Joseph Cranney, email@example.com; 239-213-6035 Published 6:00 a.m. ET Dec. 5, 2017 | Updated 7:44 a.m. ET Dec. 5, 2017
In the latest legal challenge to downtown development, a Naples resident is again alleging that the Naples City Council went too far in approving a commercial project that skirts building restrictions in the Naples charter.
The lawsuit filed in Collier County by resident Joan Fiore, who has sued the city four times since December 2015, targets the council’s approval last month of the redevelopment at the former site of the St. George and the Dragon restaurant.
In permitting the owner’s request for a new building with architectural features that exceed the city’s 42-foot height limit for commercial buildings, the council violated the Naples charter and its land development code, Fiore alleges.
“The city is bound by the (land development code) and its comprehensive plan,” her complaint states. “However, the city’s approvals for the Property are contrary to the (code) and the comprehensive plan.”
Fiore also alleges the project’s four-level parking garage, with three stories above ground, violates another provision of the charter that limits commercial buildings to three floors.
Naples residents in 2000 established commercial building restrictions in the charter by referendum. The charter approved by voters states, “All commercial zoning districts in the City of Naples shall be limited to three floors and building heights of 42 feet to the peak of the roof, measured from the first floor, FEMA elevation.”
In a previous lawsuit filed by Fiore, City Attorney Bob Pritt argued the charter does not clearly state whether building floors should be counted if they are built below ground.
In that legal challenge, Fiore and another Naples resident, Robert Martin, sought to reverse the council’s November 2015 approval of a commercial redevelopment at the intersection of Fifth Avenue South and Fifth Street South planned by Naples real estate developer Phil McCabe.
The council approved McCabe's plans for an underground parking garage below three commercial stories.
Collier County Judge Hugh D. Hayes in October 2016 granted a request from McCabe and the city to throw out the case after lawyers argued Fiore and Martin weren’t timely in filing their complaint.
Pritt said Monday he hadn’t yet read Fiore’s most recent complaint, filed Nov. 30.
“It sounds like an issue that has been around, and we’ll just have to deal with it,” Pritt said.
The owner of St. George and the Dragon property is The Brookline Companies, a Clearwater-based real estate group that has recently bought several properties on Fifth Avenue South, including the former site of the landmark restaurant.
John Passidomo, a Naples lawyer representing Brookline, said he can’t comment on pending litigation.
The council approved the group's plans to tear down the restaurant and construct a three-story commercial building, with nearly 50,000 square feet of commercial space. Attached to the building, a four-level parking garage will include 242 parking spaces.