Wednesday, Historic City News learned that the City of St. Augustine became a defendant in a multi-million dollar lawsuit; when they were served with a complaint brought by Donna Wendler through her Jacksonville attorney, Andy Brigham.
Brigham’s client has been back and forth with the City since at least the fall of 2008, after her request to demolish seven properties facing Oviedo and King Street was rejected by the City Commission.
Wendler wants to replace her aging buildings with a “boutique hotel”.
City Attorney Ron Brown is out-of-town until Wednesday, July 27th; however, we had the opportunity to speak with Assistant City Attorney, Carlos E. Mendoza.
Mendoza confirmed that the City had received notice of the complaint and that his office is in the process of making copies for each of the five commissioners. Mendoza said the amount of damages being sought is “just under $3.5 million”.
“The package is voluminous,” Mendoza told Historic City News. “The complaint and exhibits number over 200 pages.”
If the City Commission approves the choice, the City will be represented by the law firm of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A.; the firm that has represented the City in the past in the matter.
Wendler’s law firm is Florida’s oldest and largest law firm providing eminent domain and condemnation representation for private property owners affected by government takings or intrusive land use regulations.
Andrew Prince Brigham is a third generation trial lawyer. He graduated from the University of Florida College of Law in 1991.
Brigham represented Keystone Coal Company in slow-take proceedings filed by the Jacksonville Port Authority. Notwithstanding the owner’s recent purchase price of $8,000,000, Brigham Moore lawyers obtained a jury verdict of $67,410,000, the largest jury verdict ever achieved in Florida’s state court eminent domain proceedings.
In that recent case, the jury rejected Jaxport appraisers’ estimates of $18,000,000 and $19,000,000 for 70-acres of waterfront property plus industrial kiln on the St. Johns River. The amount of the verdict persuaded Jaxport to abandon its taking, achieving the client’s goal of preserving his private ownership for this global gateway property.
The 1995 Legislature enacted the “Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act.” The act provides, in part, that when a specific action of a governmental entity has inordinately burdened an existing use of real property or a vested right to a specific use of real property, the property owner of that real property is entitled to relief that may include compensation for the actual loss to the fair market value of the property caused by the action of government, as provided in the statute.
By definition, an action of a governmental entity has inordinately burdened the property owner if it directly restricted or limited the use of real property such that the property owner is permanently unable to attain the reasonable, investment-backed expectation for the existing use of the real property or a vested right to a specific use of the real property with respect to the real property as a whole.
The property owner is likewise inordinately burdened if they are left with existing or vested uses that are unreasonable such that the property owner bears permanently a disproportionate share of a burden imposed for the good of the public, which in fairness should be borne by the public at large.
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News contributed photograph