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South Florida’s Palm Beach County is a tropical oasis and golfers’ paradise (now home to more than 160 golf courses). But for several homeowners, a proposed golf course expansion in the late 1990s proved their personal nightmare.
In the 1980s, Palm Beach County honed in on the John and Wendy Zamecnik’s neighborhood for a makeover. Many families sold their homes to make room for a new golf course. But the Zamecniks and a few others didn’t want to sell. The county sought to acquire almost 400 acres of land—despite the overabundance of golf courses throughout the area. The homeowners’ refusal resulted in a legal showdown regarding the limits of eminent domain power.
A county or city’s power to take private property is limited by the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. The Takings Clause assures that “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.” When the government exercises its power of eminent domain, it is known as a condemnation action.
What is “just compensation”? There are several methods of valuing real estate:
Remember that like any buyer, the government wants to pay less and the landowner naturally wants to receive more. If faced with condemnation, you need an expert’s help and experience to persuasively present your case to maximize the compensation you ultimately receive.
Development projects abound: for new government buildings, utilities, highways, railways, hospitals, parks, libraries, schools, and post offices. But the “public use” concept has blurred. Governments seize land for ostensible “public projects” that often directly benefit private developers. This includes situations in which the entire community will indirectly benefit from a development project that will stimulate economic growth.
The Zamecniks refused to sell, so in 1999, County Commissioners responded by exercising their eminent domain powers—forcibly taking the property for use as a private golf course. The Zamecniks couldn’t find a comparable house nearby and relocated to Tennessee.
Despite so much uprooting, and the toll the project took on so many homeowners, the golf course deal fell through. Ultimately, in 2005, the county approved selling about 70 acres to a nearby university. Many see this case as a perfect example of eminent domain abuse.
If you believe your property may be subject to an exercise of eminent domain, contact a lawyer right away. With the help of an experienced attorney, you will likely receive significantly more compensation than you would have had you simply accepted the initial offer you received.
You can trust the North Carolina land professionals at Sever Storey to protect your rights. Call us right away at (888) 318-3761 or contact us online. We have a national attorney network throughout the United States, and we will fight hard for you to get you a fair price for your property.
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