City Looks into Using Eminent-Domain Option for Obtaining Property; but Construction for New Police Complex May Not Start until 2010

Article excerpt


If the city of Green Cove Springs wants privately owned land for a future police station site, even if it's somebody's home, no problem.

The power of eminent domain gives governments the legal authority to condemn private property for a public purpose. But the cost can be substantial, attorneys who specialize in eminent-domain cases told the City Council on Tuesday night.

"As the condemning authority, you pay for everybody," said Fred Isaac, one of two Jacksonville attorneys who were invited to explain the eminent-domain process to the council.

And by everybody, Isaac said, he means the city would have to pay for all the appraisers and attorneys on both sides, as well as any engineers, land planners or other expert witnesses the property owners might want to hire to testify in court in pursuit of a large jury verdict.

"As you progress toward trial, it certainly becomes more and more expensive," Isaac said.

Additionally, he said, the city could be ordered to pay relocation expenses for displaced property owners.

The city has identified a two-block area immediately west of CSX railroad tracks at Florida 16 and Melrose and Wilson avenues, where officials hope to build a new police station. Seven of nine property owners have either agreed to sell their land to the city or have indicated a willingness to sell for a grand total of around $800,000.

Two others remain somewhat in doubt, and may have to be sued, city officials said.

"We either have to negotiate (an agreement) with them on the numbers, or go through the eminent-domain process," Mayor John Buchanan said.

Council members said they hope to be in a position to make a decision by the first meeting next month, Sept. 4, if not sooner. They told City Manager Don Bowles that they would be willing to meet earlier in a special session if he reaches agreement with the two reluctant property owners. …


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