Supreme Court to take up property rights fight

Jacksonville couple sues city after fire station built on neighboring property


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a case with implications for property owners and local governments, the Florida Supreme Court has agreed to take up a dispute about whether Jacksonville should compensate owners of a riverfront lot who say the property's value dropped because of the construction of a fire station.

The 1st District Court of Appeal, in a 9-5 decision in February, said Jacksonville does not have to compensate the property owners, R. Lee Smith and Christy Smith. But the appeals court also urged the Supreme Court to take up the issue -- a process known as "certifying" a legal question.

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to accept the case, according to an online docket.

The case has focused, at least in part, on a state law known as the Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act, which says property owners are entitled to relief when government agencies have taken actions that "inordinately burdened" a use of property.

After the Smiths bought the undeveloped riverfront lot in 2005, Jacksonville rezoned an adjacent parcel and ultimately built a 13,000-square-foot fire station, according to the appeals-court ruling.

The Smiths filed a lawsuit, arguing that the fire station made their property unmarketable as a luxury home site and that the value had decreased.