Saturday, August 27, 2005

Key West Businessman Suing MTV Real World

Wow! I can't believe it. Local tourism mogul Ed Swift has filed a lawsuit against MTV over the upcoming production of the Key West edition of the Real World.
Here is a little background, and the reason why this is soooo ironic: Ed Swift is the owner of the Conch Tour Train and Trolley, the islands biggest tourist business. He has become an empire, and even has had the luxury of having the city in it's back pocket (they signed an exclusivity deal years ago that prohibited any other tour business from operating on land - a recent lawsuit had the city on the wrong end of a 13.5 million dollar judgement for it's monopoly abuse practices and the harm it did to the small Duck Tours business). Ed Swift also owns numerous other attractions on Key West, including the Key West Aquarium, the Shell Market at Mallory Square, a couple tall ship schooners, and the Dry Tortugas ferry. Bring up the name Ed Swift in Key West, and more times than not, you'll get an emotional opinion - many think his mass-tourism ideas have over-run the city.
O.K...enough back-story.
Ed Swift is suing MTV because his Key Haven house on Driftwood Drive (just outside of Key West) is next door to the Key West Real World house.
I've included a picture of the Key West Real World House. Swift's house is next door.
According to the lawsuit, MTV has leased the property from June 28 until December 1. The house is approximately 6000 square feet, has a tennis court, and also includes a lot next door with a canal and open water views. Swift claims that the MTV production is "an unbearable nuisance". According to the lawsuit, Swift claims that it not legal for this type of commercial operation be conducted in this residential's zoned that way. In the lawsuit, Swift says his family "can no longer enjoy entire sections of their home for fear of ending up on national television", and that the production would prevent his family from "enjoying normal daily activities including sleeping, relaxing, reading, working, and quiet conversation." He has requested an injunction to prevent filming until his case is heard. Basically, here are the complaints in his lawsuit:
  • too many lights - supposedly 70 outdoor lights have been installed
  • cameras that can point at his house
  • more lighting complaints including the installation of commercial halogen floodlights, mounted 20 to 30 feet high
  • five commercial air-conditioners (that are supposedly necessary to keep the house cool from all the lighting)
  • sponsor advertising around the tennis court (again, a commercial appearance for a residential neighborhood)
  • the producers signed a "commercial" account with the electric utility
  • too many cars parked - up to 30 cars are alleged to be using the vacant lot.
It's all kind of ironic, given that Ed Swift has had a deaf ear to many Key Westers complaints about his Trains and Trolleys. Many bemoan that these trains invade their neighborhoods, with a public address system pointing out the sights, and a slow pace holding up the traffic. Yet now he is the one demanding that his neighborhood is off limits to commercial activity.
Stay tuned, I'll update things as I get the info. Also, I promise more photos of the house!
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