In our initial post about the TAMPOA Federal Suit
we reviewed who the parties and the attorneys were and the theory behind why TAMPOA believes the matter belongs in Federal Court. Now let's take a look at some of the history behind the suit.
The story begins during World War II. Early on, it was a war we were not winning, and the United States was concerned about the security of its Southern and Eastern Coastline. As part of the war effort, the United States determined that it needed to expand the Key West Navy Base. The government wanted the waterfront area which we now think of as Truman Annex. The United States started a condemnation proceeding in the U. S. District Court -- the same court in which the TAMPOA Federal Suit is now pending. As a result of the condemnation proceeding, the City of Key West conveyed to the United States all of its rights, title and interest in the land known as the Truman Annex Parcel, including, according to the TAMPOA complaint, "any such streets and roadways." The Truman Annex Parcel is the area of land measuring 32.98 acres on which the development we know as Truman Annex was ultimately constructed by Pritam Singh. One of the streets was, of course, Southard Street.
Interestingly, Southard Street is not called "Southard Street" in the TAMPOA federal complaint. Instead Southard is referred to as the "Private Street." If you are the least bit familiar with Key West, however, you know darn well TAMPOA is referring to Southard, and you may be tempted to ask what kind of a psychological mind game the TAMPOA lawyers are playing with the Federal Court. But hold on, there may be a reason for what appears to be an ineffective attempt at a mind meld.
You see, TAMPOA doesn't claim it owns ALL of Southard Street, and the Navy didn't take ALL of Southard. The street continues to run north of what is now known as the Truman Annex Southard Street entrance. That portion of the street, north of the Annex entrance, remained the property of the City, and still does today. The TAMPOA lawyers, therefore, may be trying to differentiate the "private" Southard from the "public" Southard. That's a legitimate technique and one that gets the judge thinking about and calling the street private from the get go. Hey, the technique comes right out of Legal Writing 101 -- if you are going to frame the issues, make sure you do so in a way that is not only clear to the judge, but favorable to your side.
Whether the technique is artfully executed is not for us to say but for you, and ultimately the judge, to determine. If you begin to be persuaded, then the technique may be effective. If your reaction is why couldn't the lawyers simply have said the "private portion of Southard" instead of "the Private Street," when everyone is going to be calling it Southard Street anyway, then the technique doesn't work for you. We'll see. Nonetheless, you have to give it to the TAMPOA lawyers; they're inventive, and the term, Private Street, does have a bit of Spock-like precision to it.
But back to our story. The TAMPOA Complaint alleges that from 1942 until March 11, 1987 the Navy used Southard street as one of two entrances to the Key West Navy Base. That's true, in that Southard was one of the main gates to the base. However, there were several gates to the base.
During the 45 years when the base was operative and Southard Street from Thomas Street South to the water was part of the base property, the Navy controlled access to that part of Southard Street. The complaint also asserts that during the time the Navy owned the Truman Annex Parcel, the Navy allowed visitors to use Southard Street to go to the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park on the Waterfront.
As many of you know, the Navy base actually began in 1845 as part of the Fort Zachary Taylor army base. Fort Zachary Taylor
, was originally a Union Army fort that played a roll in the Civil War. The base was eventually taken over in 1947 as the "Fort Zachary Taylor Annex" to the Key West Naval Station. New docks had been added in 1932 to make it a home base for submarines. Submarine warfare was important in World War II and explains why the Navy wanted to expand its waterfront operations in Key West.
In 1968, volunteers began to excavate the old armaments in the gun rooms of Fort Taylor. In 1971, Fort Taylor was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1973, the fort was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The Navy Base was mostly decommissioned in 1974 because nuclear submarines were too big. The Base at Key West finally was put on the list to be permanently closed.
In 1977, the federal government offered to lease the Truman Annex Parcel of the closed base to the City of Key West. The City and the federal government had lengthy negotiations while the City struggled to find the money to eventually buy the property. For a time, during the off and on negotiations with the City, the Truman Annex Parcel was leased to the Key West non-profit economic development corporation, the Key West & Lower Keys Development Corporation. After that, the Parcel was leased to the Development Corporation's successor, the State of Florida's Redevelopment Agency, pursuant to Title III, Section 163 of the Florida Statutes.
The City government of Key West has never been swimming in dough and has always had to struggle through one blunder or another to raise or conserve its funds, and the years after the Navy Base closed were no different. (My own connection to Key West as well as my name comes from my godfather who became the Administrator of Key West when the City went bankrupt in 1935).
The efforts of the City to buy the Truman Annex Parcel from the Navy were destined to and did ultimately fail. Much like it has done with the efforts to develop its current newly acquired waterfront property, the City pussy-footed around in moving ahead to raise the funds and do what was necessary to close the deal with the Navy -- the Navy wanted the City to get the property -- but the City bungled the deal. When the lease on the Truman Annex Parcel ended, the United States, in 1986, put the property up for public auction.
Next time: enter Pritam Singh. Stay tuned. . .