Monday, December 14, 2015

State demolished 40 homes for now-abandoned project

The first home Brunilda Galarza ever owned, she surrendered to the government to be razed and submerged beneath a 10-acre drainage pond.  Like dozens of other residents in the neighborhood just outside Altamonte Springs, she and her husband packed up and cleared out of their community, then watched as cranes moved in behind them to tear down their homes. The driveway where her son practiced his basketball layups, the patio where they hung streamers for his bug-themed 3rd birthday party - it all disappeared to make way for a retention pond that the Florida Department of Transportation said was needed for a critical highway expansion. But it’s been six years since the Galarzas moved out, and the land is still as dry as they left it. Project plans changed. The 41-lot neighborhood - which FDOT deemed “necessary for public use” and was purchased, emptied of residents and demolished for $12.9 million - will serve no lasting public purpose. The land, just east of Interstate 4 and south of State Road 436, will probably go up for sale in a few years and end up in the hands of a private developer. The result of all the moving and expense might be to erase one neighborhood and replace it with another. Situations such as the one near Altamonte Springs are one side effect of a change in how FDOT approaches many road projects, says a Jacksonville-based attorney experienced in eminent domain cases. Recent shifts in how road projects are sequenced have escalated the risk that the government will unnecessarily take homes and other private properties, attorney Andrew Brigham said. Once rigidly ordered in phases, transportation projects have become more fluid, and designs are often still in flux as construction gets under way. As a result, transportation officials are taking land before they know how they’ll use it or whether they’ll need it at all, Brigham said. “In some cases, the government is jumping before they really look,” he said. “With greater discretion put in the hands of government decision makers, you have greater chance of abuse of property rights.”...more

When they have the money and the authority, this is how they treat the public.  And guess what?  The Republican-controlled Congress just passed and sent to Obama a $305 billion federal hwy. bill.  Reckon there is anything in it to prevent this kind of waste and abuse?

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