Deed restriction stalls Fort Myers hotel project on city-owned land

Tampa-based Mainsail Lodging and Development plans to lease the land for construction of a $52 million downtown hotel

Joseph Collier
Joseph Collier

The developer of a hotel in downtown Fort Myers held a groundbreaking ceremony six months ago, but an 82-year-old deed restriction has prevented construction work from proceeding.

Joseph Collier, president of Tampa-based Mainsail Lodging and Development, told the News-Press daily newspaper that he expects the government of Fort Myers to resolve the issue.

Mainsail’s efforts to finance the construction of the $52 million hotel have stalled as lawyers try to determine if the development on a city-owned site is legally permissible.

Mainsail plans to lease the city-owned land in downtown Fort Myers, at Edwards Drive and Dean Street, for construction of a property called the Hotel Luminary.

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John Morgan Dean, the first major local developer in the early history of Fort Myers, and his wife Annie Powell Dean sold the land to the city in 1936 with a deed restriction limiting its use to a “park or yacht basin,” not for a business.

Now, descendants of the Deans are indicating they may claim a right to repossess the land because the planned hotel development violates the deed restriction. The issue may be headed for court.

But courts increasingly are skeptical of such claims if they lack evidence of harm to a “clearly specified group of persons,” a Paul Bourdeaux, a law professor at Stetson University Law School in Tampa, told the News-Press.

Owners of property near the hotel-development site may have more legal standing than descendants of the Deans with respect to enforcing the deed restriction, according to Bourdeaux. [Fort Myers News-Press]Mike Seemuth