I regularly preach that a condemning authority must make sure the legal description in the resolution must match the legal description appraised by the appraiser, and must match the legal description in the petition in eminent domain. Pretty straight-forward.

A decision from this summer points out that the legal description must be clear, also.

In the Altman v Brevard County decision, the County used an easement description having two possible boundaries for one side of the easement. The Fifth District Court of Appeal found that the conflicting easement boundaries in the legal description rendered the County’s petition in eminent “fatally defective” and reversed the trial court’s order of taking.


Continue Reading Legal Descriptions for a Condemnation: They Gotta Match — But They Need to be Clear, Too!

Do you remember the 80’s? I sure do, Blondie sang Call Me and The Empire Strikes Back came out and we learned that Darth Vader was Luke’s father (still unbelievable nearly 40 years later)! More importantly, the First District Court of Appeal remembers the 80’s and recently referred to a decision it handed down in 1980 when ruling on an inverse condemnation claim.

Who owns an inverse condemnation claim?

In the case from this summer, Robert and Susan Simon owned property in Jacksonville that included a pond into which storm water drained. After owning the property for more than ten years, the Simons decided it was time for the City of Jacksonville to maintain the pond. The Simons filed an inverse condemnation suit against the City, claiming that the City’s drainage of water into the pond amounted to a taking of the pond. The trial court disagreed, saying that if a taking had occurred, it took place years before the Simons acquired the property. (I have talked about inverse condemnation before on this blog.)


Continue Reading 1980 — still crankin’ out the hits…and the case law!

There are ways to do this, and I shared a few with the good folks in the Florida Association of County Engineers and Road Superintendents at their Annual Meeting in Orlando. They call themselves “FACERS, ” by the way, which is a rare case of an acronym that you can easily pronounce!

First things first, though: during my remarks, the crowd and I disposed of several myths:
Continue Reading How to $ave Money as a Condemning Authority

Buck Owens, country music legend, famous for, among other things, plucking a red, white and blue guitar on the variety show Hee Haw, wrote and performed the song “Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass?” which hit No. 1 on the country charts in 1969. My wife and I liked Buck Owens so much that we picked his hit “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” for our walk up song to be played after exchanging our wedding vows. Later, we named our cat after Buck Owens.

Anyway, the song “Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass?” is about love lost, a common theme in popular music. This blog post is about land lost, a common theme in inverse condemnation cases.

Can the State Take Your Land Simply By Mowing the Grass?


Continue Reading “Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass?”

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