TRINITY — A corporation headed by real estate investor Fred Karavas filed a federal lawsuit this week accusing Pasco County of imposing “unreasonable and unconstitutional conditions” on the development of his property.
Karavas’ firm, F.A.K. Enterprises, owns a 9-acre commercial tract along Mitchell Boulevard. His attorney, Brian Bolves, said the county has “made it impossible to sell” or develop.
The property in question is near the proposed intersection of Mitchell Boulevard and Pemberton Road. When county commissioners rezoned the land in 1998 for the previous owner, they placed a condition on the property that requires the landowner to connect the roads and complete the intersection.
F.A.K. acquired the property through foreclosure in 2008. Bolves said the $1 million road would give residents of the Nature’s Hideaway subdivision direct access to Mitchell Boulevard, but his client shouldn’t be forced to bear the expense.
“Pasco County can’t demand that property owners donate right of way for roads. Likewise, the county can’t make you build off-site improvements not related to your project,” said Bolves. “It’s a matter of property rights.”
Bolves said the demand is illegal because it’s not in proportion to the impacts of the development. The complaint alleges that Pasco is trying to coerce any future developer to construct the road that the county would otherwise have to pay for itself.
His argument mirrors those made in the landmark case this year in U.S. District Court that found Pasco County’s right-of-way preservation ordinance unconstitutional. In that case, the owners of a proposed shopping center on State Road 52 sued over the county’s demand that they donate free right-of-way for the future widening of S.R. 52 as a condition of development.
In that case, Hillcrest vs. Pasco County, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday compared the county ordinance to an “out-and-out plan of extortion.”
The county is appealing the Merryday ruling, but commissioners are hoping to settle with Hillcrest Preserve over the takings claim. They voted Tuesday to raise their settlement offer to $1.5 million to buy 100 feet of right-of-way on S.R. 52. In October, the board offered $1.35 million but the property owners rejected it.
Commissioners also amended their right-of-way ordinance. Under the new policy, the county would require the right-of-way dedication only if the applicant’s project would generate enough traffic to warrant a future road improvement.
Bolves said he’s looking for a similar outcome. “I’m hoping it gets settled and that they drop the condition,” he said.
County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder could not be reached for comment.