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City of Clearwater v. Bayesplanade.Com, LLC

Florida Court of Appeals, Second District

June 22, 2018

CITY OF CLEARWATER, Appellant,
v.
BAYESPLANADE.COM, LLC, a Florida Limited Liability Company, Appellee.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Pinellas County; Jack R. St. Arnold, Judge.

          Paul Richard Hull, Assistant City Attorney, Clearwater, for Appellant.

          Robert V. Potter and Sharon E. Krick of Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns, LLP, Clearwater, for Appellee.

          BLACK, JUDGE.

         BayEsplanade.com, LLC, filed a complaint against the City of Clearwater to quiet title to 5.88 acres of submerged land below what is now known as Mandalay Channel, between Clearwater Beach and the islands that comprise Island Estates. BayEsplanade claimed title through a 1957 quitclaim deed. The City of Clearwater filed a counterclaim to quiet title, claiming title through a 1934 quitclaim deed. Following cross motions for summary judgment, final summary judgment quieting title was entered in favor of BayEsplanade. We reverse the judgment in favor of BayEsplanade and remand with instructions that judgment be entered quieting title in favor of the City of Clearwater. The language of the 1934 deed to the City of Clearwater is unambiguous, and the trial court erred in admitting extrinsic evidence to construe it.

         The issue presented in the motions for summary judgment concerns whether the 1934 quitclaim deed from the Clearwater Island Bridge Company (the Bridge Company) to the City of Clearwater unambiguously conveyed all lands- including submerged land-within the boundaries described in the deed. A brief deraignment of title to the submerged land in dispute is necessary.

         Prior to 1926, title to the submerged land was held by the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund of the State of Florida. In 1926, the Trustees conveyed approximately thirty-five acres of submerged land to the Bridge Company, which included the submerged land at issue in this case (the TIIF deed). The TIIF deed described the eastern boundary of the conveyed submerged land as "the West side of [the] channel between Sand Key and Ragged Key."

         In 1934, the Bridge Company executed a quitclaim deed and release to the City of Clearwater, conveying the lands described as follows:

[1] Beginning on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico at a point where the North line of the tract of land designated as "Clearwater City Park" on a plat of Clearwater Beach as the same is recorded in Plat Book 5, Page 2 of the Public Records of Pinellas County, Florida, if prolonged West would intersect said Gulf shore, thence run Southerly along said shore line Four Hundred (400) feet; thence East parallel to the North line of said "Clearwater City Park" to the waters of Clearwater Bay as of the 17th day of May, 1917; thence Northeasterly along Clearwater Bay to a point where said line would intersect the North line of said "Clearwater City Park" if prolonged East; thence West to the point of beginning; [2] together with all lands lying between the North and South lines of said tract extended Eastwardly to the Channel of Clearwater Harbor; [3] together with all riparian rights.

         The 1934 deed clearly conveys three interests: (1) the upland parcel described as beginning on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico and extending to the waters of Clearwater Bay (Parcel 1); together with (2) the parcel described as "all lands lying between the North and South lines of [Parcel 1] extended Eastwardly to the Channel of Clearwater Harbor"; together with (3) all associated riparian rights. See, e.g., Thrasher v. Arida, 858 So.2d 1173, 1174 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003) (describing a deed as conveying two parcels where the deed conveyed one described area together with a second area). There are no reservations or exceptions in the deed.

         The Bridge Company had previously conveyed Parcel 1 and the appurtenant riparian rights to the City of Clearwater in a May 17, 1917, deed. At the time of the 1917 deed, a bridge spanned the Channel of Clearwater Harbor, [1] connecting Clearwater Beach to the mainland. The description of Parcel 1 in the 1917 deed referenced the bridge:

Beginning on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico at a point where the North line of the tract of land designated as "Clearwater City Park" on a plat of Clearwater Beach as the same is recorded in the Land Records of Pinellas County Florida, if prolonged West would intersect said Gulf shore; thence run southerly along said shore line Four Hundred (400) feet; thence East parallel to the North line of said "Clearwater City Park" to the waters of Clearwater Bay; thence Northeasterly along Clearwater Bay to a point Twenty five (25) feet distant measured at right angle from the center of a bridge now located and constructed by the Clearwater Island Bridge Company; thence northwesterly along a curved line Twenty five (25) feet from the center of said bridge to a point on the North line of said "Clearwater City Park" extended eastwardly; thence West to the point of beginning. Together with all riparian rights.

         The 1917 deed also contained restrictions on the use of Parcel 1, which were released in the 1934 deed. The bridge connecting Clearwater Beach to the mainland was destroyed in 1921 by a hurricane. Thus, the bridge is not referenced in the 1934 deed. Importantly, the 1917 deed does ...


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