Winter Haven Legal Fees Skyrocket

The old fertilizer plant site had been scheduled to be part of The Landings redevelopment in Winter Haven before plans fell apart. (Pierre DuCharme/ The Ledger)

The old fertilizer plant site had been scheduled to be part of The Landings redevelopment in Winter Haven before plans fell apart. (Pierre DuCharme/ The Ledger)

WINTER HAVEN | The city’s legal bills for the failed Landings development have exceeded original expectations and now eclipse $600,000, according to records obtained by The Ledger.

As of the week of May 15, the city’s total bill for legal fees related to a lawsuit over The Landings was $609,478, city records show.

A small fraction of that amount is being reimbursed by the city’s insurance policy. A larger percentage of future bills will be covered, said Donna Sheehan, a city spokeswoman.

Just over a year ago, when the city was pondering whether to settle the lawsuit, estimates of potential legal fees were $300,000 to $350,000.

The Landings was a mixed-use development proposed for the city-owned Chain of Lakes Complex. After the first phase of the planned project, which included adding three restaurants on Cypress Gardens Boulevard, things fell apart.

The City Commission cancelled its contract with financier Taylor Pursell, citing his failure to close on one-third of an acre and submit a list of covenants, conditions and restrictions by a May 5, 2012, deadline.

In his lawsuit against the city, Pursell alleged the city’s attorney, John Murphy, verbally agreed to extend that deadline when Pursell signed an agreement that allowed a college baseball tournament to be played at the Chain of Lakes Complex before Pursell began the next phase of the development.

Murphy has said he made no such verbal agreement.

The rest of this article can be found here as it appeared on page A1 in The Ledger.

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