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Judge rules for city, Topgolf in lawsuit; appeal likely

Brian Hartz

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Topgolf in Centennial, Colo. (PRNewsFoto/Topgolf)

Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ramsberger has ruled in favor of the City of St. Petersburg and Topgolf in a contentious civil lawsuit brought by Concerned Residents of Carillon, a group opposed to the construction of a Topgolf facility in their northern St. Petersburg neighborhood.

The defendants’ motion for summary judgment was granted on Feb. 17 but Jason Liu, a leader and spokesman for Concerned Residents of Carillon, told the Catalyst the case is far from resolved.

“We filed a three-count complaint and the summary judgment only applied to two of them,” he said. “To me, it’s an easy layup to file an appeal.”

Liu declined to comment on the group’s legal strategy, going forward, but said an appeal is likely to be filed in the coming weeks. He said his group plans to retain the services of an appellate lawyer at Weber, Crabb & Wein P.A.,  the law firm that has been handling the case.

The third count of the complaint alleges that the city violated Florida’s Public Records Act during the approval process for modifications to the site plan of the property where Topgolf wants to build.

“The third challenge is a major issue to us in terms of how the city conducted its approval process,” Liu said, adding that his group disagrees with how the judge and defendants have interpreted a Second District Court of Appeals ruling in Braden Woods Homeowners Association v. Mavard Trading Ltd., a case that arose in Manatee County in 2017 when a group of homeowners and a medical center sued to stop a hospital’s construction of a free-standing emergency room that would abut residences and compete with the medical center.

Liu’s group, in the third count, alleges that it made six ultimately unsuccessful requests for public records regarding the site plan for 570 Carillon Parkway N., the address of the proposed Topgolf facility, and that the city’s failure to provide the documents did not meet the standards of an exemption to the Public Records Act.

“If you’re going to get summary judgment, you have to deal with all the issues on the table versus picking and choosing,” Liu said, “because then you don’t really have summary judgment on a case; you just have a couple counts. The order is really not final on the case until the third count is resolved. So before the case can be appealed to the Second District Court of Appeals, we need to resolve that third count.”

Liu added, “We would rather not spend all that time, effort and money dealing with the city and Topgolf, but that’s pretty much what they have decided to do. So, you know, they were in control of what they wanted to argue and I guess they didn’t feel they had a good case on the third [count]. So that just means it’s going to drag on a lot longer than either party would like.”

Ramsberger has given Liu’s group 60 days to decide whether they would like to continue to litigate the third count of the complaint. If they choose to do so, as Liu indicated they will, they have 90 days from the date of the summary judgment to schedule a case management conference with the defendants.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ryan

    February 25, 2021at7:05 am

    Thank you, Concerned Residents of Carillon, for challenging Staff and Top Golf. Staff routinely makes improper decisions outside of their scope and ability. Keep fighting and keep Top Golf out of that site plan!

  2. Avatar

    Joanne Kahrnoff

    May 7, 2021at6:12 am

    I totally agree with you Ryan. Topgolf had no right or permission to build their entertainment complex in a quiet residential area where families live. Homeowner’s bought property here because after business hours, it’s essentially quiet and a safe upper middle class area to raise families. This monstrosity will bring nothing but noise, traffic, and criminal activity that destroys the lifestyle of everyone who moved here for it’s peaceful environment despite it’s proximity to downtown St Pete

  3. Avatar

    Heather Klemmer

    June 26, 2021at10:43 am

    It is prime location to entertainment and communal living in a work, live, play community. It is shocking to hear someone bought here to raise a family in a quiet neighborhood.
    Bring on Top Golf!
    My family bought here to enjoy walking to restaurants, stores and entertainment!

  4. Avatar

    Marie Capellan

    September 15, 2021at12:38 pm

    Well I truly hope since you feel as if Topgolf brings “criminal behavier” that you dont even visit any of the FL or any other states Topgolf location. Topgolf is a FAMILY oriented establishment, and for you to not want more jobs for your community is quite selfish of you. And as for the traffic, you must not leave your home frequently to even realise that St Pete is already booming with traffic, just like most cities in Fl. As in for the noise, the establishment is outside of apartment complexes and other businesses, so I could understand if you riside in one of those complexes, but even then your “noise complaint” you already have is unsupportable for the fact once youre off the premises of a Topgolf, you can no longer hear the DJ or the music that is played.

  5. Avatar

    Esther

    December 11, 2021at10:34 am

    Any updates on this!? Really looking forward to having Topgolf here!

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