Collier to mull seizing zoo through eminent domain: Ft Myers (FL) News-Press, 9/21/05

By Denes Husty III

Collier County commissioners next week will discuss seizing a landmark Southwest Florida attraction by eminent domain.

Commission Chairman Fred Coyle said he’s interested in exercising the county’s powers under state law to condemn the land that the Naples Zoo sits on.

He said he wants the county’s staff to draft the details and bring the issue back for consideration by commissioners next month.

Coyle’s suggestion comes after the owners of the property, the Fleischmann Family Trust, rejected the county’s offer to buy the zoo property and surrounding land — a total of 166.5 acres — for $56.1 million. An appraisal of the property conducted for the trust valued the land at $67.5 million.

“It is a logical extension of our efforts,” Coyle said. He said there is a public purpose in preserving the attraction, which has roots going back to 1919, and also preserving some surrounding environmentally sensitive land along the Gordon River.

Attorney John Passidomo, attorney for the family trust, said he and his clients are, for the moment, just waiting to see what the commission does.

“The threat of eminent domain is a serious, sobering process,” he said.

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