LAND O’ LAKES — Pasco County commissioners agreed to pay $1.88 million to settle a lawsuit with the owners of property on U.S. 41 and the future intersection with Ridge Road.
The 19-acre tract owned by Kathy and Daniel Jimison was under contract twice — in 2004 and again in 2007 — to sell to shopping center developer Primerica Group, but each time the sale fell through when commissioners refused to allow any commercial development on the land.
Assistant County Attorney Nicki Spirtos, in a memo to commissioners, explained that the site served as a critical wildlife corridor linking the Starkey Wilderness Preserve and the Connerton Preserve.
In 2009, the board approved its nomination to the county’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Management Program, and an appraisal came back at $1.24 million.
“The Jimison parcel is the last, albeit, the most important acquisition to complete this portion of the corridor,” real estate appraiser Bob Tietz wrote.
But the Jimisons instead sought a comprehensive plan amendment to rezone the property for commercial use. The commissioners rejected the application, and the Jimisons filed a takings claim against the county in 2011.
Their attorney, David Smolker, said the county’s regulations had made it impossible to develop the land. “This was an unusual situation,” Smolker said. “It was located in a very strategic place. The county had a lot of reasons to want to keep it from being developed commercially.”
In addition, the parcel includes about 3/4 acres the county needs for the future Ridge Road extension. “It’s the last parcel they needed for Ridge Road,” Smolker said.
The property would have been worth $3.25 million as a retail site. “And they needed to be compensated,” Smolker said.
The case was scheduled for trial in January, but all parties agreed to the $1.88 million sale price during a mediation conference on Nov. 8. The sale is scheduled to close Dec. 20.
“I think it’s a fair settlement,” Smolker said. “I don’t think either side got exactly what they wanted, but that’s the definition of a good compromise.”