BY JACK SHORT – A court ordered mediation has resolved 25 years of dispute between property owners on Three Sisters Island and in the Boca Grande Isles.
The agreement provides the right to build road access to Three Sisters Island through lot 99 of Boca Grande Isles, where the two islands are connected, in return for a one-time payment and an annual assessment on certain properties.
The one-time payment alone will cover the expected cost of replacing the BGI bridge, according to Steve Kieffer, who is on the board of Boca Grande Isles Property Owners’ Association and was part of the mediation.
BGIPOA had sued the previous owners of lots on Three Sisters, Sunset Realty, who platted both Boca Grande Isles, the submerged lots surrounding it, and Three Sisters Isles. That first suit, in 1990 (BGIPOA, Inc., v. Sunset Realty Corp.), according to Kieffer, as well as a subsequent suit against BGIPOA by FFF, Inc., which had purchased property on Three Sisters Island, again sought access by right to TSI.
Kieffer said that at first, in 1990, Sunset Realty had offered “significant compensation” for access through lot 99, but later reneged on the deal prior to BGIPOA v. Sunset Realty Corp.
The second suit against BGIPOA also sought access for free, said Kieffer, but the agreement they came to recently is different.
Ronald Strich, who is the registered agent for 5F, Inc., which owns property on TSI. 5F acquired the submerged lots around BGI (known as Sunset Flats), including lot 52, spanned by the bridge that provides the only access to BGI, prompting a lawsuit in 2013 when the BGIPOA made plans to replace the bridge.
In the midst of that case, 5F and BGIPOA were ordered to enter mediation.
The first day of that mediation lasted over 11 hours, according to both men. There was little indication an agreement would be reached at first, but gradually they came to terms.
Strich said that 5F would make four crucial concessions in return for the right to use BGI’s roads and bridges and to build a road over lot 99:
-property acquired west of the 16th Street bridge, as well as the land under the bridge, will be given to BGI
-Sunset Flats, and additional submerged lands surrounding BGI will be transferred to BGI
-5F will make a one-time payment of $3 million
-each lot on TSI owned by the parties involved will pay an annual assessment of 1.92 percent of BGIPOA’s annual budget, and those 11 lots will be re-platted into six lots
Both parties hailed the agreement as a victory. According to Kieffer, 96 percent of the 120 BGIPOA votes that were cast (there are 122 in total) approved the agreement, and the announcement that an agreement had been met received a standing ovation from those present.
Because of the additional assessment from the properties on TSI, BGIPOA members’ dues will be lower.
“As a result of the mediation,” Strich said, “a cooperative effort has been developing. That was the spirit between both sides.”
Strich said the earliest they could start construction of the road would be next summer. They are barred by the terms of the agreement from work on the project, except during May through September.
Immediately after the close of mediation, Boca Grande Isle, LLC, Three Sisters Isle, LLC, Redfish Alley, LLC and Osprey Alley, LLC filed a suit against BGIPOA, several of its board members, the Three Sisters Island Homeowners’ Association and several property owners on that island to prevent implementation of the agreement. Boca Grande Isle owns lots 100 and 101 in BGI, one of which abuts the lot over which a road to TSI would be built. The remaining three plaintiffs each own a lot in the TSI subdivision.
See that story on page 1.