Florida Keys News
Friday, April 4, 2014
Eminent domain proposal rejected
Mosquito board members worry action could anger city

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control board on Monday rejected a proposal to use eminent domain proceedings to take the property that houses the agency's headquarters on College Road from the city of Key West.

The idea was suggested by Mosquito Control Chair Steve Smith.

Such eminent domain proposals are rare, but board attorney Dirk Smits was able to find a case from South Florida dealing with one government using another government through eminent domain. The case deals with railroad property.

"Believe it or not, we did find a legal basis for government to take another government's property," Smits told the board. "Not much authority exists for this position."

Smith proposed the idea because the city has told Mosquito Control that it will not renew its lease with the board because it is considering placing a homeless center at that location.

That has led to talks among Mosquito Control board members about possibly relocating its headquarters from the city of Key West-owned property on College Road to a piece of land the agency is trying to buy on Big Coppitt Key. Smith is concerned that buying new land and building a new facility will cost millions of taxpayers dollars, he said. Mosquito Control is under contract to buy the Big Coppitt Key property for about $700,000 but has not closed on the deal, and needs to work with the city to stay on College Road.

The original lease is set to expire in May, but the city has agreed to go month to month with Mosquito Control until January 2015. At its May 6 meeting, city council will consider extending the lease until May 2016 to give Mosquito Control more time to move into its new property.

Instead, Smith was looking for a solution that would be "reasonable and feasible," he said.

Mosquito Control may have to pay the city the $4 million the facility and property was appraised at in 2007, and cover the city's legal fees.

Commissioner Jack Bridges voiced concerns about the impact the Eminent domain lawsuit would have on the relationship between the Mosquito Control board and city leaders.

"I think we would be touching off a war with the city of Key West," Bridges said. "I don't think that necessarily is in the best interest of the taxpayers."

The proposal died for a lack of support.

Commissioner Phil Goodman called the Eminent domain idea an "expensive longshot."

tohara@keysnews.com

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