Miami Using Eminent Domain To Take Miami River Site, Jury To Decide Price

miami river site_photo credt miami herald 1030x385

The city of Miami wants to buy a small parcel of land to create a new park on the Miami riverfront without knowing how much it will cost taxpayers.

A proposal to establish a park honoring Venezuelan national hero Simón Bolívar has led to a multi-year legal battle. Soon, a judge is expected decide whether the city can take a piece of land on the south side of the Miami River for the park, a project spearheaded by Commissioner Joe Carollo.

The city previously appraised the property’s value at around $3.5 million, but South River Warehouse, LLC, the development firm led by Arturo Ortega that owns the property, has stated it believes the land is worth around $23 million.

And a recent internal email shows the city’s attorneys also anticipate a higher price tag. Carollo has called for more green space in his district, including this proposed park. Now, the city is attempting to acquire the land through eminent domain, a process that allows the government to buy land for public use, even if the owner does not want to sell it.

South River Warehouse has fought to retain the property, a parcel of about a third of an acre between the SW First Street and Flagler Street bridges on SW South River Drive. The firm rejected the city’s initial offer of nearly $4.5 million to purchase the land in October 2021. After the offer was rejected, the city began eminent domain proceedings, which are ongoing.

If the city is awarded the title to the land, a jury will decide the value of the property, which the city will then be required to pay to South River Warehouse. Ortega said the eminent domain process could leave the city on the hook for more than it planned to spend.

“Getting a deed to a property before establishing a valuation is the equivalent of writing a blank check,” Ortega said. “No one knows how much the jury is going to decide the property’s worth.”

South River Warehouse claims the city should not be able to acquire this land because the underwater portion of the property is owned by and leased from the state of Florida, and the city has not followed the proper procedure given the state’s stake. South River Warehouse also alleges the city was not transparent in its appraisal and is not offering full compensation. Ortega expressed his dismay about what he sees as an attempt by the government to unfairly take his private property. Carollo, though, said he thinks the process has been fair.

Source:  Miami Herald