United States of America v. Tract J03-71 et al
OPINION AND ORDER that the government has the right to condemn the subject property and just compensation is valued at $750.00 ($1,500 per acre). The government shall deposit the just compensation into the Registry within 60 days of this O pinion and Order. The government shall timely move for final judgment upon deposit, and the Clerk shall administratively close the file pending the entry of final judgment. See Opinion and Order for details. Signed by Judge John E. Steele on 10/2/2012. (RKR)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
FORT MYERS DIVISION
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
TRACT J03-71, 0.50 ACRES OF LAND,
MORE OR LESS, IN COLLIER COUNTY
FLORIDA, PETE BERTOLOTTI, ET AL.,
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter came before the Court on October 2, 2012, for a bench
trial on the matter of just compensation.
All parties known or
believed by plaintiff to have an interest in the property have been
properly served or notified as provided by Fed. R. Civ. P. 71.1.
Claimant Cook Thomas appeared by and through counsel and withdrew his
request for a jury trial contained in the Answer to Complaint (Doc.
The Court heard testimony from John Rivers Underwood, Jr.,
President and owner of Appraisal and Acquisition Consultants, Inc.,
where Mr. Underwood has been working as an appraiser and supervisor of
other appraisers since starting the company in 1983.
testified on behalf of the government regarding the appraised value of
Underwood started his career in 1971, as an appraiser working for
First Federal Savings & Loan of Lake Worth, Florida, and eventually
started his own firm in 1983. Mr. Underwood took all required courses
for his professional designations.
Mr. Underwood received his MAI
designation in 1981 from the Appraisal Institute, which requires 100
hours of continuing education every 5 years.
Mr. Underwood also
received his SRA designation in 1979, from the Society of Real Estate
Mr. Underwood has taught classes and has been on the
faculty of the Appraisal Institute since the early 1980s.
Underwood has previously testified as an expert witness approximately
200 times, and 70-75 times in condemnation proceedings.
Mr. Underwood personally inspected the subject properties by
airboat with Park Rangers and Mr. Richmond, the surveyor.
Underwood testified as to the common characteristics of the land as:
(1) flooded continuously; (2) having native and cypress vegetation;
(3) vacant; and (4) being accessible only by airboat or helicopter.
To determine market value, Mr. Underwood used a sales comparison
approach by comparing public record sales and the property appraiser’s
Mr. Underwood testified that the subject tract has the
highest and best use of passive recreational. Mr. Underwood concluded
that the fair market value for this particular tract of land is
$1,500.00 per acre.
The Court also heard testimony from James Stanley Richmond, a
registered land surveyor.
Mr. Richmond has been self-employed and
licensed by the State of Florida since June 1984, and has been working
as a land surveyor since 1969.
Mr. Richmond has previously testified
as an expert.
Mr. Richmond has done numerous surveys for the Big
Cypress park, and well over 1000 surveys in other preserve lands in
the State of Florida.
Mr. Richmond conducted a survey of the subject
tract of land in 1997, and recently updated the survey to determine if
there were any camps.
Mr. Richmond personally viewed the land to
verify that there was no camp on the parcel of land, and found that
the land was vacant.
The Court, having considered the testimony and the record, hereby
ORDERS AND ADJUDGES:
The Plaintiff has the right to condemn the subject property
for the public purpose set forth in the Complaint in Condemnation.
Just Compensation for the taking of the fee simple title to
Property, is $1,500.00 per acre, for a total value of $750.00.
Payment of the Just Compensation will be in full satisfaction of any
and all claims of whatsoever nature against the Plaintiff by reason of
the institution and prosecution of this action and taking of the
Plaintiff will deposit the Just Compensation determined at
trial into the Registry of the Court within SIXTY (60) DAYS of this
The Clerk shall administratively close the file pending the
entry of final judgment.
On the date of the deposit of the Just Compensation into the
Registry of the Court, title to the Property will vest in the
Plaintiff and the Plaintiff will be entitled to immediate possession
of the Property.
Upon making such deposit, Plaintiff will timely
notify the Court and move for a final judgment of condemnation by
filing a motion.
The Just Compensation will be subject to all real estate
taxes, liens and encumbrances of whatsoever nature existing against
the Property at the time of vesting the title thereto in the Plaintiff
and all such taxes, liens, encumbrances of whatsoever nature will be
payable and deductible from the Just Compensation.
The Clerk of the Court will retain the deposited Just
consideration of any applications for distribution filed by persons
Plaintiff’s counsel shall notify the Clerk of the Court when this case
reaches a zero balance so that the case may be closed.
In the event that the Just Compensation and any interest, or
any part thereof, remains unclaimed for a period of FIVE (5) YEARS
from the date of this Opinion and Order, the Clerk of the Court,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2042, will cause such sum, together with any
interest, to be deposited in the United States Treasury in the name
and to the credit of the United States of America or the National Park
Service, as appropriate.
DONE AND ORDERED at Fort Myers, Florida, this
Kyle Scott Cohen, AUSA
Parties of record