Gateway board poised to order removal of parking signs from Stoneybrook

Posted on September 27, 2019, 9:44 am
10 mins

Several weeks ago Supervisor Ed Tinkle let it be known that he was going to get to the bottom of the Stoneybrook street parking controversy.

Earlier this week, Tinkle called me to let me know that he had exhausted all avenues except for one, and that he’s arrived at a key decision.

To his credit Tinkle investigated things further than I ever have. Along with reading the applicable laws, Tinkle also spoke with officials from other districts, the Lee County Department of Transportation and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

Supervisor Tinkle is a retired civil engineer who has dealt with these types of matters his entire professional life. I was interested to see what a fresh look at this whole thing would yield. Tinkle’s inescapable conclusion? He called the Gateway District a “paper tiger” that had no jurisdiction or enforcement authority over the district-owned roads in Stoneybrook.

Sounds familiar.

Tinkle told the Gateway Sun that he will be making a formal motion to accomplish two things:

First, Tinkle will motion that the “NO STREET PARKING” signs be removed.

Second, Tinkle will motion that the Board of Supervisors instruct Gateway attorney Tony Pires to begin the process of exploring the possibility of the GSCDD transferring their roads in Stoneybrook to that community’s HOA so that the community can legally make their own parking rules. Tinkle mentioned the token price of $1 for the HOA to buy the roads.

In regards to the second point, Tinkle said that the process could begin with obtaining an Attorney General opinion in regards to a Community Development District transferring roads to an HOA in Florida. Tinkle also mentioned that it may take the Florida Legislature to change the law to allow such a transfer to take place.

Tinkle made it clear that the end result of all this should be that the Stoneybrook community gain full control of their own roads. But in the meantime, the law dictates that Lee County has jurisdiction over roads owned by the GSCDD and that the GSCDD has no enforcement powers themselves – let alone powers they can assign to the Stoneybrook HOA.

Indeed, Florida Statute 316.006 deals with jurisdiction over roads. Within that section, subsection (3)(a) specifically states that all public roads in unincorporated areas of this county are under Lee County jurisdiction. And we know that law applies to district-owned roads because the very next paragraph, (3)(b), in that statute says that if a special district (like the GSCDD) wants a unique enforcement scenario on roads they own they must work out an enforcement agreement with the county.

In terms of whatever chatter Stoneybrook residents may be hearing in their popular Facebook group, the new law Gateway’s attorney Tony Pires has been feeding to Gateway Chairperson Margaret Fineberg and Stoneybrook Advisory Committee president Joe Mikulka to give them hope does not grant districts jurisdiction over the roads they own.

Keep in mind that trials occur in a court of law over the laws the State of Florida writes. We have one statute (the one just mentioned from FS 316) that specifically and with total clarity assigns jurisdiction over district roads to the county, and another law – FS 190.012(2)(d) that Pires is talking about — which does not even contain the word “road” or “street” much less assign anyone jurisdiction over anything. Which do you think would prevail in court? Multiple attorneys have written to the GSCDD over the years to advise them they do not have jurisdiction over the roads in Stoneybrook. Those attorneys have specifically told the GSCDD in writing that the county has jurisdiction, not the district.

Also sounds familiar.

But since the law does say that Lee County could set parking rules in Stoneybrook, Tinkle called Lee County DOT to see if they’d do it. He has one more person he can attempt to convince but Lee County staff are aware of the controversy and according to Tinkle they don’t want to be involved.

There’s no state statute or Lee County ordinance that would compel the county to agree to such an arrangement with the GSCDD or any special district in the county. Neither the Gateway District or Lee County can hold each other hostage in this regard. Both entities must be willing participants. Lee County staff seem to be aware that the majority of Stoneybrook’s residents want nothing to do with what the HOA leadership there has been attempting to accomplish and so far according to Tinkle the county staff are saying “No thanks.”

In regards to the “NO STREET PARKING” signs being removed, it certainly seems as though that will happen.

I won’t share exactly what Tinkle said about the origin of the signs being placed in 2010, but rest assured that Tinkle is not impressed with what he’s learned about how they got installed 6 years before he joined the Gateway board.

Supervisor Doug Banks also seems to have come around to the realization that the signs may not have been properly placed to begin with and that there’s no legal justification for them still being there today. Banks has indicated he would vote to remove the signs, although I don’t believe Banks is eager to make the motion himself.

Meanwhile Gateway District Vice-Chairman Bill Guy has known the whole thing was a sham all along, and would probably go rip the signs out of the ground with his own bare hands if he knew the board would let him. His vote would not be in doubt. And Tinkle will have his motion seconded.

So that’s 3. And that’s enough to for Tinkle’s motion to pass.

Now as a caveat … Tinkle does have one last person within the Lee County government he can speak to, and Tinkle has called him and left a message. So it is possible that county staffer will say “What this county needs is to insert ourselves and our police department in the middle of this community dispute.”

But that seems unlikely at this point. If it does happen though, we will certainly let you know.

By all indications the GSCDD will be extracting themselves from the parking enforcement debate altogether, which means their street parking signs in Stoneybrook will be coming down… and the Gateway District will investigate transferring ownership of the roads in that community to the HOA – at which point the Stoneybrook homeowners can legally decide their own street parking rules without involving the district or the county.

Community control over the roads in Stoneybrook is exactly how it should be. But Tinkle recognizes that does not exist right now and it needs to be done properly. As long as the GSCDD owns the roads in Stoneybrook, the HOA will have no power or authority to implement parking restrictions.

Stoneybrook towing or parking rules aren’t on the October 3 meeting agenda for the Gateway District, but Tinkle can bring it up during the scheduled time for Supervisors to comment on matters of importance to them. Or he can wait and get it on the October 17 agenda.

Signs or no signs, you still must park in accordance with Lee County ordinances. And if a vehicle is abandoned or parked improperly you can contact the LCSO to have it removed.

You don’t need the GSCDD’s blessing to do that, and you never did.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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