BRADENTON -- The fight over Bradenton's Glazier-Gates Park is on hold due to the March 7 resignation of Judge John Lakin.
Lakin resigned after the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission charged him with asking for and accepting free baseball tickets from a law firm that had a case before him.
Lakin was expected to rule whether to begin new proceedings based on an amended motion filed by the plaintiffs, Stone Soup Unity Community being represented by Cape Coral attorney Ralf Brookes. The group objects to the city's decision to relocate a substantial portion of Glazier-Gates Park to make room for Villages at Riverwalk, a $75 million, 521-unit rental development project.
According to court records, the plaintiffs and defendants in the Glazier-Gates case were notified March 11 by Chief Judge Charles Williams about unresolved matters and the parties had three options to move forward.
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The three options Williams outlined was to restart the case, make a ruling based on existing transcripts or proceed with a status conference. Ed Vogler, the lawyer for the developer of Villages at Riverwalk, said Monday, Williams could also rule in favor of a motion for summary judgement, "that if the landowners prevailed, the case would be terminated."
Brookes' case now hangs on one primary argument: That the city violated its comprehensive plan by diverting park space when it can only do so with overriding public interest. Brookes previously said that means for such things like a hospital or school, "not a residential development."
Brookes could not be reached for comment but according to court records, his amended motion focuses on the city's alleged violation of its comprehensive plan. Vogler disagrees, saying the overriding interest issue isn't relevant because park lands are not only being preserved, but also expanded.
The park is being moved to the north from its location at 1000 Manatee Ave. W. to Riverside Drive East. The park is currently 4.85 acres and under the land swap deal, the developer would provide 5.66 acres. However some of that acreage is being split off from the main park and made into "pocket parks" within the proposed development.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.