A judge dismissed the lawsuit that has held up talks between the City of Gulfport and Boca Ciega Yacht Club. Both groups can now resume addressing their respective goals for BCYC’s portion of the marina area – but there’s no set timetable for when any kind of new agreement could be reached.
The judge dismissed the lawsuit, filed by Samantha Ring, with prejudice, according to an order filed in July with the U.S. District Court. Ring initially brought suit against the club but later added the City of Gulfport as a defendant. Her 2020 suit alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding her dog, which she claimed was a bee-killing service animal. “Dismissed with prejudice” means Ring cannot file the lawsuit again.
Gulfport and BCYC had been in discussions regarding whether the club would continue its current lease on the City-owned property or another arrangement would be pursued, but those conversations paused when the litigation began.
The club pays $2,000 per month under its lease agreement, which is now month-to-month.
In April of 2021 BCYC Commodore Roger Gilmore received a letter from City Manager Jim O’Reilly stating that the City Council intended to terminate the lease and return the property to solely municipal uses. That decision was rescinded two months later and O’Reilly informed Gilmore that the City wished to pursue a new lease agreement.
O’Reilly informed the council at its Aug. 16 regular meeting about the dismissal of the lawsuit, noting that he and City Attorney Andrew Salzman meet with BCYC leaders the following week to hear what they had to say. Both men made it clear that they would not be advancing any proposals but would simply hear BCYC’s side.
Gilmore submitted a proposal Aug. 19 to all of the members of the City Council as well as O’Reilly and Salzman. A copy was also hand-delivered to The Gabber office.
O’Reilly told The Gabber Aug. 26 that Gilmore’s action changed the tenor of his and Salzman’s meeting with BCYC because that action put the ball in Council’s court. O’Reilly said he could not proceed on the City’s behalf until the council took action, whether it be to terminate the lease or come up with a new agreement. As long as BCYC is content to operate on the month-to-month lease, there is no legal urgency for the council to do anything, O’Reilly said.
One project proceeding at the marina is the improvement of the dry boat storage area that was approved last year. That work is expected to include the installation of a shell-based impervious surface, secured decorative fencing, automatic roll gates, water and electric, numbered spaces, and security lighting. It was noted at the time that the marina’s dry boat storage facility generates about $85,000 per year.
Gilmore said he and his organization were prepared to do “whatever the City wants us to do.” While he expects to present a more formalized proposal in the near future, he doesn’t expect any action soon given the city’s busy agenda.
“We will follow whatever direction we receive from the City,” said Gilmore.
Members of the City Council have their opinions on what should be done regarding Gulfport’s relationship with the BCYC. During the Aug. 16 meeting Mayor Sam Henderson and Councilman Paul Ray both indicated that they had already let O’Reilly know what their positions were, although they shared no specifics.
On a larger scale, Vice Mayor Christine Brown suggested adopting a formal marina master plan “so we know where we’re going as a group.”
“We have such a beautiful place down there and it’s such an integral part of the community,” she said.
Councilwoman April Thanos agreed with that idea. Ray said if it were done, it should be “with a ton of public input.”
“Council needs to decide what it wants to do with that particular area,” noted Salzman.
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