The Coastal Star

Gulf Stream: Remodeling approved in O’Boyle lawsuit settlement

Just before the settlement, nearly 20 signs had been painted on the walls and shutters of Martin O’Boyle’s home. Most had been removed by July 30. Jerry Lower/ The Coastal Star

By Tim O’Meilia
    
    Tweedledum and Tweedledee will soon be gone from the south side of Martin O’Boyle’s Gulf Stream home, banished back into Lewis Carroll’s imagination.
    Also vanishing is the array of murals and signs on his house skewering town commissioners and officials. By mid-August his canal-side home will be back to a town-approved beige tone.
    Disappearing soon are the nearly 20 lawsuits and one federal case O’Boyle has filed against the town since April.
    All are part of a settlement reached July 26 by the town and O’Boyle to end their four-month dispute that has already cost several hundred thousand dollars.
    In exchange, O’Boyle will get what he wanted from the start — approval for the home remodeling he was denied in March, including a 25-foot-tall entryway.
    Gulf Stream also will pay him $180,000, a sum O’Boyle said he has paid so far in legal fees battling the town.
    The town also will drop code violation citations issued to O’Boyle for the colors of the paintings and signs. After a code enforcement hearing lasting nine hours over three days, the special magistrate will issue no ruling.
    And the town issued an apology to O’Boyle:
    “The town is indebted to O’Boyle for the many deficiencies in connection with the town code that he has identified since his submission of the application. The town commission believes that O’Boyle’s actions will ultimately result in Gulf Stream being a better and friendlier place to live,” says paragraph 34 of the 21-page settlement.
    O’Boyle called it a win for both sides. “It’s a tremendous victory. I will be able to transform my house into what I think is a beautiful home. But the biggest victory of all is the town recognizing the code is not what they thought it was,” he said.
    O’Boyle praised Mayor Joan Orthwein for spearheading the Town Commission’s move to urge the town’s planning advisory board to re-examine parts of the town’s code “so we have little more flexibility. You can’t pigeonhole everything,” he said. “I’m very, very proud of her.”
    Orthwein and Town Manager William Thrasher, who interprets the code, were the primary targets of O’Boyle’s satiric lampoons on the side of his $1.6 million house, the yard signs and writings on plywood shutters over his windows.
    He said his inability to install hurricane-resistant windows made his home uninsurable.
    O’Boyle said the town was the bigger victor by agreeing to rewrite the code to account for oddly shaped lots. “It’s going to be a much better place to live,” he said.
    Town commissioners held a closed-door session to discuss their legal options July 24 then held a special session July 26 that recessed numerous times while lawyers wrangled over the details of the settlement.
    The commission voted 4-0 to approve the settlement. Commissioner Garrett Dering was absent.
    “Not doing it would have cost unpredictable magnitudes more,” said Commissioner Bob Ganger, who with Dering voted to approve O’Boyle’s plans in March. He said O’Boyle was determined to get what he wanted.
    Town Clerk Rita Taylor could not say how much the town had spent dealing with the lawsuits and hundreds of public records requests from O’Boyle and his lawyers. She said not all the bills were in.
    “The applicant was extremely knowledgeable, very creative and extremely persistent,” Ganger said. “His tactics would not be something you hope anyone else would use.”

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