Riviera Beach delays eminent domain vote

RIVIERA BEACH The city council has delayed voting on a resolution that strikes the use of eminent domain from its $2.4 billion redevelopment plan.

The council pulled the item from its Wednesday night agenda to give City Attorney Pamala Ryan more time to rewrite the resolution. Ryan plans to present a revised resolution at the next council meeting, scheduled for Nov. 1.

Ryan's goal is to craft a resolution that incorporates the council's desire to make public its intention to abide by Florida's new eminent domain law and still preserve the city's right to challenge the new law. On May 11, Gov. Jeb Bush signed the law, which prevents governments from taking private property and giving it to developers for economic purposes.

However, on May 10, the city entered into an agreement with Viking Inlet Harbor Properties to turn 400 acres of mostly blight into a waterfront development featuring shops, a hotel, marina, aquarium and condos. The deal was struck in an effort to beat Bush signing the new legislation into law. A condition of the agreement was the city's promise to use eminent domain on behalf of Viking.

Viking Chairman Bob Healey doesn't support the city's proposed resolution. Healey, who is considering suing the city and the state if the resolution is approved, contends that his group has a deal with Riviera Beach that includes the use of eminent domain.

That deal is being challenged in civil court in Palm Beach County. Since May, three lawsuits have been filed by home and business owners that charge the city's actions are illegal in light of the new eminent domain law.

Bert Gall, senior attorney with the Virginia-based Institute for Justice - which represents homeowner Princess Wells and business owners Michael and Nora Mahoney - supports the city approving the resolution.

"If the city is really serious about removing the cloud of eminent domain over Riviera Beach, we are ready to meet with them to craft language that will do that," Gall said Thursday.