Riviera Beach Lawsuits End in Celebration
- Riviera Beach Lawsuits End in Celebration
Coalition for Property Rights
May 11, 2007
This Saturday, Riviera Beach residents whose homes, businesses and
lives were once overshadowed by the specter of eminent domain are
celebrating the first anniversary of the date Governor Jeb Bush
signed Florida's new protections into law. As part of this
celebration, two lawsuits filed to ensure the City of Riviera Beach
complied with the will of the Florida Legislature have been dropped.
A community barbeque is also scheduled.
Local homeowners Jerry and Rene Corie withdrew their lawsuit because
the city's agreement to transfer the property to a developer has
expired and the newly elected mayor and city council have indicated
they oppose moving forward with the plan.
"The Cories' lawsuit succeeded in raising awareness of the city's
illegal scheme to violate the right of its citizens to be secure in
their own homes," said Valerie A. Fernandez, managing attorney with
Pacific Legal Foundation's Atlantic Center, who represented the
Cories and the Coalition for Property Rights in the litigation.
Last year, the Riviera Beach City Council raced to pass a resolution
authorizing a contract between the city and a private developer, mere
hours before Gov. Bush signed the statewide ban on this form of
eminent-domain abuse. The PLF lawsuit sought to bar the city from
expending additional tax dollars on its plan.
A second lawsuit, filed on behalf of other Riviera Beach property
owners by the Arlington, VA-based Institute for Justice, is also
"Our clients' right to keep their homes and businesses has been
vindicated," said IJ attorney Bert Gall, "The city has conceded that
its questionable agreement with Viking has expired and does not give
it a legal basis to use eminent domain in violation of Florida's new
eminent domain law. Furthermore, there has been a significant change
in city leadership, including the ouster of Mayor Brown, whose
defiance of that law threatened our clients' homes and businesses."
"At long last, my neighbors and I have stability because our homes
and businesses cannot be taken away and given to a private
developer," said IJ client Princess Wells, who has lived for 20 years
in her pink home-painted the same color as the home of Susette Kelo,
the woman who lost her fight against eminent domain abuse before the
U.S. Supreme Court.
"Hopefully, the city will now work with its home and business owners
instead of against them," stated IJ Senior Attorney Dana
Berliner. "The Institute for Justice will continue to pay close
attention to what happens in Riviera Beach. If city leaders ever
again contemplate violating Florida law against eminent domain abuse,
we will once again take them to court."
The end of these cases marks the end of a very ugly chapter in
Riviera Beach history, when City leaders chose to place tax revenues
above the rights of their citizens. CPR is hopeful Riviera Beach's
new elected leadership will learn from the mistakes of their
predecessors and recognize the very best public-private redevelopment
partnerships are those where cities seek the voluntary cooperation of
individual land owners.
A SPECIAL WORD OF THANKS
CPR would like to celebrate this happy occasion by recognizing the
three elected leaders who made the final decision to provide the
citizens of the State of Florida with strong protections against
eminent domain abuse: Jeb Bush, former House Speaker Allan Bense and
former Senate President Tom Lee.
CPR also extends a special word of thanks to Senator Dan Webster and
Representative Dean Cannon and to their Legislative staffs, for their
efforts to craft and draft the final language of HB1567. Every
legislator who voted for this bill also deserves our sincere
OTHER NOTEWORTHY PALM BEACH CO. NEWS
While property owners in Riviera Beach have cause to celebrate this
week, a Palm Beach County agri-business is in a vicious fight for its
rights. The Callery-Judge Grove, a contiguous 4,000 acre citrus grove
operating since 1962, is currently seeking permission to redevelop
3,900 acres into a large-scale mixed-use community development.
On Monday, the Commission elected to postpone their decision on the
Callery-Judge application due to extraordinary NIMBY opposition. This
project has become so heated a local councilman from the new village
of Loxahatchee Groves is even spending his own money to pay for buses
and T-shirts for residents protesting the project.
CPR has weighed in, sending a letter to the Commission reminding them
Callery-Judge possesses the same exact rights as every owner of
developed property in Palm Beach County and of the clear message sent
by the Florida Legislature in 2006 with the passage of
the "agricultural enclave bill." This pro-property rights legislation
(SB1880/HB1015) provides that agricultural parcels surrounded on 75%
of the perimeter by existing development must be presumed consistent
with the comprehensive plan.
This case is being closely watched by land owners and lawyers
statewide, as it is one of the largest, highest-profile projects to
move forward after the passage of this new law and Palm Beach County
is well-known for its anti-property rights regulatory environment.
CPR members who desire to support this owner, can visit
http://www.cjgrove.com/ for project details and contact information
for individual Commission members.
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