Riviera Beach Races State Law To Redevelop With Eminent Domain

The City Council of Riviera Beach, Florida, in an effort to outmaneuver the Florida Legislature, approved an agreement with a developer enabling a $2.4 billion waterfront redevelopment project that relies on eminent domain.

The agreement sets up a legal battle pitting the City against state lawmakers, who last week passed a bill that strips cities like Riviera Beach from using its eminent domain powers to take private land and give it to developers. Despite its location in Palm Beach County, Riviera Beach is one of the poorer communities in South Florida, and has been struggling to encourage redevelopment for decades.

Throughout Florida's legislative session, which ended May 5th, the city and the developer had lobbied lawmakers for an amendment giving the city until 2010 to operate under the current eminent domain law, but that amendment was killed. With developer Viking threatening to abandon the project, city officials scrambled to come up with a quick fix. City officials contend that the legislature's actions violate their constitutional rights under the "contracts clause" of the U.S. Constitution, which says no government can pass a law that interferes with an existing contract between two parties. By signing the contract Wednesday, May 10, the city is trying to legally circumvent the law, which Governor Bush has yet to sign. Attorney Bruce Rogow, a constitutional law expert with more than 40 years of experience, says the City has a good case.

Thanks to Sheryl Stolzenberg

Full Story: Riviera tries to outwit law by signing pact

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