Law Changes

Understanding Florida's Shifting Eminent Domain Laws

In many cases when the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) or other condemning authority uses eminent domain for a road project, the result is a partial taking, in which only part of your property is taken. Sometimes the part of your property sought is just a thin strip along the edge, maybe a foot wide, and sometimes it is half the lot or more. In some cases, the portion of property remaining is not legally sufficient to support a home or a business, and in these cases the condemning authority may be forced to purchase the entire property. In any case of partial taking, the condemning authority would be forced to pay severance damages sufficient to effect what is known as a "cure," plus any residual damage to the remaining property not able to be cured.

A cure is a plan to restore maximal use to the property subject to a partial taking. What constitutes a sufficient cure is determined by the court and, in most cases, with reference to local zoning ordinances.

Changes to Eminent Domain in Martin County

On March 3, Martin County Commissioners approved a proposal by FDOT to change the way partial takings are considered. According to the new rules, the county Board of Zoning Adjustments has the power to waive county regulations on property severed by partial takings. Regulations that might be waived include the minimum lot size allowed for a residential house or the minimum number of parking spaces required for a business. This may allow FDOT and other condemning authorities to offer cut-rate cures that leave homeowners with tiny, inadequate lots, and businesses with insufficient parking to remain viable.

Opposition and Expansion

The approval came over the objections of the Martin County Local Planning Agency, whose chairman objected, "Eminent domain should never be easy and it shouldn't be fast." In addition, the chairman said, "the property owner needs as much protection as they can possibly get." Martin County plans to apply these new rules to existing projects, including the Indian Street Bridge Project, which will connect Palm City and Stuart over the St. Lucie River.

FDOT is floating similar proposals in numerous counties throughout the state. If your county commissioners are considering such a proposal, tell them to stand up for your right to full compensation and just cures following partial takings.

Protecting Your Eminent Domain Rights

In the ever-shifting world of eminent domain, having expert knowledge on the full range of current law is of the utmost importance, and could mean the difference between keeping your home or business viable or losing it permanently. If your property is subject to a partial taking, you need an eminent domain lawyer with the experience and expertise to propose adequate cures and get them accepted by a jury. Please call or email us today to schedule a severance damages consultation with the Florida Property Rights Law Firm, P.A.