Thursday, January 22, 2009

Uppity Landowners Get Compensated for Questionable Land Use Regulations

In September 2008, we reported on two "uppity landowners" who had blasted Florida Keys' municipality Islamorada at the United States 11th Circuit Court of Appeal. A few days ago, the Village of Islamorada paid the owners of Island Silver & Spice $716,ooo in damages. United States District Court Judge James Lawrence King had awarded Island Silver & Spice $600,000 in damages before the appeal was taken. The extra $116,000 was interest. The attorneys' fees are still being negotiated.

There is more (or less) to this than meets the eye. I am reliably informed that the "formula retail" ordinance invalidated in this litigation was the second ordinance adopted by the newly-formed "village" of Islamorada in 1997. I am also informed that this rather asinine ordinance was introduced by one of the principal promoters of incorporation of the miniscule municipality -- to benefit a local grocery store owner -- after said promoter was elected to the municipality's first legislative body.

This is the kind of corruption (or illegal favoritism) that too often surfaces in small-town politics. What makes this case an even worse example of corruption is that the $716,000 was paid by the Florida League of Cities' self-insurance fund -- the corrupt Village of Islamorada lost only its $25,000 deductible. If I were representing the League of Cities, I would be putting my energies into sticking the Village of Islamorada with the entire $716,000, plus attorneys' fees. The total, with attorneys' fees, has got to be in the range of a million dollars.

Key Largo residents take note. The smaller the unit of government, the smaller the brains of its elected officials. Unfortunately -- or maybe fortunately, depending on your perspective -- these self-insurance funds usually exclude inverse condemnation litigation. So you can bet your taxes will go up if your local government loses one of those.

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