Road construction projects involving eminent domain are on the rise across Florida as the state endeavors to support its population growth. Gas stations and convenience stores are prone to partial and full property takings for road widening projects as these properties are commonly located along major roads and intersections. As a gas station/C-store owner in Florida undergoing eminent domain, it is important to know your property rights. Here are some ways in which gas station/C-store owners should prepare for an eminent domain taking:
1. Review all current leases on property, including Dealer Supply Agreements and Branding Agreements.
a. If you are the property owner and operator selling gas on-site, you need to make sure you have a written lease if the property ownership and business ownership are in separate names. In order to maximize a business damage claim, leases with options should total approximately 20 years. A business must be in its location and consistently operating for a minimum of (5) five years prior to the eminent domain taking.
b. Review your Dealer Supply Agreement for the penalty costs that could occur if your business is wiped out or if you will sell less gasoline on-site due to the taking. These penalties that you will have to pay your gasoline supplier must be taken into account and added to your business damage claim.
c. Your Branding Agreements will include penalties that must be repaid if you are wiped out at the location. You need to claim all penalties that directly flow from going “dark,” meaning the penalties accruing for the loss of signage to racks in the C-store that the branding company provided you with at the start of the contract. You need to make sure all these items are part of your business damage claim to the condemning authority.
2. Be aware of County or City Ordinances as they pertain to landscape buffers, tank setbacks and signage.
Many counties and cities today have eminent domain ordinances allowing the gas station/C-store property owner to be “grandfathered in” due to a governmental taking. However, there are counties and cities in Florida that do not have an eminent domain ordinance and therefore you will have to comply with setback requirements for landscape buffers, tank setbacks, signage, etc. If the governmental taking impacts or intrudes on these setbacks, they must be part of your compensation claim as a property owner. Experts such as engineers and land planners assist the attorney in determining what to do when there is no local eminent domain ordinance. Hopefully there is a cure or remedy available to comply with the setback ordinance. If you cannot cure or remedy the loss of setbacks on your site, the property and business may be wiped out and a total loss must be claimed for the business and the improvements on-site that are severely or completely damaged. A cautionary note is that even counties and cities that have eminent domain ordinances will still require you to rebuild or renovate to meet current setback requirements if 50% of the building value is destroyed by a hurricane, tornado, or fire.
3. Make sure after the take there is sufficient driveway width and site circulation for fuel trucks, other commercial vehicles, cars and SUVs to enter the site and easily access the fuel pumps as before the taking.
It is essential for a civil engineer to model the types of vehicles entering the site prior to the taking and model it using construction plans in the after situation. Often slight changes to throat depth or driveway width can significantly affect the gasoline/C-store site’s overall function.
On-site circulation or the lack of circulation will impact both your real estate and business damage claim.
At Policastro Law Group, we have represented dozens of gas station/C-store owners in eminent domain takings. Policastro Law Group has also exhibited many times at the Florida Petroleum & Marketers Association Sunshine Expo and has written numerous articles pertaining to gas stations and eminent domain law. Our knowledgeable attorneys are well versed in all relevant eminent domain laws and will fight for the maximum compensation for our clients. Our great results and high customer satisfaction have secured us lasting partnerships with large gas station owners across Florida.
Below is a snippet of the results achieved for our gas station/C-store clients:
|Settlement also included reopened driveway initially planned for removal
If you are involved in an eminent domain case in Florida and want to know your rights as a property owner, please call us toll free at 888.371.1600 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys today.