Sarasota homeowners may sue The County after getting letters calling for changes to property before Legacy Trail construction starts

Updated: Dec. 17, 2019 at 1:05 PM EST
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Heads up, homeowners! If your home borders the upcoming Legacy Trail, you may be getting a letter like this in the mail. In 2018, voters in Sarasota County approved the funding to extend the Legacy Trail and in June 2019 the county acquired a former rail corridor to make that happen.

However, some of the people who own property along the tracks will be seeing certified letters in the mail stating that they need to remove fences and other structures, like sheds, from the corridor before construction begins on the Legacy Trail in mid-2020.

“We’re excited about the trail. We use the trail, we’re excited about the trail. We’re happy for the community and for the county, but we’re not happy to give up part of my property for the trail," Danette Boris, one local resident, explained to us.

Letters like these are being sent to homeowners with encroachments along the coming Legacy...
Letters like these are being sent to homeowners with encroachments along the coming Legacy Trail in Sarasota County.(Source: WWSB Viewer)

The county says these fences and other structures were on land owned by the railroad, which is now owned by the county, and are encroachments, which means they extend beyond the legal boundaries of the homeowner’s property and onto neighboring land.

The county says it identified more than 200 encroachments along the railroad corridor through surveys, though some properties have more than one, including almost 90 within the City of Sarasota.

Most of the encroachments are fences, but others include sheds, concrete surfaces, electrical boxes, satellite dishes, roads, portions of buildings, wells, portions of driveways and parking lots, as well as single instances of a fuel tank, deck, in-ground pool, paver patio and drain field.

All of these items are required to be removed by February 7, 2020. For more information, click here.

“These are all things that were all lawfully constructed. They were constructed with permits issued by Sarasota County, but not the county comes along and says because of this federal order, we’re going to demand that you remove it," said Attorney Mark Thor Hearne.

However, lawyers who now represent these almost 200 homeowners say the county does not have the legal right to ask for this.

“If that’s going to happen, then the federal government needs to pay for it, or if the federal government says they didn’t give Sarasota County that right, then Sarasota County is going to have to pay for it," explained Hearne.

These homeowners will be filing a lawsuit against Sarasota County if they are not given a clear answer by that February 7th deadline.

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