110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Jan 28, 2013 - 8:06:34am
A missing segment of the Spring to Spring Trail in DeBary will be completed, but the county is using eminent domain to do it.
Eminent domain is the power of government to take private property for public facilities or roads, after compensating the owner for the loss.
County Engineer Jerry Brinton briefed the County Council Jan. 24 on the trail segment along Dirksen Drive in DeBary. He called the strip of land “a critical missing link.”
The trail is complete from Gemini Springs east to State Road 415, except for the small stretch in front of Riverside Condominiums near the Interstate 4 interchange at Dirksen Drive. A commercial-condo section of the complex is vacant, Brinton said, and another contains residential condos.
A private appraiser established a value of $77,900 for the 6-foot-wide strip of land between Dirksen Drive and the condo parking lot, Brinton told The Beacon. The 6 feet will be added to a 2-foot easement the county already has along the roadway. Another 5 feet of easement will be claimed temporarily, for staging during construction.
A 2-foot-high wall and handrails will be placed between the trail and the private property.
Brinton said the property owner, Riverside Condominium Association of DeBary, eventually agreed to accept two times the appraised value, but wanted “a lot of money” for palm trees that would be removed, and for other items.
“We thought this would be a straightforward purchase,” Brinton told the County Council, adding, “We’re at an impasse.”
No one representing the owner or occupants of the condos spoke during the County Council meeting.
The Beacon was unable to contact the owner for comment, either by phone — the number listed on the website was disconnected — or by email, which was returned as undeliverable.
The eminent-domain action was originally on the “consent agenda” section of the agenda for the County Council meeting. Consent-agenda items are usually approved en masse, without debate.
Vice Chair Joyce Cusack asked that the item be brought forward for discussion.
“Anytime we deal with eminent domain, I want to feel comfortable,” Cusack said, adding that she wants residents to feel comfortable too.
Council Member Pat Northey said she has received a lot of communication from people asking about the missing trail segment. The stopping and starting of the trail create a safety concern in the busy area near the interstate interchange, she said.
“This is a dangerous location,” Northey said.
The council unanimously approved moving forward under power of eminent domain. The county attorney will begin the legal process.
If the county is successful in court, County Attorney Dan Eckert said, a jury will determine the exact amount to be paid to the property owner.
Eckert said he anticipates that Riverside Condominium Association will claim the use of the property for the trail diminishes the value of the remaining property, which the county will dispute.
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