Miami - Bilzin Sumberg partners Howard E. Nelson, Partner in the Land Use & Government Relations Group and Mitchell E. Widom, Partner in the Litigation Group, have successfully settled an inverse condemnation suit on behalf of private property owners for $7.15 million.
The matter involved 18 single-family home lots in the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve. Though the rest of the land in the subdivision had been filled and developed with single family houses, the 18 lots in question remained submerged and undeveloped.
The property owners paid property taxes and special assessments on the unfilled lots to the Homeowners Association every year and filed applications to fill the lots in order to build single family houses. All 18 applications were denied by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on the basis that the land was located in the preserve.
Bilzin Sumberg filed an inverse condemnation suit against the DEP on behalf of the owners. Inverse condemnation is a type of eminent domain action triggered when a government regulation or restriction prohibits the development of property to the point that all practical use has been eliminated.
"By denying our clients applications, the DEP effectively took the land without an eminent domain proceeding, and without properly compensating them," said Mr. Widom.
Whereas eminent domain proceedings are begun by the government seeking to seize the property, inverse condemnations are initiated by the property owners when it appears unlikely that the government will bring an eminent domain claim.
"Inverse condemnation is an important tool for landowners, not only to ensure just compensation for a regulatory government taking, but also to ensure that individual property owners do not bear the entire cost of protecting land for the public good," added Mr. Nelson.
Bilzin Sumberg has previously handled inverse condemnation cases, including one involving 1,200 acres of land in Northwest Miami-Dade County which resulted in a $21 million settlement for the client.
Mr. Nelson has extensive experience in representing clients in complex wetland matters, including issues related to protected and sensitive Wetlands and preservation efforts. He was instrumental in the drafting of Floridas new Wetlands Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method, and he focuses a substantial portion of his practice on assisting property owners in navigating the maze of local, state and federal wetland permitting.
Mr. Widom has tried numerous jury and non-jury cases, and has handled litigation involving eminent domain, insurance, bankruptcy preference and fraudulent transfers, construction, securities, professional malpractice, civil rights, class action issues, and personal injury. He has represented major corporate defendants in lengthy and prominent jury trials.
Howard E. Nelson spoke on The Effect of Mitigation Credits on Property Development and Values, and Recap of HB 521 (2019), during the 2019 Florida Association of Property Appraisers (FAPA) Post-legislative Conference.