Land under eminent domain notice along I-4, Palm Parkway, closes sale

An affiliate of an Orlando physician has purchased approximately 5.6 acres on Palm Parkway for a recorded sale price of $4,730,300, Orange County records show.

The land is part of a 38.8-acre parcel that is owned by an affiliate of Colorado-based Excelsior Capital Partners – and is subject to a Florida Department of Transportation notice of eminent domain. Construction of an Interstate 4 interchange at Daryl Carter Parkway is slated for the land, which at first was intended to take only about 6 acres of the parcel. 

Dr. Wade W. Han's purchase closed Oct. 3, involving land set between two parcels under contract to other buyers. Another 25 acres of the parcel have been under contract to The Ferber Company, which planned mixed-use development for the land, with approximately 2.2 acres more under contract to an affiliate of self-storage developer John McLane III. Ferber Co. is in the process of evaluating how to proceed, said Prineet Sharma, attorney for the developer, with formal taking perhaps not occurring until spring 2019.

In general, a buyer that is under contract for a piece of land that becomes affected by eminent-domain notice before closing has three options: Call the deal off, purchase it because of value the buyer might still see in it, or purchase it and fight to ward off the eminent domain taking of the property, said attorney Brendan Lynch, shareholder with Lowndes, who added that the last strategy is only successful about three times out of 100.

While any vacant land owner facing loss to eminent domain is likely to examine the highest and best use of the property, those with development plans have a better chance of collecting higher damages based on unfulfilled potential, said Lynch, who does not represent any of the parties in the Han property sale.

“Every step along the way, you have a better case,” he said. “If you have what are referred to as bubble plans, meaning something that is drawn up, that’s one thing. If it’s presented for approval, even better; if you have some construction, even better. ...

“If you have done nothing to the land, you would still make the argument that the highest and best use would be worth X,” regardless of what type of development that might involve, Lynch said.

For Ferber, the Palm Parkway property’s frontage on the interstate created marketability, Sharma said.

“They were well on their way to realizing 14 separate retail-type users with signage on I-4 and Palm Parkway, which is very attractive given the amount of people going through there on both sides of the road,” he said. “So you get a long, linear piece of land with almost 3,000 feet of I-4 frontage -- compared to parcels with less frontage and deeper land, here every single user would have direct exposure to I-4 and Palm Parkway with individual signage.”

Readiness of the land for construction also factored into why Ferber Co. was drawn to the site, Sharma said.

“One of the things that gave the project such viability is that the site’s basically in developed condition as they were taking it to market,” he said. “So typically the things you have to do about site work were already complete, the zoning and land use were already in place, and there’s nothing anyone else has to do,” once the prospective buyer determines highest and best use, he said.

The sale and the purchase contracts show the conflict of wanting to build where new transportation is being created, with developers prizing opportunity at a new I-4 interchange and FDOT needing space for the infrastructure.

With numerous roadway projects under construction and more in the planning stages, state and local officials tend to do all they can to avoid eminent domain, Lynch said, but some taking of property becomes unavoidable.

“They’re always trying to plan around things they already own, but there’s going to be a need as things approach more toward agricultural areas. It’s going to happen again.” 

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