A few years ago, Charlotte County, Fla., officials decided to condemn hundreds of properties to create a new town: Murdock Village. Three years later, the land sits vacant, developers have come and gone and the county owes more than $105 million in debt. Although Florida’s eminent domain laws have been reformed, this redevelopment wreck serves as a reminder of what things were like before reform.
Trampled Rights & Broken Promises
Before Florida’s landmark eminent domain reform passed in 2006, blight in Florida meant whatever the government wanted it to mean. In no place was this abuse of eminent domain more egregious than in the case of Murdock Village in Charlotte County, Fla. As if it were not bad enough that the county condemned hundreds of properties to hand them over to a developer, the project now has stalled and looks like it will never actually happen.
Charlotte County first started buying land in 2003 as part of a plan to redevelop 1,100 acres of mostly undeveloped land. However, the area also contained at least 77 homes, 16 commercial properties, and two churches
As properties values rose, the county decided it would be too expensive to negotiate with property owners over market value and decided not just to use eminent domain but also to ask a court to allow them to use “quick-take” condemnation, where officials could condemn hundreds of properties in one fell swoop.
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