The town of Windermere approved unanimously a resolution to officially authorize the town attorney to proceed with a lawsuit filed against occupants of the boathouses at the Wednesday, Sept. 7, Town Council meeting.
The town previously filed lawsuits against each of seven boathouse owners July 15 following the occupants refusal to vacate the structures when their leases ended in June.
However, after the boathouse occupants’ attorney, A. Kurt Ardaman, argued the lawsuits were not valid because of a lack of a signed resolution that had not accompanied the filed lawsuits, the resolution was devised as “an abundance of caution regarding the work previously done by town staff and the attorney, and with respect to legal work yet to be performed regarding the boathouses,” according to the official resolution.
The resolution yielded a mass of public comments with scattered applause from the crowd of attendees after each statement.
Mike Lee said he has been a resident in the town for 20 years, and although he has no personal attachment to the boathouses, he does not understand why the town wants the structures. He believes there is something better the town can do with the money.
“Windermere is so unique, this is such a special place, preserving it and the charm is really what you guys’ primary mission is I think … not necessarily to change it,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of different ideas about what we’re going to do. Well, what we are going to do is change something that has been existing for a really long time and I’m fearful of.”
Town Manager Robert Smith said based on what has been discussed and on the motions made by the Town Council, there has not been a decision on what is going to happen to the boathouses after the litigation has ended.
“That is still something that is yet to be determined, and I think that will be determined a year from the date that it was decided to terminate those leases,” Smith said.
Mayor Jim O’Brien said the decisions were laid out intentionally so the town could determine what the nexts steps in the process would be post boathouse discussion.
Mark Keller also asked why the boathouses are an issue, saying although he does not own a boathouse, he grew up in the town and sat on the Town Council in 1992-93, when the boathouses originally came up in discussion.
“I am upset with the amount of changes this town government keeps doing … we’re going to come and have a confrontation about this at some point,” Keller said. “The government continues to take away our rights. … It’s time for this government to reign in a little bit. You’re out of control.”
Boathouse owner Curt Fraser read a history of several of the boathouse owners and their contributions to the town.
“What you are doing, Town Council, is wrong,” he said. “The people in this town don’t have an interest in this lawsuit, so why are you spending our tax dollars to sue the boathouses owners to take their personal property?”
George Poelker, former chairman of the town’s Historic Preservation Board who resigned at the January Town Council meeting during discussion on the boathouses, said the resolution is “just wrong” and should be voted “no,” referencing several “mistruths” in past boathouse discussion.
“Just start telling the truth,” Poelker said. “There’s nothing wrong with the truth, and whatever we decide, we decide.”
Renee Cingolani said the boathouses have been part of the community and residents’ personal property, and she does not understand why the boathouses are an issue.
“Why does the town want these boathouses?” she asked. “What is the lawsuit about? No answers? … I am so disappointed in you guys. … I just cannot see the purpose. What’s the agenda for taking these away from people that are paid for? … I’m not buying it, and I’m not happy, and I don’t think most of the people in Windermere care enough to have a lawsuit against their neighbors.”
Town Attorney Heather Ramos commented on the resolution before council discussion.
“We don’t think it is absolutely necessary, but I would like for Nick (Dancaescu, GrayRobinson representative) to have it when he is arguing against the motions to dismiss … starting next week,” she said.
There were no additional comments, questions or concerns from council members.
Council Member Tony Davit made a motion for approval, and the resolution was passed unanimously.