a 3-2 vote, the council has scheduled a closed-door meeting next Wednesday to reconsider.

“I just want to have all the facts,” said Renee Bookout, an attorney and council member who voted against dropping the city’s case, which is now on appeal in state court.

Expenses on both sides are estimated to have exceeded $250,000 each. That’s equivalent to about half the value of Reese’s entire property—a house on nearly an acre of waterfront land. For the city’s part, the cost so far exceeds the entire annual budget for its parks and recreation department operations.

The court fracas over who owns the path and a little stretch of shoreline has been underway since 1980 before several judges and ruled on seven times. Gulf Breeze has never won any of these decisions.

Newly elected Councilman Tom Naile, who voted to drop the case, said, “We just keep losing…Maybe we should stop before we’re just throwing good money after bad.”

 

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