– New FDOT Interchange – First Coast Expressway Tollway (St. Johns County, FL)

– New FDOT Interchange – First Coast Expressway Tollway (St. Johns County, FL)

In 2019, Brigham Property Rights Law Firm represented the owner of a 2,294 acre private hunting, recreational, and entertainment property in the Northwest Sector of St. Johns County, Florida.  Our law firm worked alongside the owner’s long-standing family real estate transactional lawyer, serving as eminent domain co-counsel.

In considering the property’s value, we looked to the property’s highest and best use.  While owned and operated for its current use, the property represented one of the last large, single-owner, undeveloped tracts in fast-growing St. Johns County.  Other similarly-situated nearby properties had developed, or were currently developing, as large, master-planned, mixed-use residential communities.  Some of these other developments included Shearwater, Rivertown, Silverleaf, Julington Creek, Durbin Crossing, Bartram Park, St. Johns Golf and Country Club, Bannon Lakes and Twin Creeks.  Working with consultants, the property’s notable features, its size, natural beauty, topography, and connectivity to local road network, all contributed to the physical, legal, economic, and most profitable use of real estate recognized by both a willing seller and willing buyer.

FDOT sought to take approximately 170 acres of the property for the construction of the First Coast Expressway (“FCE”), a new multi-lane, limited-access tollway that connects I-95 in northern St. Johns and Clay Counties with I-10 in western Duval County.  FDOT’s plans called for construction of a four-lane elevated roadway with the potential to ultimately expand the roadway to eight lanes.  Further, when initially seeking to acquire the property, FDOT’s plans did not provide for an interchange that would facilitate access to the owner’s remainder property.  Without interchange connectivity, the loss of value visited upon the owner’s remainder property would have been substantial.

FDOT’s initial offer to the owner was in the amount of $7,351,500.  In collaborative negotiations with FDOT, the parties arrived at a mutually agreeable pre-suit settlement to an award of $23,000,000 paid to the owner in compensation for the right-of-way, a new interchange design facilitating full-directional access to the owner’s remainder property, and joint-use agreements regarding several large stormwater ponds to serve both public and private sector development.

 

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