County braces for eminent domain lawsuit against landlord delaying dune project

The Flagler County government has secured an access easement from one of two landowners obstructing a $25 million Army Corps of Engineer Beach renovation project at Flagler Beach, and will pursue prominent domain procedures to ensure access to the ultimate owner’s property.

The easements grant the Army Corps of Engineers the right to replenish dunes on private property along A1A, constructing a barrier to prevent flooding from northeast storm surges and hurricanes.

The easements grant the Army Corps of Engineers the right to replenish dunes on private property east of A1A, constructing a barrier to prevent storm surges during the northeast and hurricanes from damaging the road and flood homes and businesses west of it.

Because a hole in the dune would become a breach point that could undermine the whole, the Corps of Engineers is unwilling to move forward with the project until it has the right to access all properties within the 2.6 mile long project area. The properties are known as “remaining” properties: nothing can legally be built on them other than a walk in the dunes.

The county obtained about 130 easements in the winter of 2020, then faced opposition when it requested easements from the remaining dozen owners. This convinced most of them to sign, reducing the number of holdouts to two.

The latest easement the county has obtained is in Block 2700 of State Highway A1A, County Attorney Al Hadeed said at a county commission meeting Feb. 21.

The owner and his significant other had not asked for money, Hadeed told the commissioners.

“We were just able to convince them of the good faith of the project, our goals in the project, and how it wouldn’t harm their property interests and would protect them,” Hadeed said.

Hadeed called the signing a “very important step”.

In January, Corps of Engineers officials warned the county government that funding for the proposed renovation project could be reallocated if easements are not quickly secured.

Hadeed said he hopes the county may still be able to convince the only remaining owner to sign without going through a full eminent domain process.

“But if we’re not, then we were well on our way … to proceed with the case and proceed to conclusion to the extent necessary,” Hadeed said.

The county expects to receive the required appraisals on the remaining property by March 1, he said, and expects to be in court around early May if an eminent domain lawsuit becomes necessary.

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