|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
April 21, 2006
By John Holland [email protected]
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
200 East Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301
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
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.
mayor felt `obligation' to approve eminent domain ...
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
domain goes on trial today Sun-Sentinel.com
of CRA put into question Sun-Sentinel.com
3 related »