Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Owner Files Height Limit Loss Claim

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Owner Files Height Limit Loss Claim

Article excerpt

Byline: Caren Burmeister, Shorelines staff writer

JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- A downtown property owner has filed a property rights claim against the city, saying he is entitled to $646,690 for building height changes that diminished the value of his property.

David L. Smith notified the city he was initiating a Bert Harris Act claim in a Feb. 8 letter to City Manager George Forbes.

Smith's claim does not challenge the 35-foot building height referendum that voters approved by a wide margin on Nov. 2. Instead, his claim challenges building height rules the city adopted in October 2003 and that were in effect until Nov. 2.

Smith said he filed the claim on the old height rules because of a deadline that requires a property owner to file a claim within a year of learning about changes that they say harm the value of their property. Smith said he has time to file a claim on the newer 35-foot building height regulation.

Smith filed his claim under the Bert Harris Act. That law, adopted in 1995, entitles a property owner to relief or compensation when a government action inordinately burdens a property's existing use or a vested right. Under that law, landowners and the government that may have harmed their property interest are encouraged to work out a settlement.

Smith owns land at 528 First St. N., which was once occupied by the Beaches Arts Center but is now home to The Mundo Grill, and land around the corner at 124 Fifth Ave. N., the site of a two-story office building.

Smith is one of dozens of landowners who say their property investments have dwindled since voters approved a 35-foot building height referendum. While Smith is the first to file a Bert Harris claim, he is not the first to challenge the city's building height rules.

Smith said he had a long-range plan to build a nine-story hotel on his property. He never filed any hotel development plans with the city.

Then in October 2003, the City Council adopted rules that tightened building height regulations between the ocean and Third Street, requiring developers to give twice as much side yard space as before in exchange for building a taller structure. …

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