The Florida Department of Transportation has modified its plans to increase the capacity of 24 miles of U.S. Route 231, and the agency now says that the highway will only be widened to six lanes between U.S. Route 98 and Penny Road. However, this news has not been received warmly by some local residents and businesses who have accused the FDOT of deliberately releasing the details of its plan way in advance in order to drive down property values in the area.
So far, only segments one and two of the project have secured funding, and the right-of-way acquisitions of 72 businesses, 53 homes and 428 parcels of land are not scheduled to begin until 2021. However, a local property owner says that news of the project and the upheaval that it will bring has already made it extremely difficult to attract business tenants to the area.
During an April 27 hearing in Panama City, a local landowner implied that the early announcement was a calculated strategy designed to depress land and property values before right-of-way acquisitions get under way. He said that the decision to place his properties in an eminent domain zone had made them virtually unsellable, and he accused FDOT officials of deliberately creating a ghost town to save money.
Property owners deserve to be compensated fairly when their land, businesses or homes must make way for important infrastructure projects, and attorneys with experience in eminent domain cases may argue vigorously on their behalf to ensure that they are. Attorneys could explain the rights that real estate owners have when facing right-of-way acquisitions and the steps that they can take to ensure that the prices paid by federal or state agencies are equitable. Attorneys could also outline strategies that may be pursued to prevent the government from using the eminent domain process to acquire property.