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Lake County settles eminent domain dispute by nearly tripling its original offer

Highlighted in yellow is the original roughly 10-acre property. Within the blue dotted line is land being used to accommodate the widened Citrus Grove Road, and highlighted in red are the easement takings, which include one retention pond easement.
Highlighted in yellow is the original roughly 10-acre property. Within the blue dotted line is land being used to accommodate the widened Citrus Grove Road, and highlighted in red are the easement takings, which include one retention pond easement.(Sharma Eminent Domain Lawyers)

A landowner in Lake County’s Town of Minneola just won a $2.85 million judgement after disputing a price the county originally offered as compensation through eminent domain.

The property, located on the southeast corner of U.S 27 and Citrus Grove Road, is one of several affected by a roadway extension and widening project established by Lake County in 2017 to help connect U.S. 27 and the Florida Turnpike interchange.

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Property owner Vista Grande Properties LLC, led by general contractor Joseph Matella, was in the midst of prepping the site for commercial development when the county expressed its intention to acquire about 45 percent of the land.

Insight on the phasing of this major road project, and how local civil and transportation engineering firms can get a jump on it.

The roughly 4.4 acres of takings include one fee simple and seven permanent easement takings, inclusive of one retention pond easement.

For all this, the county offered $992,115, based on the appraisal from Pinel & Carpenter Inc.

Vista Grande Properties, however, believed it was owed far more due to the property’s well positioned location and potential to capitalize off of a spur of development activity and growth in the area.

Prineet Sharma, partner at Winter Garden-based Sharma Eminent Domain Lawyers, who served as counsel for Vista Grande’s eminent domain interest on the property, told GrowthSpotter the owner put in a difficult spot.

“Effectively, the development plan he had initially intended for the project would not be viable after the taking,” he said. “Thus, he was forced to stop in his tracks.”

Vista Grande Properties LLC has owned the property since 2011. It’s zoned Business District and features a future land use that allows for commercial development.

A conceptual plan for the entire 10-acre property before eminent domain takings.
A conceptual plan for the entire 10-acre property before eminent domain takings.(Rahenkamp Design Group LLC)

A conceptual site plan for the full 10-acre site created by Rahenkamp Design Group Inc. showed a 64,000-square-foot commercial development with six lots featuring a mix of retail and restaurant space, including one lot dedicated to a fast-food service restaurant.

Lake County’s Board of Commissioners approved the final taking last month. The $2.85 million compensation includes all attorney fees and costs. The county also settled on a joint pond agreement to facilitate future development and agreed to release certain easements upon development.

Sharma said the owner is in the process of reevaluating plans to build on the property.

Meanwhile, the third phase of the Citrus Grove Road project is under construction and is slated to be completed this year. It involves widening the street system from two lanes to four lanes and adding features like multi-use bike lanes and sidewalks.

The project is being funded by the city of Minneola, the Florida Department of Transportation, county impact fees and more than $1 million in right-of-way donations from area landowners.

A local developer is planning to add 72 town homes to the multitude of single-family home subdivisions that have sprouted around Lake Minneola High School in

Large-scale developments in the area include the 1,200-acre Hills of Minneola project, which features 3,971 residential entitlements, including the potential to build up to 890,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space, 850,000 square feet of office space, 1.4 million square feet of industrial space and a future K-8 school site.

Heading south on U.S. 27, Homebuilding giant Lennar is developing a massive portion of the Wellness Way mixed-use community in Clermont that’s entitled for 1,850 residential units.

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Adjacent to the Wellness Way project, Olympus Sports & Entertainment Group owns 243 acres at U.S. 27 and Schofield Road.

It’s master planning a sports-themed community designed to hold up to 1,312 hotel rooms, 805 townhomes, 614 apartment units, 155,642 square feet of office space, 360,358 square feet of retail space and 345,283 square feet of medical office space.

The sport and civic venues are slated to showcase traditional and non-traditional sport matches like those seen within the emerging online video game “esport” industry.

Spa services and holistic programs are also featured in the development, as well as centers that provide orthopedic injury diagnosis, rehabilitation services and physiology, nutrition and conditioning programs.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at arabines@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-5427, or tweet me at @amanda_rabines. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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