Florida island embroiled in real estate dispute over restrictions

Florida island embroiled in real estate dispute over restrictions

There's an interesting situation regarding a Florida island that was developed largely in the 1960's and 1970's and is known as Marco Island. The developers devised numerous deed restrictions for the Florida island to maintain its integrity and property values, apparently by preventing unwanted commercial development. Marco Island is like many private developments overseen by homeowner associations: much of the island is a deed-restricted community under the governance of the Marco Island Civic Association (MICA). A real estate dispute now exists that shows just how restrictive it can be.

The real estate litigation concerns a miniature golf course that received planning board approval and was constructed on some lots whose deed restrictions don't allow a golf course. The owner of the land and the business, however, believes that it was fully within its rights in constructing the course and the botanical gardens next to it. MICA, however, sued to compel enforcement of the restrictions and won.

Under an order by a Collier Circuit Judge the owner has 60 days to remove the 18-hole course and to restore the property to its prior state. The owner says he will appeal this real estate dispute to the District Court of Appeal in Lakeland. The owner argues that the restrictions were extinguished years ago by the Florida Marketable Record Title Act, a 1963 law that abolished stale claims 30 years old or older against real property.

Furthermore, county records show that a majority of the 15 lot owners subject to the restrictions voted to cancel them as of January 2014. Eight property owners agreed, but about five of those are lots owned by the golf course business. This may be an effective remedy, depending on the rules governing abrogation of restrictions as set forth in the governing instrument or as otherwise provided.

A MICA spokesman pointed out that the owner knew about the restrictions, which prohibit a mini golf course, before beginning construction in December. It's claimed that the owner was twice warned to cease. Although the construction was approved, without MICA's consent it had to go forward apparently at its own risk, which gets back to point one in this Florida real estate dispute.

Source: maronews.com, "Marco miniature golf course shut down, owners vow appeal," Aisling Swift, July 1, 2013