The Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Board of Supervisors agreed Monday to continue the process of turning over control of paved roads to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves by pursuing quit-claim deeds with the company that could hold title to the easements.
LGWCD Attorney Mary Viator said that she and LGWCD Administrator Stephen Yohe met with the town’s manager and attorney on the subject in March.
“We addressed some of the outstanding issues that we felt pertained to the turnover of roads to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves,” Viator said, explaining that any transfer of easements by the district to the town would contain the reservation of rights for the district to keep statutory authority to maintain the canals and canal easements.
Southern States Land & Timber Co., which once held title to more than 2 million acres in Florida, is named in a 1918 deed for Loxahatchee Groves property. Viator said that based on the title work done using public records, Southern States may no longer have any interest in roads and a quit claim would be appropriate, but there have been issues about how to process the request. She asked for direction on how to proceed.
“We do feel that a quit claim could be requested from Southern States Land & Timber Company assuming that the cost would be minimal, and that the cost would have to be approved by the board,” Viator said. “The issue that we’re looking at is whether it would be a prudent course of action to stipulate with Southern States what interest that they might own otherwise, as we didn’t want to give them any basis to assume or assert that they do indeed have some legal interest in the district’s roadways.”
Viator said it is unclear whether Southern States still has any interest in the district roads and that it may have conveyed out years ago, and that such a determination would need a final title search.
“At this point, there is a question of whether we are opening a can of worms, or how we want to address this, and we wanted to get direction from the board on that matter,” Viator said, explaining that a quit-claim deed would address the district and town issues, but legal descriptions and clearing up of covenants are still needed to protect the rights of the district. “We have to be careful in that conveyance. We just can’t lay out these 60-foot easements, because we’re not going to convey the canals. We’re just going to convey the roads, and some of the roads aren’t in the right spots.”
Viator explained that the question of legal descriptions was why the district went through a special legislative act to get approvals on portions of A, C and D roads that were paved, and it got the legal descriptions of those areas.
LGWCD Chairman Dave DeMarois asked whether it could be a significant expense for the district if it makes a quit claim request of Southern States and the company decides it does have an interest. Viator said that is one possible outcome. “That’s their business, to release rights in existing lands,” she said, adding that she has been in contact with the town’s attorney, Mike Cirullo, regarding the question. “Everybody is working together. Everyone understands what the goal is.”
DeMarois said that when town and district officials met, they agreed that the brunt of the legal fees would be borne by the town. “We’ve already invested quite a bit in legal fees to get to this point,” he said. “If a can of worms is opened, how do we relinquish that over to the municipality?”
Viator said both parties agree that it is an important issue for the community as a whole, and the district had vital legal information that it had provided to the town.
Supervisor John Ryan, who was active in getting the local bill passed to enable the paving of district roads, said he had discussed the issues with Viator and was prepared to make motions necessary to get the process going. “I don’t look at it as something that’s creating a problem we don’t already have or that the town would have with whatever action we undertake,” he said.
Ryan said that Southern States had requested a copy of the right-of-way deed and replat that had the description of the action that Southern States took to convey to the public rights-of-way for the roads and canals. He said a quit-claim request would ask Southern States for combined legal descriptions of the roads and canals from the original 1918 right-of-way deed and a 1928 replat.
Ryan said he thought that a cover letter with the legal descriptions and quit-claim request would be appropriate, stating that the roads and canals have been continuously maintained for public use, and that the district and the town want to clarify the status of the right-of-way deed with a quit claim by Southern States so that the district and town records are more complete.
“If they raise a question, I think the fallback plan is simply to work with the town, perhaps on a local bill, that the town and district would submit to the state to qualify the road segments,” he said.
Other supervisors agreed that they should move forward.
Ryan made a motion to have the town work with Yohe to prepare a quit-claim deed request for the lettered roads to Southern States along with a cover letter and attachments of the 1918 deed and 1928 replat as a follow-up to previous conversations.
Separate motions were made for Marcella and Compton roads, as well as for Bryan Road, because they involved slightly different issues. The motions all carried unanimously.