Posted on March 20, 2018 · Posted in Land

Broward County taxpayers could end up spending $42 million for a 38-acre property the county previously had no intention of buying.

County commissioners will consider the purchase Tuesday, March 20, of a Dania Beach tree-farm owned by the family of former Congressman E. Clay Shaw Jr.

The Shaw family sued the county because of the new Fort Lauderdale airport runway’s negative impact on its Dania Farms property. Since 2012, when construction began on the runway that opened in 2014, the land floods frequently. Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Levenson agreed in September that the county was to blame.

The two sides have been trying to place a value on the loss to the Shaws, but were more than $7 million apart. Rather than have the county take its chances in court, attorneys came up with a mediated settlement that commissioners will discuss in a private meeting. If they agree to the settlement, they will re-open their regular meeting and take a formal vote.

In addition to the $42 million, the agreement calls for the county to pay $573,000 in attorney fees and $285,548 for expert witness fees and other litigation costs.

The runway that extends over U.S. 1 is just north of the land purchased by Shaw’s father in the 1930s. The family turned down many offers to develop the property over the decades but left open the option because of the site’s desirable location close to the airport, Port Everglades, the Dania Cut-Off Canal and coastal waters. The tree-farm property had been zoned for a future hotel, which would not be developable under current conditions because of the intense flooding.

During last year’s trial, the county said it wasn’t responsible for the problems at the farm, which had a history of flooding that required regular pumping. Levenson disagreed. The proposed settlement says the county put a $34.9 million value on what it should pay, while the Shaws sought more than $42.2 million.

However, if there was a trial held to determine the value, the county would only be acquiring a 7-acre portion of the property. The bulk of the payments would be for a “flow easement” across the other 31-acre portion of the Dania Farms property to cover the damage done by the periodic flooding.

County attorneys said going to trial would expose the county to significant additional legal costs and it would be unreasonable “to accept this level of financial exposure and wind up with … an undevelopable easement,” the proposed settlement says. For the county to take the additional land through eminent domain proceedings, its value could be more than $4 million, with attorney fees and court costs on top of that, officials estimated.

The settlement says the purchase of the land will allow for “more robust airspace protection” at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and could be used for future development at the airport, Port Everglades or some other county purpose.

 

Source: SunSentinel

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