Residents line up lawyers to fight eminent domain: NBC-TV2 (Ft Myers FL), 5/8/06

By Michelle Burdo

Golden Gate Estates residents plan to fight the county's recent decision to extend Vanderbilt Beach Road through 20 properties. They're now lining up lawyers to defend their land.

At issue is "eminent domain," a law that allows the government to take land it says it needs to improve the community.

Affected residents will meet with a Tampa attorney specializing in eminent domain Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Golden Gate Community Center at 4701 Golden Gate Parkway.

Alexis Seldin-Rodrigquez is set to close on her dream home on a five-acre lot in just two weeks.

She put down thousands of dollars for a deposit, and on the same day she learned Vanderbilt Beach Road may extend right through her backyard.

"Here's our nice open sliding glass door that will take us straight out to the highway," said Seldin-Rodrigquez. "It will be starting about 200 feet from here."

But she doesn't want to give the county an inch, and joined a list of property owners saying no direct public input means no deal.

"The public hearings were like time share sales demonstrations. Anytime anyone raised a different idea it was rejected," said activist Peter Gaddy.

"Why weren't we allowed to put any input in? They just said, 'This was what we're going to do, this is the road, this is the alignments we may or may not take.' We weren't allowed to say, 'How about another option,'" Gaddy said.

Even the principal planner for transportation wrote in an email to property owners that the study wore him out, and it's one of the reasons he quit.

Meanwhile, property owners are working towards an injunction and impact fee reimbursement.

"Alexis is paying impact fees to have her house torn down. So it's ironic," Gaddy said.

County commissioner Jim Colletta, who represents the people of Golden Gate Estates, did not return calls for comment.

NBC-TV2: http://www.nbc-2.com