New Limited Access Tollway (Real Estate and Personal Property Damages)
In 2019, FDOT was continuing with its acquisition of right-of-way for the portion of the Wekiva Parkway which would replace the existing SR 44 corridor between Apopka and I-4 through Seminole County. The existing two-lanes of SR 44 are to be substituted with an elevated, multi-lane limited-access tollway with one-way frontage roads running east and west on either side of the tollway.
One of the properties FDOT needed to acquire was a 6.8 acre property improved with a landscape nursery situated between and having frontage on both SR 46 and SR 46A. The owner-operator were Vince and June Sims. Vince is well-known throughout Central Florida as “The Garden Rebel” appearing on many TV and radio shows on both creative gardening and innovative landscaping. The nursery property was essentially his showroom and, in itself, was artistically landscaped and supplied his landscaping business with all of its needed stock plants.
Although a “partial taking,” FDOT’s acquisition was only to leave a remainder parcel of .8 acre in size. In effect, the use of the property for a commercial nursery was being destroyed. FDOT made an initial offer of $684,800.
After retaining their own legal counsel, it was determined that it would be best to seek compensation for both real and personal property. Although Vince and June intended to move to another location to conduct a scaled-down landscaping consulting business, the property that they were moving to would be far smaller and not be of a size sufficient to accept all of the plant inventory from the location being acquired by FDOT.
In reviewing FDOT’s appraisal estimate, it did not appear to the Sims that FDOT’s appraiser was considering commercial nursery properties with locations reflecting the volume of traffic and exposure to the regional road network that was comparable to their own property. In fact, comparable sales of similar properties were difficult to find because for many years it was known that FDOT’s project would convert two-lane SR 46 to the multi-lane Wekiva Parkway with an accompanying frontage road system. Thus so, the appraiser retained by the Sims had a much different opinion of the value of the real estate based upon the different comparable sales that he considered. Likewise, where FDOT did not value any of the Sims’ personal property, the facts and circumstances associated with the taking of their property resulted in the loss of the plant inventory. Considering both real and personal property, the Sims made a counteroffer of between $3,501,193 and $4,240,233.
While not able to resolve the case before a lawsuit was filed, the parties did reach a settlement prior to any jury trial. The parties agreed to a stipulated final judgment in the amount of $3,200,000.