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The Richard and Ann Reahard Story

 In 1984, Richard and Ann Reahard were offered $1.2 million by a developer for their 40-acre parcel of land, containing 126 undeveloped residential lots, in Lee County, Florida. But the deal collapsed when the county passed a law that sharply restricted development to allow the construction of only one house on the entire 40 acres - a huge lot of about 800 feet of road frontage and about one mile of river and bay frontage. The value of the property plummeted to $40,000.

The Reahards then spent five years negotiating with the county for compensation. Those talks broke down and the couple filed a lawsuit in Lee County Circuit Court. In 1991, a federal district court awarded the Reahards $700,000. The county appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which sent the case back to the federal district court for a re-trial. Again, the federal district judge ruled for the Reahards.

The county continued to file appeals. In February 1997, the Reahards once again found themselves filing their lawsuit in Lee County Circuit Court just as they had done eight years previously. A jury awarded the Reahards $600,000 for the original taking plus interest, bringing the total to $1.4 million. Later, the judge ordered Lee County to pay $455,000 in attorneys fees and another $100,000 in costs for a total settlement to $2 million.

Not surprisingly, Lee County filed yet another appeal. In February 1998, Florida's 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the settlement. The Reahards are still waiting to see if the county will appeal.
Source: Defenders of Property Rights