6/19/2006

Attorneys challenge Boynton eminent domain suits: Palm Beach (FL) Post, 6/17/06

By Will Vash

Attorneys fighting two eminent domain lawsuits [in Boynton Beach] are hoping to keep 11 lots out of the city's hands because the fine print was wrong.

County Circuit Court Judge David Crow is expected to rule as early as next month on a motion to dismiss two cases involving lots in the Heart of Boynton redevelopment area on the grounds that the city improperly amended their complaints after the suit was filed in October.

If the minor misstep causes the case to be dismissed, the city cannot file a lawsuit on the properties again because the state's eminent domain law changed in May. The lots, which include a restaurant, convenience store and vacant parcels, are key pieces of the first phase to redevelop the blighted neighborhood near Martin Luther King Jr. and Seacrest boulevards.

Attorneys John Little and Barry Balmuth said the city made a mistake when they filed the complaints, omitting the state statute for taking the land. Although the city later amended the complaint, the lawyers contend that Florida case law, what the courts have ruled in the past, is on their side.

Little said amendments in eminent domain proceedings are held to a higher standard.

"The courts have repeatedly held it is the harshest civil procedure under the law," he said.

Kerry Ezrol, the city's eminent domain attorney, said the intent of the eminent domain lawsuits was clearly stated in the initial filings even if the exact statute wasn't included.

"It's a very technical argument. I disagree with it," Ezrol said. "We'll have to wait and see what happens."

Meanwhile city officials are anxiously awaiting a decision. Community Redevelopment Agency members agreed earlier this week to request development proposals on the first two phases of the project along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

"I would hope our ongoing action would stand," Mayor Jerry Taylor said Friday. "If it doesn't, we'll have to find another route. Somehow we'll have to acquire these properties."

CRA Director Lisa Bright said if the lawsuits are dismissed one option might be to require the future master developer to obtain the lots.

"The question would become how much more money are we going to spend to get these properties," Bright said. "It may just come back to good old fashion real estate negotiations."


Palm Beach Post: http://www.palmbeachpost.com