City avoids eminent domain laws in soccer deal

The city of Orlando found itself in a bit of a legal bind when a deal was made to have Orlando City Soccer build the new soccer stadium instead of the city. The city acquired one of the major parcels where the stadium would be built through eminent domain, the property that will form the eastern edge of the stadium. Since they obtained it by taking it, City Attorney Mayanne Downs knew her options would be limited. You can't just turn around and sell to a private entity.

"It limits for a period of 10 years transferring, selling, leasing you know anything along those lines to a private party, and it makes sense."

After the Supreme Court ruled in Kilo vs New London that a government could take private land using eminent domain and selling it to another private entity if it eliminated blight, Florida acted quickly. By constitutional amendment, that can not be done in Florida without a special exception being granted by the Legislature by 3/5ths vote. Something Downs also did not think would happen.

"Getting votes from the Legislature isn't working out real well for us right now which is part of why we were here."

Downs says fortunately the city was not all the way finished with the eminent domain process yet. She says there are two steps. The first is to make the claim, and take it before a judge. The city did that and deposited the $3.3 million their appraisers say the land on West Church Street was worth.
"The second part of that proceeding is deciding how much more the landowner believes the landowner is entitled to, and you do that with a trial."

The trial was set for September. City Attorney Mayanne Downs says the city "unwinded" the process, by simply going to the owners, telling them they were backing out of the eminent domain process, and convincing that owner to sell directly to Orlando City Soccer.

"It's a win win. They are getting more for their property than the city was willing to pay, but not as much as they were going to ask the jury to give them, so it's a compromise."

The city does own one other piece of land by eminent domain that was going to be used for the soccer stadium but now cannot be. It sits at 601 W. Church Street, just to the east of Faith Deliverance Temple. Downs says they will not sell that land to a developer.

"Those will be used for a public purpose. We will use them for public development. We will use them for easements. We will use them for a public purpose and not transfer that property to a private purpose."

Since it is a deal between two private parties, we do not know yet how much Orlando City Soccer will pay for the property they need to finish the stadium until that sales information is filed with the Orange County Property Appraiser, but the city listed the two parcels at that address as worth $3.3 million dollars.
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