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Zoning and Eminent Domain

Legal Representation in Ocala for Business Law Matters

A government entity's exercise of the power of eminent domain, which is the right to take private property for public use, can adversely affect the value of the land you purchased for certain commercial purposes. If you disagree with how a municipality has re-zoned your land, or the government intends to exercise the power of eminent domain, you may wish to consult a business law attorney at the Dean Law Firm. We have helped clients in Ocala and elsewhere in Florida handle these complex issues.

Zoning and Eminent Domain

Under the Fifth Amendment, the government cannot take your private property for public use without providing fair compensation. Similarly, a landowner whose land is appropriated for a public use is entitled to full compensation under Article X, Section 6 of the Florida Constitution. Full compensation usually means the fair market value of your property. Related to the power of eminent domain is the power to zone real property. Zoning divides property based on the character of the land and directs how it is developed.

Some of the most common types of eminent domain cases involve condemning a property or using it to create a public right of way, such as a road, canal, or drainage facility. A condemning authority can take your property in some circumstances without filing a lawsuit, and in those cases, as a property or business owner, you can bring an inverse condemnation action to sue the condemning authority.

In other cases, the condemning authority will file an eminent domain action. In response, the landowner or business owner can challenge the taking itself or challenge the amount that the condemning authority claims is the fair market value or full compensation for the property. To challenge the taking, you may argue the government or other condemning authority used improper procedures, the taking is not for a "public use," or the condemning authority is not offering you full compensation for the taking.

In some cases, the condemning authority may take only part of the property, and in that case, you can receive compensation for the severance or what is known as severance damages. The government may understate the value of the severance damages, and you can challenge the value in court.

Around Florida, many municipalities have down zoned properties. This means that the government has re-zoned the property to change the zoning classification to a less intensive use. Usually, the goal is to stop high density or dense development. In some cases, there is no reasonable support for the down zoning, and your property's value is substantially affected for the worse.

You may want to consult an attorney to determine whether there are grounds to file a lawsuit against the authority that has down zoned your property. Most of the time, a down zoning is not considered a regulatory taking under the eminent domain power, but courts disagree on whether to give a presumption of validity to a down zoning. Under certain circumstances where there is no economically viable use of the land, a down zoning can be considered a taking.

If the down zoning is considered a taking and your business has been totally destroyed by it, you may be able to obtain an award of lost profits, moving costs, costs of selling equipment, and loss of goodwill. An experienced attorney can look at the circumstances of your case and determine whether you have a sound basis to bring a suit.

Consult an Ocala Attorney Skilled in Zoning Disputes

Eminent domain and zoning cases can be very challenging. However, you may be able to receive full compensation, rather than just the fair market value, by challenging the authority that has taken your property. At the Dean Law Firm, our Ocala lawyers have experience handling business law disputes. We are aggressive advocates for your interests. Call us at 352-387-8700 or contact us via our online form. Many of our clients have come from the communities around Crystal River as well as from throughout Lake, Citrus, Marion, Sumter, and Levy Counties.