10/20/2004

Developers are trying to steal our property

By Dino P. Paspalakis

The City of Daytona Beach FL is trying to use eminent domain to take property on its Boardwalk from the owners, to give it to developers to build an additional hotel/condo project. If you don’t believe that local governments can use eminent domain to transfer property from one individual to another private individual, check a recent article by Jacob Sullum at:
www.townhall.com/columnists/jacobsullum/js20030425.shtml


Here is my story:

My sister and I own the Joyland Amusement Center on the Boardwalk, a successful oceanfront property in Daytona Beach. sSalivating developers, who have succeeded in getting a majority of the City Commissioners to back them through political contributions, are trying to steal our property from us. We are fighting the takeover in court, and our litigation is scheduled for November 2004. Details and comments about the case, negative and positive, are online at:
www.news-journalonline.com/forums/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=58151


For purposes of background, several years ago, the Boardwalk property owners hired Rick Swisher, an Orlando architect who has worked for both Disney and Church Street Station, to design plans for us to redevelop our properties. When we approached the City of Daytona Beach, redevelopment director, Jerry Langston, told us that the plans "were crap". We disagreed, but, in an effort to be accommodating, and, based on Jerry's recommendation, we hired the Miami form of Spillis and Candella, whose work includes Coconut Grove and many waterfront renovations. The City loved those plans and even included them in some of its literature (I have copies). However, the City told us to not to renovate but to wait until the hotel projected to be built west of our area is ready to go forward so the project would have a unified theme. The City then betrayed us by offering our oceanfront property to the developers, in an effort to entice them to build another hotel

Now, everything will be coming out in court, including some additional information that will prove embarrassing to the City officials. Within the last 2 years, my family has spent over $1,000,000 in the Midway Fun Center, not to mention additional investments in both the Mardi Gras and the Joyland. The Midway now has brand new bumper cars imported from France, a Himalaya ride, a merry-go-round, and other rides and games.

You may be in a similar situation. Regardless of what your development goals are, the issue is property rights. If a government could take your property solely based on the increase in tax revenues that could be generated, then no one's property is safe. If your neighbor could build a bigger and more expensive house on your property, then he would be entitled to your land. This communistic approach to redevelopment is contrary to the teachings of Adam Smith in "The Wealth of Nations."

It is a shame that our City staff thinks that redevelopment cannot happen without eminent domain. The City recently purchased, without eminent domain, all the property south of Main Street, including the pier, in order to build "Ocean Park." Eminent domain wasn't used in that situation because Florida Forever fund specifically prohibit the practice. This shows that developement can be encouraged with tax increment financing (TIF) money and other means without the use of eminent domain.

To make things clear, I want to state that my property is not for sale; I want to remain on the Boardwalk. You must understand me in order to know why I don't want to sell out. I graduated from the University of South Florida with honors in Accounting; I went to Stetson and took classes in their master's program. I chose to take over my father's business, along with my sister. This is my livelihood, and I also believe that my father, who spent his whole life working his butt off trying to buy the Joyland, would be proud to see what we have done with what he started. The improvements that we have made to the Joyland are much more than "nominal". Last year alone, there was over $600,000 spent on the Joyland.

Bill Geary, the chosen developer, leases 200 feet of the Boardwalk. Geary is responsible for removing the merry-go-round, twirl-a-whirl, spider, bullet and the Ferris wheel. Thereafter, he replaced these rides with a bungee swing. Even when Marc Brenier, a local radio host, came to the Boardwalk, his biggest problem with the appearance was Geary's properties.

Also, don't forget that the Boardwalk is in the top ten tourist attractions of Central Florida, according to Florida Trends magazine. I invite you to come down and take a look for yourself. However, don't hold against me the properties that Geary owns, including but not limited to, the 200 feet of unimproved property on the Boardwalk, the boarded-up McDonalds, the non-confirming dirt parking lot, and the Beach Bunny Club (the redevelopment's only topless bar).

There was a deal that was mentioned on the Marc Brenier Show, in which my property would be relocated in the new development, as a corner piece of property with the same square footage and with same building specifications and front footage as I currently enjoy. This deal was offered by the previous mayor in order to stop us from getting the citizens to come to City Hall to protest this governmental abuse of eminent domain. However, after countless letters by my attorney, the developers decided to renege on the offer. However, with or without a deal, do I think it's fair for our City to threaten its citizens the way they are doing? No. Do I feel that property rights are being abused? Yes. Do I believe that I will prevail when the developers decide to screw me? Yes, I do.


Dino P. Paspalakis: midwayfuncenter@aol.com