Council Considers Lawsuit Settlements; Jacksonville Beach Struggles with Actions against the City's Building Height Cap

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Byline: CAREN BURMEISTER

JACKSONVILLE BEACH -With the threat of $12.4 million worth of legal claims hanging over its head, the City Council is weighing two settlement offers to resolve property rights lawsuits involving the city's 35-foot building height cap.

The council discussed the options in a workshop Monday but isn't scheduled to vote until Monday, Dec. 15.

It may accept or reject the settlement offers in five cases filed by developer Chris Hionides or make a counter offer. If the council rejects them, Hionides' attorney said he will seek payment under a state property rights law, including the $12.4 million plus attorneys fees and other court costs.

The dispute stems from the city's 35-foot height cap, which Hionides says lowered the value of his oceanfront property.

Voters approved the height limit in November 2004. Shortly afterward, Hionides sued the city under the Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act, which entitles a property owner to compensation when a government regulation harms a property's value because it limits its use.

So far, Hionides has obtained two court rulings in his favor, both involving condo plans he filed with the city before the rule's adoption. In both cases, judges gave Hionides the right to build the condos to the height he had originally planned.

But Hionides still has three other cases pending against the city. …