It will be a year next month since neighbor was pitted against neighbor in the Point Pleasant neighborhood when it was perceived one resident seized the sole access point to the Manatee River and locked out his fellow residents.
Like a bar of baker’s dark chocolate, the bitterness hasn’t faded over time.
Residents, last year, demanded the city take action.
During the past 11 months, negotiations to resolve what was long considered to be public property — a strip of beach about 14 by 40 feet at the end of Point Pleasant Boulevard, formerly known as Curry Point — have been ongoing.
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The city says negotiations have failed and on Wednesday, the city council authorized city attorney Bill Lisch to pursue legal action to force the property owner to allow public access.
The move came as a surprise to Ryan Snyder, who owns a large home at the end of the boulevard and who purchased the strip of land from the Curry family last year. Snyder constructed a 4-foot iron deco fence and put in rip rap to stabilize the beach and to help prevent hard materials from getting into the drainage system.
The end of the street has long had flooding issues.
Snyder also installed a locked gate on the fence to curtail unwanted activities that he and some neighbors say were taking place at the point, up to and including drug use and prostitution. Snyder, last year, said he had collected dozens of used syringes not only on the point but also from his backyard, where his children play.
He also promised to build a small walking path, a bench for residents to enjoy the sunsets and a memorial plaque to the Curry family in an effort to show his neighbors he had no ill will. None of that has happened, but Snyder said it’s because of the ongoing negotiations. He said he has been trying to give the land back to the city, but they refuse to take it
Snyder has offered the land to the city, asking for a 5-foot buffer for himself and his neighbor across the street to prevent people from getting behind their houses. He doesn’t feel like its an unreasonable request to put a few stipulations on transferring the ownership.
Lisch said the city has several issues with Snyder’s conditions, but one stipulation in particular is unacceptable. The seawall at the point is failing and if Snyder is going to give the land to the city, he believes the city should pay for the repairs.
“If the city is going to take it, the city needs to replace it,” Snyder said. “If I’m going to keep it, then I need to replace it and it’s tied into my neighbors’ seawalls. Three different companies have said it has failed. So now I’m even in more of a situation that I can’t open the property to the public because I have a liability for myself. I’m happy to give access to the residents if the city wants me to keep it, but honestly I don’t know what they want.”
Lisch said what the city wants is for Snyder to remove a clause in his proposal.
“What he’s saying is that in five years if something goes wrong or he isn’t satisfied, he can take the property back,” Lisch said. “He basically wants the city to come in and pay for all the improvements and he could possibly take back ownership at some point.”
There is a key word in the original plat when Snyder presented the ownership of the property last year to obtain the permit to build the fence. The original plat dates to 1921, but was purchased in 1890 by the Curry family. That plat states the point was always meant to be “reserved.”
“We are filing the suite to maintain public access because it’s always been reserved for that and it’s been that way for 100 years,” Lisch said, noting the next step will be, “To prepare the suite and send it in. It will take some time. We were hoping to do this without this because suits can take time and can sometimes have a different outcome than what you intended.”
The argument will come down to what “reserved” means and city staff acknowledged last year that it was vague. But Lisch said it’s a matter of historical use and that’s a legal argument that can be made. Snyder’s attorneys disagree.
“Mr. Snyder owns the property in question,” said Snyder’s attorney Stephen Dye. “He purchased from the historical Curry family, who was the original developer of the property at the turn of the century.”
For Dye, it’s clear his client’s actions have helped, not hurt the neighborhood and his client, not the city, has taken measures to improve the neighborhood.
“After purchasing the property, Mr. Snyder obtained a permit from the city and had a 4-foot aluminum deco fence installed on his property as the area was being frequented by trespassers and loiterers who were using drugs and leaving used syringes and other litter etc. right in the street in front of his beautiful home and where children play,” Dye said.
After the fence was installed, those issues were “greatly reduced,” Dye said, while noting his client specifically chose that kind of fencing as to not impede sunset views for the residents.
Dye said the result has created a better atmosphere in the neighborhood whose residents are “greatly appreciative and relieved” about how the fence has reduced crime, drug use and loitering in the area.
It depends on which neighbor is asked, as the feud has continued to spur support and opposition to Snyder’s actions. It’s been bitter, but Snyder maintains it’s a small group of residents who have portrayed him to be some kind of evil rich guy, “Which couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said.
It was Snyder’s rather large home — some neighbors call the “McMansion” — that spurred the city in 2016 to create the Point Pleasant conservation overlay district. The lengthy and contested effort was meant to preserve the character of the historic neighborhood, something Snyder opposed at the time.
Snyder believes it’s those same neighbors who were upset with his home — though he did everything according to the code at the time — are the same ones causing him problems now. He doesn’t want to be adversarial with his neighbors or the city, which is why he is trying to give the property to the city, as long as the city makes concessions to protect his property.
“If contacted by outside counsel, we will listen and go from there,” Dye said. “We do not see this matter as adversarial. We believe the city council also wants to reduce crime in the city’s residential neighborhoods and make Bradenton a great place to live, work and play.”
But it was the city council voting 4-0, with Councilman Gene Gallo absent, to authorize Lisch to file suit. Lisch said the only conversation with Snyder’s attorneys since Wednesday was to let them know the lawsuit is coming “out of courtesy,” he said.
The city could try to take the property through eminent domain, but that, too, can get expensive for all sides if challenged. Both parties said, for now, eminent domain is not part of the discussion.