City of Orlando MLS Stadium: Faith Deliverance Temple (Orange County, FL)
For over three decades, the Parramore community has worshiped at Faith Deliverance Temple in downtown Orlando, a few blocks from the Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic. In 2016, the City of Orlando not only threatened to take the property by eminent domain, but filed an eminent domain lawsuit to accomplish it. The church leaders retained Brigham Property Rights Law Firm to defend the church’s property rights.
The City sought to take the church’s property as part of the development of a new MLS Soccer Stadium for the Orlando City soccer club. The question surrounding the City’s proposed acquisition was whether the taking was for a “public purpose” given that it was the private ownership group that owned Orlando City that would predominantly fund, control, and profit from the new stadium. Even though the City had approached the church with the intent to acquire the property through “voluntary acquisition,” the church resisted the opportunity to sell its property having served the Parramore community for 40 years and being present at its current location for 30 years. Many families who saw their children grow up and move to the suburbs, still see their children and their growing families attend church downtown in the urban core. Rather than sell the church and relocate to the suburbs, Faith Deliverance Temple decided to fight the taking and stay exactly where they were.
The church’s fight, however, fit into a larger narrative. In 2006, following the announced decision of the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London, Conn., 545 U.S. 469, 125 S.Ct. 2655 (2005) (“Kelo”), substantial reforms occurred in state jurisdictions, including Florida, concerning private property rights. These reforms focused primarily on instances where the exercise of eminent domain ultimately resulted in the transfer of ownership or control of private property from one private entity to another private entity.
The day after Kelo was decided, the then Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Alan Bense, announced the formation of a “Select Committee to Protect Private Property Rights.” The bipartisan committee was chaired by Representative Marco Rubio and was composed of many respected leaders who studied and heard testimony for a period of eight months culminating in HJR 1569 and HB 1567. Substantial efforts were also undertaken by the Florida Senate’s Judicial Committee led by Senator Daniel Webster. Public comment was made by many aggrieved property owners whose properties were taken under the auspices of community redevelopment or other takings wherein the public purpose asserted was economic development. The progress on both measures was also closely followed by then Governor Jeb Bush.
HJR 1569, known as Amendment 8, passed by the requisite 60% in both the Florida House and Senate for a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, was subsequently signed by Governor Bush, and then proceeded to the November 6, 2006 election ballot, passing by 69% polling statewide. R. 92. Applicable to all eminent domain lawsuits filed after January 2, 2007, the amended Article X, Sec. 6 of the Florida Constitution as follows (underlined portion below):
Constitution of the State of Florida (2006 Amendment)
ARTICLE X, §6. Eminent domain.—
(a) No private property shall be taken except for a public purpose and with full compensation therefore paid to each owner or secured by deposit in the registry of the court and available to the owner.
(b) Provision may be made by law for the taking of easements, by like proceedings, for the drainage of the land of one person over or through the land of another.
(c) Private property taken by eminent domain pursuant to a petition to initiate condemnation proceedings filed on or after January 2, 2007, may not be conveyed to a natural person or private entity except as provided by general law passed by a three fifths vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature.
History.—Am. H.J.R. 1569, 2006; adopted 2006.
Additionally, because the Florida Constitution, Florida Statutes, and Florida Supreme Court decisions did not explicitly prohibit takings for economic development – including, but not limited to, creating jobs or enhancing the tax-base – the Florida Legislature passed HB 1567 to specifically remove the eminent domain power from Chapter 163, Florida Statutes, (the “Community Redevelopment Act”), and explicitly identify, by exception, the only valid public purposes for which private property may be taken and result in the transfer to another private entity in Chapters 73 and 74, Florida Statutes (the “Florida Eminent Domain Code”). Governor Bush subsequently signed the legislation into law, which is now codified in §73.013 and §73.014, Florida Statutes, which applies to all eminent domain petitions filed under Chapter 73 or 74, Florida Statutes, on or after May 11, 2006.
In spite of the above reforms, the City of Orlando decided to still file an eminent domain lawsuit to take the Faith Deliverance Temple church property. In defending the church’s property rights, Brigham Property Rights Law Firm filed discovery on the City of Orlando and the private ownership group that owned the Orlando City soccer club as well as initiated a public debate in local and national media concerning how the 2006 Amendment to the Constitution of the State of Florida may thwart the City’s plans to condemn the church’s property. The matter was even featured in an article published in ESPN Magazine as the use of eminent domain to condemn a church for a soccer stadium drew national attention. With discovery due and a hearing approaching on whether the City had the authority to take the church’s property in light of Florida’s property rights reform, the City came forward with the startling announcement that the City’s engineers had discovered a means by which the footprint of the new stadium could be moved! In the end, it seems that faith can not only move mountains, but soccer stadiums as well.