NORTH PORT — A North Port group claimed victory Monday, with a 12th Judicial Circuit judge ordering the city to respond to the group’s petition to redraw city boundaries.
“We were confident that we were in complete compliance with Florida statutes,” John Meisel, president of the West Villagers for Responsible Government, said of Judge Hunter W. Carroll’s order stating that North Port must place the de-annexation issue before voters or show cause as to why not.
City commissioners on April 29 voted to deny the de-annexation or contraction petition. Bradenton attorney Luke Lirot filed documents on behalf of the West Villagers group, asking for the courts to overrule the city’s decision.
Lirot demanded that North Port place contraction or de-annexation of all land west of the Myakka River before affected voters — in this matter, property owners in Wellen Park.
The West Villagers group later filed a 63-page writ. The group asserted that Commissioner Debbie McDowell and Mayor Jill Luke had violated objectivity in deciding contraction: McDowell for eavesdropping on a members-only West Villagers virtual meeting, and Luke reportedly for emailing a resident that “I do not support cutting off any limb of the city.”
The West Villagers had based its arguments for contraction on the premise that North Port mismanages its finances. Shifting Wellen Park to Sarasota County would resolve those alleged problems, as well as saving on property taxes, Meisel had argued.
North Port has 30 days to respond to Carroll’s order.