Boynton Still lawsuit dismissed, construction to continue

By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News
August 23, 2019

Residents of Boynton Still have sued the City of Tallahassee for allegedly illegally fencing off an area that closes two public roads.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A circuit court judge ruled the city of Tallahassee can continue its construction in the Boynton Still neighborhood after residents sued the city for closing streets and not notifying the public beforehand.

Judge John C. Cooper did not grant the injunction the residents brought up in their lawsuit.

The focus of the injunction hearing was whether the city had permanently or temporarily closed the road.

The suit said Tallahassee violated its own land development code. The code in question requires the city to follow an extensive procedure and analysis before closing a public road.

The city argued it did not have to notify the public about the closure because it was temporary. The plaintiff's attorney, Leighanne Boone, pointed out the environmental management permit showed the roads will be demolished.

Cooper ruled the roads were temporarily closed and said there can't be a determination on whether the roads will be closed permanently.

"It seems it would be inappropriate for me to open the roads," Cooper said.

Cooper also said the site is what can be legally called an "attractive nuisance," with heavy machinery and large holes, ruling that the fencing needs to remain.

Boone argued her clients would've provided public input against the project if they had known about the closure in advance. The plaintiffs also argued they have an itnerest that differs from the public ar large, saying the area is a cultural historical site.

"It's a disappointing ruling. Basically, the judge said that we didn't have special injury standing, however, I can't think of anybody that would have more of a special interest in this area of Boynton Still than my clients," said Boone.

One man said it's a safe are for him. Robert Davis said it's a place where he can be at peace.

"If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything, so I stood for what I believe in. And I still stand," said Davis.

The city's representation said the plaintiff's witnesses do not have the right to trespass on the land and do not have a special claim to it.

The city said construction fencing is for public safety, so people stay away from heavy machinery and possibly hazardous materials.

Boone questioned how old the defense's diagram of the area presented in court was.

If the city does eventually decide to permanently close the roads, it will have to go through the full process. However, the plaintiffs in this case do not have legal standing to bring the claim.

Both parties agreed for this to be a final evidentiary hearing, and the judge ruled to dismiss the case.

“It doesn’t mean that I think what I’ve heard from Mr. McKinney, Mr. Davis, or Ms. Scott is insignificant,” said Cooper. “I’m not saying I don’t believe you, and I’m not saying I don’t accept your concerns as legitimate. But those are issues that need to be resolved at this point by the city staff and commission, and not be me. For the judicial system to effectively work, it can’t overreach its power.”

City Attorney Cassandra Jackson, Assistant City Manager Wayne Tedder, Assistant City Attorney Louis Norvell, and the City Engineer Steven Shafer were present.

"The City is always willing to listen, and always listens. We've had many community meetings on this over many years, and we're still listening.," said Jackson. "One of the things that came out in court today is that there's going to be a gathering place in the area."

Jackson referred to a planned park that will be near the Boynton Still neighborhood at the completion of the City's and Blueprint's projects.

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