Growing up out West, discussed a bit in my post about The Magnificent Seven and the Freedom to Choose, I remember going with my granddad and my dad when they hunted.  Like many families, we had a special nickname for granddad; we grandkids knew him as “Pompa,” from a name my oldest cousin, as a toddler, gave him.

When I was a kid, the first day of hunting season was a state or school holiday, if I remember right.  I was too little to carry a rifle, so I got up early, put on orange, froze my fingers and toes off, and had to be quiet and sit still.  Pompa would get his limit every year, which meant lots of venison and home-made jerky.  I remember the year my dad got a cow elk—lots of elk steak and elk burger for months!  Continue Reading Dogs, Hunting, and Inverse Condemnation, Oh my!

Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary defines “ripe” in several ways. One example is “fully grown,” as in the case of ripe fruit. The Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th edition, on my credenza defines “ripeness” as:

[t]he circumstance existing when a case has reached, but has not passed, the point when the facts have developed sufficiently to permit an intelligent and useful decision to be made.”

That’s a lot of fruit in one bite.

According to a recent decision of Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal in GSK Hollywood Development Group, LLC v. The City of Hollywood, Florida, in order to bring a claim under the Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act, the claim must be ripe.

What Does “Ripe” Mean Under the Bert Harris Act?

Continue Reading Fruit Should be Ripe; Your Bert Harris Act Claim Must be Ripe, Too!

In something of a rarity, an appellate court has written an opinion in favor of a property owner bringing a claim under The Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act.

In Ocean Concrete, Inc. v. Indian River County, Board of County Commissioners, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court order denying relief to a property owner under the Bert Harris Act. As the Fourth District explained, in order to obtain relief under the Bert Harris Act, a plaintiff has to show

a specific action of a governmental entity has inordinately burdened an existing use of real property or a vested right to a specific use of real property.”

Bert Harris Act in a Nutshell

Continue Reading Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Florida Property Owner Under Bert Harris Act

Last year, the Florida Supreme Court issued an important opinion on property rights that you need to know about if you own real estate in Florida. I had written a blog post right after the decision, but a case I was handling at the time involved some issues related to the post, so I delayed the post until after my case resolved. In any event, the Florida Supreme Court opinion updates my blog posts of July 8, 2015 and August 20, 2015 about the Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act topic.

Land Use Designations in Hardee County

As mentioned in my earlier post, this case originates from a land purchase in Hardee County in 1996. The purchaser, FINR, bought land that held an “agriculture and public institutional purpose” future land use designation. In 2007, FINR successfully applied to amend the Hardee County Comprehensive Plan and change FINR’s future land use designation to rural center. The “rural center” designation provided FINR with a quarter-mile setback that applied to the adjacent properties and prohibited phosphate mining activities in the setback.

Continue Reading Not Your Property? Then You’ve Got No Claim Under the Bert Harris Act

Last week, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida hosted Cornell University Professor Dr. Tony Ingraffea, as part of its “Evenings with the Conservancy” series who spoke on the “Effects of Unconventional Drilling” on November 8.

Oil & Gas in Southwest Florida

The evening began with an introductory presentation by Nicole Johnson, Director of Environmental Policy at the Conservancy, including a brief history of the oil and gas (mainly oil) industry in Southwest Florida. Oil wells have existed in Southwest Florida since the 1940s, but the industry has not thrived here like it has in other areas, such as the western United States.

The Collier Controversy

The Conservancy played a prominent role in recent controversies involving “alternate extraction” techniques in Collier County in 2013 and 2015. These controversies arose from use of fracking and unconventional extraction techniques at the Hogan Well in eastern Collier County, and resulted in increased public awareness of potential environmental concerns relating to fracking. The Conservancy has identified banning alternate extraction techniques as their #1 priority during the 2018 legislative session.

2018 Bills: H.B. 237/S.B. 462

The Conservancy is encouraging support of Florida H.B. 237, and its companion S.B. 462. If enacted in their present form, all forms of “advanced well stimulation treatment” (including fracking) would be prohibited in Florida.

On November 9th, S.B. 834 was introduced, and would impose penalties of $50,000 per incident on anyone who approves or engages in “extreme well stimulation” (including fracking).

Presentation by Dr. Tony Ingraffea

Dr. Ingraffea is an accomplished scientist who has studied and written about the subject for many years. He presented statistics on Florida’s historical oil and gas production relative to other states; use of solar power in the Sunshine State; and information about methane and CO2 (greenhouse gas) releases from oil and gas operations. Dr. Ingraffea also provided information on countries, states, provinces, and cities and counties that have banned fracking, including:

  • In Florida, 40 counties (of 67) and 52 cities have either banned fracking outright, or have passed resolutions opposing it. Collier County has not taken any formal action.
  • Florida’s oil production peaked in 1978, when production reached 4 million barrels/month.
  • Today there are around 60 producing oil and gas wells in Florida, and they produce around 150,000 barrels/month.
  • Every day, the United States consumes around 20 million barrels/day.

Dr. Ingraffea alluded to the United States’ plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in his discussion of greenhouse gas emissions, and provided some alarming statistics and projections.

