SARASOTA, Florida -- Governor Rick Scott remained mum about his motivations for filing a lawsuit trying to invalidate the deed of a waterfront property owner in St. Petersburg.
When asked several questions about the suit by 10 News Thursday, the Governor gave three versions of the same non-answer: "That's a very local land dispute and they're going to court to resolve it."
Scott, along with the three members of the Cabinet, filed a suit last month against Rick and Kelly Ware, dock owners on St. Pete's Coffee Pot Bayou. The suit claims the submerged land - privately owned, bought, sold, and taxed for 130 years - should have never left state control.
But the suit could set monumental precedent. Not only are there more than 80 docks along Coffee Pot Bayou in similar situations, but Pinellas County has thousands of properties with submerged land. Tens of thousands exist across Florida.
"A cloud on one title is a cloud on everyone's titles," said State Senator Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who has been working with the governor's office to try and find a solution out of court.
"People need to be concerned...it's very scary for what (could) happen if the state wins this lawsuit," Brandes said.
The docks on Coffee Pot Bayou alone represent approximately $5 million in value on city and county tax rolls, plus 40 acres more in submerged property the City of St. Petersburg owns, including its famous pier.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, another plaintiff on the case, has refused comment, claiming its her ethical obligation. Yet Bondi and Scott both issued public statements earlier this week on another lawsuit filed by the state.
The state's case alleges Coffee Pot Bayou was a navigable waterway in 1848, therefore exempt from the land conveyance to investor Hamilton Disston in 1883. However, Ware and his attorney maintain the waterway was not navigable for most of the 19th century, meaning Disston assumed ownership of it in 1883, beginning the chain of title that has been passed along to present-day dock owners.
8/14/13 - Gov. Scott, AG Bondi avoiding controversial questions on suit
8/6/13 - Gov. Scott, Cabinet members answer questions on Coffee Pot Bayou lawsuit
7/31/13 - State Senator tries to get action on Coffee Pot Bayou suit
7/28/13 - St. Petersburg dock owner sued by state for his land
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