By Jill Fox
A legal battle is brewing among residents of Pine Tree Estates against the City of Parkland, and it’s not getting resolved for a while.
Hundreds of homeowners have put together a grassroots campaign to fight the city’s efforts to take part of their land as well as the allure of their Parkland community.
With no homeowners association, Pine Tree Estates is known for its rustic charm nestled off of Holmberg Road with large lots and tall trees. Several residents feel the city has neglected the roads, with their potholes, cracks, and uneven pavement. Even the poorly repaired sections cause the streets to seem even worse.
Developed by Deerfield Investment Corporation in the 1960s, road easements were created in favor of the property owners. But in 1975, Deerfield Investment filed a quitclaim deed for the easements of 18 roads to the City of Parkland.
According to the residents, researching documentation from the past 50 years, each Pine Tree Estates homeowner owns the land in front of their property, towards the center of the street. However, the City of Parkland owns the actual road as a result of the quitclaim deed.
City Manager Nancy Morando sent a letter to Pine Tree Estates homeowners on March 10, explaining that if the city had ownership of the roads and made the necessary improvements, they would have the right to charge property owners for them through an annual special assessment.
This assessment estimated at $600-$700 annually, would appear on the homeowners’ tax bills for an undetermined number of years. This is based on a 15-year time frame; however, it would increase if residents choose to add water and sewer infrastructure.
Several homeowners have expressed their anger because they contend it would allow the city to acquire the land under the new roads in Pine Tree Estates without compensating them. This would result in the homeowners paying for all the associated costs.
Along with the letter, Morando sent questionnaires explaining the available options for the street repairs, improvements, installation of water utility lines, and sewer facilities to determine each homeowner’s preferred course of action.
The survey was not enough for some Pine Tree Estates homeowners, who felt they were being tricked into a “land stealing and cost-shifting scheme” by the city after “years of fiscal irresponsibility.”
Property owners raised funds and hired the law firm of Gray Robinson to fight the City of Parkland in court.
On April 30, more than 200 plaintiffs who own and reside in the Pine Tree Estates subdivision filed a lawsuit against the city.
“The roads in Pine Tree are absolutely abysmal, and anyone claiming maintenance or repair should be embarrassed by their efforts or total lack thereof,” said a Pine Tree Estates resident who wishes to remain anonymous.
The lawsuit points out “the roads within Pine Tree Estates are public streets which the city has a legal duty, responsibility and obligation to maintain and prepare, but which the city has been derelict in its legal duty, obligation and responsibility to maintain and prepare said roads.”
On May 1, Morando sent another letter stating they had received numerous calls from concerned Pine Tree residents about their plans for the roads.
“The commission wishes to have a full and open hearing on anything related to the Pine Tree roads so residents can openly voice their concerns,” explained Morando.
Included was a statement by City Attorney Andrew Maurodis, referencing a Florida Statute, that if roads have not been maintained for seven years, the city can take over ownership.
Maurodis told Parkland Talk three residents of Pine Tree Estates had filed a lawsuit, and others have threatened to file another suit.
“It is my policy not to comment on threatened or active litigation,” he said, “And our special counsel strongly holds to the same policy.”
With the city commission’s strategic planning meetings canceled due to coronavirus, the city is not scheduling any discussions in 2020.
Morando said, “Given the pandemic which is still wreaking havoc on our health and our economy, there is no scheduled date for any discussion on this matter.”
Copy of Complaint below. (79 pages viewable on a desktop computer)Pine Tree Estates
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- Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She has worked on the public relations side as well as the television side of marketing for NBC Universal. A true Floridian, Fox grew up in Ormond Beach and now resides in Parkland with her husband, Brian and their two children, Madden, 11 and Randi, 7.
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