What began with a roar nearly two years went out with a whimper late last month.
The Board of County Commissioners, City of Port St. Joe and a group of plaintiffs entered into a “joint stipulation for voluntary dismissal” of a lawsuit pertaining to efforts to renovate the 10th Street Ball Park.
The stipulation was a nuanced document.
A portion of the document dismisses, with prejudice, meaning the allegation may not be re-filed, any treatment of a city resolution identifying a seventh amended map of the proposed improvements as a “development order.”
It was not and the clock did not start, under Florida law, as per the stipulation
The so-called 6A version of the park complex was a key focus of the lawsuit.
However, the stipulation allows the plaintiffs to re-file their lawsuit if and the city, following Florida statute, seeks a “development order” for improvements or renovations at the park.
“Plaintiffs expressly reserve the right to bring an action based on the same theories of relief as in this lawsuit, when and if such causes of action accrue in the future,” the stipulation reads in part.
Additionally, the stipulation agreement codified that the county must adhere to the Florida law pertaining to the use of the fifth-penny bed tax approved for parks and recreation.
The county has argued from the outset it was doing just that.
Finally, the stipulation reads that, “This dismissal shall not be construed as an adjudication on the merits as to any issue raised by any party to this lawsuit.”
All parties were responsible for their legal expenses.
More than two years ago, at the urging of County Commissioner Sandy Quinn, Jr., the county set out to find a use for the fifth-penny bed tax by funding improvements to 10th Street Ball Park, also known as Benny Roberts Park.
A park committee was formed and held a series of nearly a dozen meetings until neighbors learned of the scope of the proposed project.
At the time, the committee was identifying possible elements to the park in order to craft a master plan and budget.
As county attorney Jeremy Novak noted recently, the county’s role consisted of providing the funds through the fifth-penny bed tax in a match to city expenditures for the sole purpose of improving the 10th Street park complex.
Over the course of several months, neighbors to the park became vocally and steadfastly involved, concerned about issues ranging from stormwater to safety and noise at an expanded park.
The committee’s work ground to a halt while city commissioners debated a series of amended plans over several months.
Ultimately they approved a plan, so-called 6A, which included an additional field, concessions, press boxes and, most troubling to neighbors, proposing to pipe a portion of the stormwater ditch that meanders past the park.
In time, seeing no relief from either county or city, 11 neighbors to the park complex filed suit, alleging several issues, the legality of spending the fifth penny, what constituted a development order, over which the plaintiffs sought a court ruling given the differences in opinion.
Both the county and city sought to dismiss the lawsuit and a hearing was to be held late last month in front of Circuit Court Judge Dustin Stephenson.
The plaintiffs had requested additional time to file an amended complaint, according to the online docket with the Clerk of Courts.
What emerged instead was the joint stipulation for voluntary dismissal.
“I hate we are back to where we started,” said County Commissioner Phil McCroan. “We still have a rundown park.
“I hate it for the kids.”