Dr. Ingraffea concluded with a picture of Southwest Florida completely submerged, and he cautioned that Southwest Florida could be under water by 2022 (in five years), if the greenhouse gases and methane from oil and gas production remain on their present course. Amid gasps (and some giggles) from the crowd, he emphasized “these are only projections.”

Takings/Bert Harris Act

The arguments for conservation are compelling and sincere. However, regulation of resources involves striking a balance among competing interest holders. Because of this, in banning extraction techniques, the legislature would be wise to consider potential impacts to mineral rights holders. Failure to do so could lead to takings and Bert Harris Act lawsuits, and the possibility of indeterminable, potentially enormous, liability exposure for state and local governments in Florida.

If you have any questions regarding fracking or land use in Southwest Florida, please feel free to contact me at jeff.wright@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1371.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (and I hope you are, or will become one!), you will know that many of my posts, over the years, have to do with property rights. An important component of property rights is valuation of the property right taken, or at stake. Today, as part of my series with local appraisers, I am interviewing Matt Simmons, an appraiser and principal with the firm of Maxwell, Hendry & Simmons, LLC.

Carlos: What do appraisers do?

Matt: At the core, we value the bundle of rights inherent in real property. We typically determine the value through application of one or more commonly accepted approaches to value: the Sales Comparison, Cost, or Income approach. But within each approach the nuance of the overall rights remains the value driver. The acronym DUE encompasses the fundamental rights most fee simple real property possesses. These are the rights of disposition, use, and exclusion. When an action (governmental or otherwise) impacts one of these rights, the value of the property is almost always impacted.

Carlos: What made you want to become an appraiser?

Matt: Like many professionals, I was introduced to the profession through a friend. I began working in appraisal data entry when I was 19 and gained my initial trainees license the following year. I’ve always had an interest in real estate and the opportunity to analyze properties, solve complex valuation issues, and build a real estate centered business is incredibly rewarding.

Carlos: How do you work with attorneys in property rights cases?

Continue Reading Meet the Appraiser: Matt Simmons

What do they have in common? Nothing…except that when I was getting a new set of tires put on my car, I had time to read Murr v. Wisconsin, the recent U.S. Supreme Court 40-page decision in a property rights case involving a regulatory takings analysis.

Facts

The facts of the case are pretty simple. The Murrs purchased Lots E and F separately in the 1960s, transferring Lot F to a family plumbing business, but keeping ownership of Lot E in their own names. The Murrs transferred Lot F to their kids in 1994 and Lot E to the kids in 1995. The lots each had less than one acre available for development. The Murr kids brought the lots under common ownership (in other words, the kids owned both lots, unlike the parents, who owned one lot through a company and the other lot as individuals).

Once under common ownership, state and local rules forbidding separate sale or development of the lots came in to play. The Murr kids wanted to sell Lot E as part of an improvement plan for both lots, and requested variances from the local zoning authority. The zoning authority denied the variance request, and the state courts affirmed the denial of the variance request.

Continue Reading A New Set of Tires and the Latest Supreme Court Case on Property Rights

It’s an old saying, but it’s true in life and in court, as illustrated in a recent takings decision, Town of Ponce Inlet v. Pacetta, LLC, et al. The Town appealed “a multi-million-dollar” judgment on an inverse condemnation claim. Like most takings cases, this one has a long and confusing history.

The property owners had purchased ten adjoining parcels, seeking to develop a waterfront project. The Town, however, amended its comprehensive land use plan, leaving the property owners unable to develop the ten parcels as contemplated.

First Lawsuit

The property owners sued the Town, challenging the amended comprehensive land use plan. The property owners successfully argued, at both trial and on appeal, that the ten parcels should be treated as a single 16 acre parcel.

Second Lawsuit

Continue Reading Actions Speak Louder Than Words

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, the word “fight” has several meanings, including

[t]o stand up against something or assert oneself.”

Recently, as a nation, we celebrated the 241st anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. We are justly proud of that independence. The signers, and other heroes, stood against tyranny and asserted themselves for liberty.

It took a fight to achieve that independence.  It has taken many other fights since then to preserve it.

Continue Reading Fight for Your Rights

IMG_0642I need to let you know how my Saturday project went. In my last post, I told you about a home improvement project that I needed my dad’s help on. And I told you about the concept of “highest and best use.”

I asked my dad to come by at 9 am. He brought a low wattage, high illumination fluorescent shop light that gave off way more light at a lower heat than the work light I had. He also brought a ten inch sliding compound miter saw, saw horses, and a saw table, plus a whole lot more.

The work went pretty quickly, and it had to. It gets hot fast in an attic in Florida this time of year. It was very cramped and hard to get enough room for a good hammer swing on the mend plates. No such problem installing the construction screws. My dad pre-drilled the 2 by 6 splice lumber. (“Son, this drill is practically a family heirloom.  It was my Uncle Bob’s. It’s a 3-way drill, so it can hammer, drill, and do both at the same time. Works great on concrete. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.”) The power screwdriver made the rest easy.

Continue Reading What is Highest and Best Use – Part II