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The James and Elevira DeVincenzo Story

In 1970, James and Elevira DeVincenzo purchased a 1.1-acre parcel of submerged land in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. Their plan was to fill the submerged land, which was basically shallow mudflats, and build condominiums on the site. But for more than 20 years, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) stopped the DeVincenzos from building on the property. Although the courts recently ruled that the DEP owes the couple more than $1.4 million for depriving them of rightful property use, the DEP is refusing to abide by the decision.

When the DeVincenzos applied for a dredge and fill permit from the DEP in 1978, they had no reason to believe that there would be any problem. Other submerged land was being filled and developed all around the DeVincenzos' property. The State of Florida had even sold the property in 1952 for the express purpose of development. Yet the DEP refused to grant the DeVincenzos a fill permit. For the next 16 years, the couple fought the DEP in an attempt to get their application approved. Finally, in 1994 the DEP said that it would issue the DeVincenzos a fill permit only if the couple agreed to establish a conservation easement consisting of 47,276 square feet of their 47,916 square-foot property. That would leave the couple with only 640 square feet of land to develop, impossibly small for any economically-profitable development.

The DEP's decision cost the DeVincenzos more than $1.4 million. The couple had spent more than $100,000 in purchasing the land, maintaining it and commissioning the engineering and survey work required by the DEP application process. The DEP's ruling rendered the land - once worth as much as $1 million -virtually worthless.

In 1996, the DeVincenzos filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for a regulatory taking. In 1998, a state circuit court ruled that the DEP owed the DeVincenzos more than $1.4 million. But the DEP has refused to pay the money out of its budget, claiming that the state legislature has to appropriate the money. The DeVincenzos have taken their case to the state supreme court hoping that the court will order the DEP to pay them what they are owed.
Source: David Smolker