Legal challenge to Hollywood's seizure of land could jeopardize city agency

 

(Note: This is an excellent article to let folks know just how far afield cities have gone in their insatiable urge to gobble up private property and "give" it to what amounts to the highest bidder. Like Kelo v. New London [Connecticut], this is clear and convincing evidence of the never-intended use of eminent domain. The word "redevelopment" never appears in America's founding documents, nor does any of its synonyms. Hollywood, Florida, is in Broward County.)

 

April 21, 2006

 

By John Holland [email protected] or 954-385-7909

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

200 East Las Olas Boulevard

Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301

http://www.sun-sentinel.com 

To submit a Letter to the Editor: [email protected] (200-word length limit; 100 words is preferred)

 

Hollywood, Florida - Hollywood's bid to take a family's downtown business through eminent domain is facing a court challenge that could jeopardize the city's entire Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).

Attorneys for the Mach family, which is fighting attempts to seize its Harrison Street property and give it to a prominent developer, pounded witnesses Thursday in hopes of showing that the CRA was set up on a false premise nearly 30 years ago. They argue the CRA didn't meet state requirements when it was formed in 1979 and is not a legal entity.

State law mandates that a CRA can be formed only in "blighted" areas based on several factors, including "a substantial number of deteriorated or deteriorating structures," before a special redevelopment zone can be formed.

But attorneys Bill Moore and John Little cited several city-sponsored studies from the late 1970s that showed few incidents of disrepair.

The studies, introduced by city lawyers in court, showed that only 3.6 percent of buildings in one downtown section needed major repair when the City Commission voted to establish a CRA.

The findings came on the first day of a trial to determine whether the City Commission had the authority to take the Mach's property and give it to developer Charles "Chip" Abele.

The Machs, who have owned the property for 34 years, refused to sell and want a judge to vacate the city's action.

If the Machs lose in court, a jury will decide how much they should get for the building, which is valued at about $1 million.

Hollywood's attorney, Mitchell Burnstein, told Broward Circuit Judge Ronald J. Rothschild that the City Commission acted properly. He said Abele's 19-story condo and retail project worth $100 million serves a public good and the Mach property is necessary for it to succeed.

The Mach attorneys struck directly at the CRA's formation and at the way current city commissioners used the provision last year. [The attorneys] also said the commission's 2004 promise to use its eminent domain powers to help Abele acquire land for the project was illegal and could invalidate the CRA.

Their arguments focused directly on the definition of blight. Moore said late 1970s studies showed some portions of the downtown area, including Dixie Highway between Johnson Street south to Washington Street, showed the rate of buildings in disrepair ranged from as low as eight-tenths of 1 percent to more than 37 percent.

Moore argued the numbers fall far short of being "substantial," or "predominant," as required by statutes to determine blight.

Former Hollywood Assistant City Manager George Keller, now a consultant on the Abele project, countered that 0.8 percent could be considered "substantial," if the degree of disrepair to individual buildings was high enough. He also said other factors, including traffic and general layout, went into the finding of blight.

 

Copyright 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/broward/sfl-sdomain21apr21,0,3957779.stor y?coll=sfla-news-broward

 

Related reading:

 

Hollywood mayor felt `obligation' to approve eminent domain ...
Sun-Sentinel.com 
By John Holland. Hollywood city commissioners agreed to seize the Mach family's downtown property nearly a year before a public hearing formalized what was already a done deal, Mayor Mara Giulianti testified Friday. ...
Eminent domain goes on trial today Sun-Sentinel.com
Creation of CRA put into question Sun-Sentinel.com
all 3 related