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Florida Supreme Court Rules with County in Land-Use Case

  • Florida Supreme Court Rules with County in Land-Use Case

    Florida Supreme Court Rules with County in Land-Use Case

    A recent Florida Supreme Court decision disagreed with an argument stating that a local property owner should receive compensation because of a county agreement allowed a phosphate mine to operate near a rehabilitation center. The court ruling was a based off of a law known as the Bert J, Harris Private Property Protection Act, which says that the government must repay a citizen when an agency makes a legal decision which unfairly affects use of a piece of land.
    The case was between Hardee County and a company known as FINR II, Inc. FINR owned land which housed a rehabilitation center catering to those dealing with brain injuries. Near the center was a phosphate mine owned by CF Industries. Originally in 2007, boundaries were established on the mine’s property which placed it a quarter-mile away from the rehabilitation center, but a 2012 change moved operations to as close as 150 feet away. FINR then filed a suit for $38 million because the decision to move the boundary closer burdened the facility and had a negative effect on the health of the patients. FINR specifically pointed to mining activity resulting in “excessive noise, vibration, and dust,” which would lessen the efficacy of the treatment center.
    The Florida Supreme Court responded by saying that the Bert Harris act did not specifically apply to actions involving adjacent properties, only with actions directly involving a property itself. Justice Peggy Quince stated that if the Bert Harris act were interpreted more broadly to include adjacent properties, then governments would be affected by claims every time they made changes to their own property or when performing duties already established as within their rights. Quince also wrote that a broad interpretation of the law would lead to an absurd result in many cases.
    The Court ruled that the setback in the specific case was created for the general welfare of those nearby and was not a property right that FINR could state a claim under the Bert Harris act, leading to a unanimous decision in favor of Hardee County.