Most land owners in Central Florida are aware of the state’s power to force them to sell their property to the state, but they are often unaware of the details of the process until their land becomes the focus of the eminent domain process. Florida’s eminent domain laws say that the state or one of its political subdivisions, such as a city, can compel a landowner to sell the land for its fair market value if the state or municipality has identified a proper public purpose for the acquisition. The intersection of the Great Recession in 2008 and the decision by the City of Cape Coral to build a new park have placed one landowner in a very difficult situation.
The landowner purchased the tract at issue in 2004 for $183,000. One year prior to this purchase, the land was sold for $85,000. The owner has paid taxes on the land for the last 15 years. In July of this year, the Cape Coral city council passed what is called a “resolution of necessity,” which declared that the land should be acquired for the purpose of building a public park that would enhance “the quality of life through arts and culture. . . .”
The city’s initial offer for the land was $96,000, representing a loss to the owner of more than $90,000. The owner then obtained a real estate appraiser, who valued the land at $105,000. The city increased its offer to $100,000, and that’s where the negotiations stand at present. The landowner now calculates her loss if she accepted the city’s offer at more than $100,000, including real estate taxes, decline in market value and other expenses. The woman understands that she has made a bad investment, but she is unsure of the best strategy for divesting herself of the property.
The woman is considering hiring an attorney and contesting the sale price in an eminent domain proceeding. Florida law states that the landowner’s attorney must be paid for by the state, but the owner’s other expenses in an eminent domain proceeding might increase her losses on the property. Anyone who owns property that is under the threat of condemnation may wish to consult an experienced eminent domain attorney for advice about how to obtain the highest price for the land.