Summary judgments could spell end of lawsuit

Jupiter Island’s outcome inches closer to resolution this week

For those seeking a little off-the-wall entertainment this week, you need to look no further than the Town of Jupiter Island.

Its meeting Thursday morning at 9 a.m., Jan. 13, at Jupiter Island Town Hall likely will be packed, as will a Martin County Circuit courtroom on Friday, Jan. 14, to hear arguments at 9 a.m. to either uphold or dismiss the pending lawsuit against the town, or go to trial in April. Judge Gary Sweet will decide likely sometime the following week.

Prior to hearing arguments for summary judgments, Sweet also will hear and likely rule on a motion to strike an affidavit by Adena Testa, who claims that the testimony by her husband, David Testa, in a pretrial deposition is “unreliable.”

In his October deposition, David Testa allegedly said he, indeed, was aware of at least one public hearing for Ordinance 376 that moved the waterfront setback line at the center of debate.

On Thursday, the town commission will decide how to proceed in the face of one commissioner’s resignation Dec. 30. The last time the commission discussed how to proceed in case of a commissioner’s resignation was Dec. 13, an hour prior to hearing the appeals for the town’s Impact Review Committee’s approval of two development applications in the 300 block of South Beach Road – but no one resigned.

“If no one intends to resign,” asked an obviously frustrated Mayor Whitney Pidot, after a sometimes contentious hour-long deliberation, “then what are we doing here?”

The commissioners’ apparent practice session will serve them well at Thursday’s meeting, because Commissioner Harold “Hank” Heck resigned unexpectedly from his post just two weeks later in the face of a public records lawsuit.

Attorney Ethan Loeb, representing the property owners most affected by island resident David Testa’s lawsuit against the town, notified Heck that a lawsuit would be filed in five days for his alleged failure to comply fully with Loeb’s Dec. 4 and Dec. 17 public records requests. Testa’s lawsuit alleges the town filed an improper notice of the hearing that shifted the town’s waterfront setback line, opening previously undeveloped parcels of land to home construction.

Testa also asked for an injunction that would void all development applications in the 300-block of South Beach Road, all the parcels have been zoned for residential development for decades.

Loeb already filed a public records lawsuit against Town Commissioner Michael Brooks last fall, which ultimately resulted in a forensic examination of all of Brooks’ electronic devices, according to Loeb’s testimony. Dozens of previously undisclosed emails and text messages pertaining to Testa’s lawsuit, the waterfront setback line, and/or the affected properties at 310 and 322 S. Beach Road were uncovered.

“Not one of them said anything about protecting the dunes, about protecting the turtles, about protecting the vegetation,” Loeb told commissioners, during the IRC appeals. “Not one.”

Instead, the emails revealed what seemed to be the protesters’ overriding concern – protecting Jupiter Island from an influx of outsiders, from those who are not deemed worthy of membership in the Jupiter Island Club, from losing control of “their” beach and “their” island.

It has not made Loeb very popular on Jupiter Island, where he’s likely as disparaged as he was when he represented Lake Point Restoration in its lawsuit against environmental activist Maggy Hurchalla.

And we all know how that turned out.