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A Times Editorial

Walgreens store's wall of blame has easy fix

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 19, 2002

The Inverness City Council recently declined to grant relief to a contractor who apparently encroached on city property by 4 inches when he built a retaining wall for a Walgreens drugstore. It remains to be seen who was responsible for the mistake, or who is in the best position to correct it. But this much is clear:

Two things the wall is retaining are confusion and inflexibility.

If a compromise isn't reached soon, the wall will have to be torn down and rebuilt, which is an option that does not benefit anyone involved.

There appears to be plenty of blame to go around.

The mistake could be the fault of one or both of the surveyors on the project. That's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility; a survey conducted more than a year ago was flawed, and the wall already had to be torn down and reconstructed once.

On the other hand, the survey may have been correct and the problem may lie with the construction firm, Great Southern Contractors of Winter Park, which built the wall for the owner of the land, Lima Lake Inc. of Clearwater. It wouldn't be the first time a contractor poured some concrete a little left or right of where it should be.

Or, in a broader sense, a finger could be pointed at the Inverness City Council for refusing to forgive the mistake, regardless of who made it, and allow everyone to, well, stop beating their heads against the wall.

Clearly the wall intrudes on the city's easement. No one disputes that fact. Just as clear is that the ultimate responsibility for the mistake rests with the landowner, whether the slip-up was the contractor's or the surveyors'.

Operating from those premises, it's time for some common sense and cooperation to emerge in this debate.

The landowner should determine how much it will cost to tear down the wall and rebuild it 4 inches to the east. With that estimate in hand, he should come back to the City Council and offer to compensate the city for its inconvenience. That might be a monetary settlement, or it might be an in-kind donation of labor or materials that the landowner could work out with the contractor who got him into this jam in the first place. There is a plan to move City Hall; perhaps the contractor's services could be of use in that endeavor.

Of course, such an offer would require City Council members to stop droning on about setting a "precedent" about "giving away" city property, and to grant the easement. Such an agreement assuredly would "serve a public purpose," which should satisfy the legal concerns of City Attorney Denise Lyn.

There, that wasn't so difficult, was it? All in all, it's just another brick in the wall of responsibility.

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