A Rower's Perspective on an Annexation Case Cut Short



A week from today, the United States Men’s Rowing Team will compete in the Tokyo Olympics. The Chronicle did a fantastic piece featuring one of those rowers Ben Davison who grew up in Citrus.


I wish Ben and the rest of our team the best of luck in a sport that I have been part of for over two decades. The distance that Ben will be rowing is the same distance high school students row when they compete each spring. It is 2 kilometers and known as a sprint race because the short distance allows rowers to physically exert themselves throughout the race without a need for pacing.


These races are a straight-line shot, but here’s the narrative turn in this column that will bring us to our topic of today. This competition distance high school rowers go is longer than the distance that separates the John Eden property from the Inverness city limit boundary via a body of water.


To put it another way, the distance separating the attempted annexation property from the city line is slightly over a mile, or 1.6-1.8km, so about a distance covered in roughly three and a half to four minutes by a non-motorized craft.


This is important because distance appears to have been the biggest reasoning for the ruling against the annexation, “Simply put, the City and the [...] parcel do not touch or adjoin in any reasonably substantial sense [...] indeed over 5,000 feet of water separate the [...] parcel and the City.”


I have the utmost respect for Judge Peter Brigham and I am an academic, not an attorney, so I am not going to re-try this case throughout this column.


From a rower’s perspective however, it just doesn’t feel like that far of a boundary. While I’m not a fan of comparisons or a whataboutism-style of arguing, since precedent is important in law then I would question how what would be created in Inverness is any different than what has already happened in Wildwood, Winter Garden or Mt. Dora - all of which have enclaves and most of which have parts separated by small bodies of water.


What I am interested in is not the ruling but the reaction.

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I have as much of a say in the outcome of a judge’s legal ruling as I do over a referee’s call in a professional sports game. On NFL Sundays, however, you can tell when something isn’t right.


A close play such as a sideline catch will be ruled complete and then the quarterback will rush his team to the line to snap the ball before the opposing team has time to review and challenge the call.


That’s what it feels like the county commission did with this case. In Tuesday’s meeting, Chairman Scott Carnahan said he was livid to find out at 7:45 a.m. the morning after the ruling that a motion had been filed for the county to collect attorneys’ fees and costs.


This motion is such a standard practice that County Attorney Denise Dymond Lyn, who was given an outstanding annual job performance review and a raise in the same meeting, felt she should file it without approval from the commission. The Board ended up unanimously voting to drop the motion for the county to be repaid for two years of legal work.


This action makes it about as clear as the quarterback running up behind center for a quick snap that something isn’t right. The obvious explanation is the commission doesn’t want this appealed and feels that by not pursuing costs the City of Inverness will likely end the case before all legal options have been exhausted.


And the City appears to be going along with it as the Chronicle reported the council has decided not to appeal.


This most bizarre part to me is the reasoning. In editorials and reports, the Chronicle implies the decision not to appeal is best because it will repair relationships between the city and the county.


This lawsuit was not about government couples therapy so a best-of-all-outcomes resolution isn’t one that leaves those two sides happiest. It was about a businessman who had struggled with government bureaucracy (county) getting his opportunity at redemption cut short by yet another government bureaucracy (city.)


I wish Ben Davison the best in representing our nation next week and I hope every citizen finds better representation within all structures of local government than what we’ve seen in the decisions of the last two weeks.


A 750 word column about Citrus County published every Thursday and Sunday