Largo Correctly Asserts Its Rights to Public Park; Nearby Residents Angry
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - The residents of Valentine Lane who appeared before the City Commission July 3 asking that the city give up its rights to public property near their residences were gently rebuffed.
Alan Zimmet, the city's lawyer, did the rebuffing at the end of the meeting to answer the pleas of the residents who had spoken during citizen comments.
He said the city would proceed with its plans to erect a fence along the property line of a public park.
Zimmet did not go into the legal aspects, but they are there and, in short, they most likely have to do with the city maintaining possession of its own property.
As Linda Newton, Steve Zahn and Tim Newton, all of whom spoke in the comments, pointed out, they had been using those portions of Bonner Park that abut their properties.
In fact, according to their own words, they had taken what amounted to a proprietary interest (although they were probably unaware of that) in the park property, the proper name of which is John R. Bonner Nature Park.
Linda Newton was the lead-off speaker on the subject. She described herself as an Indian Rocks Beach resident who said her family had bought the property some years ago and subsequently sold it to her son, Tim.
When Zahn spoke he reiterated all that Linda Newton had said and when her son went to the microphone he, too, spoke of how important the park was in his lifestyle.
Newton even said that the fact that the park directly adjoined the property was the main reason her family had bought it.
The problem is that the park is public property, not reserved for the use of those whose properties abut it.
Legally, there are chiefly two ideas in the law that can affect ownership or lead to a contesting of rights to property.
One is prescription and, as an example, a prescriptive easement can be created by open and blatant use that is not inconsistent with the owner's rights.
Another theory in property law is the idea of adverse possession. That is where a non-owner can gain title to land if the actual owner does not maintain some exclusiveness.
That is why the city is erecting a fence along its property line. And it is the fence that the Valentine Lane residents don't like.
However, if the city did not assert its rights and close off that property line of the park it could jeopardize - possibly - its rights to the land.
The Newtons, Zahns and others have apparently had unrestricted use of the park through entry along their property lines for a number of years.
According to city officials, the residents have even encroached on the park lands by doing some landscaping and installing recreation facilities. One backyard has been extended into the park.
The city is conducting a survey to determine property lines and will erect a fence.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition