Who Owns Florida's Wisteria Island, A Developer Or The Government? Judge To Decide


Having me at the southern tip of Florida is key west beyond that is Wiz Styria island a small island created by the US navy nearly a century ago NPR's Greg Allen reports it is at the center of a court battle between a developer of the federal government both say they own it there are no bridges to wisteria island it's less than a mile off shore and you need a boat to get there seven now cliff Hartman brings is digging out to the boat the ferry as to shore he sometimes called the mayor of wisteria island that was a joke because whenever I saw someone new here I would tell them you got to be careful with fire don't camp on the beach don't bring rowdy people out here apartment is part of an informal community for whom wisteria island is home he's been here fifteen years like many he sleeps on his boat keep the cap on the island apartments as most working Key West but can't afford to live there walking around the island he points out the sites it's sandy and rocky just over twenty acres with native plants like mangroves and see grapes there's a problem maybe fifteen little camps around the people's day this is someone from town that come out here in the weekends there's some more permanent it's a squatter's community the one that's been here for decades going back at least to the nineteen sixties are knows your art and his wife nausea lived on their boat anchored off the island for eighteen years we raise our kids on boat they grew up are they I mean basically we stay I known was there they ground about a decade ago the burns dean family the island's owners began making plans to build a luxury resort they're concerned about what that would mean for Key West and community on wisteria island George started to dig into its history it's what's known as a supporter lightly created by the navy with material dredged from the key west barber channel in the early nineteen fifties the state of Florida agreed to sell it to a powerful local politician was later resold and eventually acquired by the burned stains working with a local newspaper or no and not just your argument to a National Archives facility near Washington DC and asked to see everything they had on wisteria island neighborhood this card was boxes and boxes and boxes of things we said there for like days and days and we can back was a letter from the president of United States saying let's Coolidge nineteen twenty four saying reserving the item for the navy that letter along with other documents uncovered by the George have convinced the U. S. government that it not the burns dean family is wisteria islands rightful owner the government has asked a federal judge to certify its ownership in a lawsuit that set to go to trial this spring a key part of the case deals with an arcane piece of U. S. history the nineteen fifty three submerged lands act that law transferred from the federal government to the states ownership of the area within three miles of the coast to reserve for the federal government quote all lands filled in built up or otherwise reclaimed by the United States for its own use Bruce rogo the lawyer representing the burns dean family says that's the key point the navy never had a use for wisteria island they had to put this spoil somewhere and they put it on what turned out now to be was teary island so they created the island but they didn't created for their own use they created as a depository to put the spoil for the burn sting family the government's decision to reassert its claim came as a blow the properties worth tens of millions of dollars and the families pay taxes on it for more than fifty years Key West also has a lot riding on the case for cliff apartment and many others the rag tag community on wisteria key is a last vestige of the way key west used to be unconventional but self reliant most of people in town think this island is this a haven for scalawags and sometimes it is but this is also one of the only places where kids can come play out in nature if the government is successful in its lawsuit Hartman and many others here hoping with story island will be preserved as a natural area or

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