In a 21-page motion recently filed with the Clerk of Court, attorneys for the Board of County Commissioners argued a lawsuit filed by Taunton Sand over a deal to excavate sand at the Honeyville “borrow pit” should be dismissed.
Attorneys for the county, including Jeremy Novak, argued that Taunton Sand lacked standing to legally stop a properly-bid contract award or the county’s decision to use the land for the sand project.
The county has also filed paperwork to dismiss the request for a jury trial, arguing there were no issues for a jury to consider.
The contractor who won the contract to excavate up to 50,000 cubic yards of sand from the Honeyville pit, Roberts and Roberts, Inc. also filed for dismissal of the lawsuit against the company, lawyers arguing the company properly followed county procedures in bidding on the contract and subsequent negotiations of a contract.
The complaint filed last month by Taunton Sand, LLC, detailed a list of alleged “unlawful” actions on the part of the county.
The lawsuit requested unspecified damages in excess of $15,000 and an injunction to stop the sand excavation and void the contract with Roberts and Roberts.
Taunton Sand argued that the details laid out in the lawsuit, “Specifically affect Taunton Sand to the extent they demonstrate favoritism to a competing business … the result (of) the County subsidizing a for-profit competitor … and (deprives) Taunton Sand of a fair opportunity to compete on a level playing field for business of the County.”
However, the county argued in its motions to dismiss that Taunton Sand was free to bid on the sand project, chose not to and therefore had no standing to protest a legal bidding process.
In addition, Taunton Sand lacked standing to protest the use of the Honeyville borrow pit.
Both sides acknowledged the recent history of the land.
The roughly 200 county-owned acres in Honeyville, of which some 92 are used as the borrow pit, was donated to the county in the early 2000s by the St. Joe Company during the Development of Regional Impact (DRI) process that resulted in the permitting of WindMark Beach.
The donation earned St. Joe density bonuses to apply to other land holdings.
A 2007 development agreement as well as a 2010 special warranty deed to the county included provisions pertaining to use of the land.
The land’s use, in both documents, was restricted to “affordable housing for extremely-low-income persons, low-income persons, moderate-income person and very-low income persons as such terms are defined (in Florida law).”
Taunton alleged the sand extraction operation was on its face prohibited by the documents through which the county took possession of the land.
The county, however, argued that the terms of the special warranty deed and development agreement between the county and St. Joe are left to the two parties to enforce.
Again, Taunton Sand lacked standing to intervene.
And the sand deal does not convey any third-party rights nor does it preclude the land from being used for affordable housing in the future, county attorneys argued.
The lawsuit spent far more pages attacking the process by which a contract between the county and Roberts and Roberts for the sand operation was finalized.
Again, both sides acknowledged the history of the Request for Proposals process for the sand operation at the Honeyville borrow pit, which the county saw as a potential revenue stream in the wake of Hurricane Michael.
The RFP included as a scope of services “excavating and stockpiling” up to 50,000 cubic yards at the Honeyville site.
The county received two bids, a final contract was negotiated with the low bidder, Roberts and Roberts and the final contract approved by the BOCC.
One detail had changed and that, county attorneys argued, was simply the method of payment, via a purchase agreement between the county and Roberts and Roberts.
Taunton’s lawsuit attacked the silence of the original RFP on the “purchase” of sand rather than simply excavating and stockpiling and argued the county had circumvented state law with “arbitrary and capricious actions.”
And, Taunton argued, they had been barred from entering a formal protest.
That, the county argued, is on Taunton for not bidding on the project.
Regardless of whether there were flaws in the RFP process or not, and the county argued there were none, Taunton Sand lacked any standing to protest.
Further, the allegations, or “theories” as county attorneys wrote several times, that the RFP process had been modified are muted in that the payment agreement was outside the RFP, not part of it, the county argued.
The county argued that allegations, again “theories,” offered under a state law setting bid requirements for a public project costing in excess of $300,000, failed to state a cause of action, further arguing the use of sand as partial payment is outside the scope of that statute.