Jury gives the county a favorable ruling in land-takings case

A land-taking lawsuit over a No Name Key tract that has bounced through local and state courts for 14 years added a new judgment Thursday.

Thirteen lots owned by the Galleon Bay Corp. were worth $285,000 under development rules in place in 2001, a six-member jury ruled after seven days of testimony in Monroe County Circuit Court.

"The jury wisely factored in all the obstacles to development in 2001 and rejected the wildly inflated value claims of the developers," County Attorney Bob Shillinger said in a statement.

In 2006, a jury ruled the property owners were due $3 million for loss of development rights. The owners rejected that award and filed for a new trial seeking $6 million.

Numerous changes in Monroe County zoning law, the Keys rate-of-growth ordinance ordered by state lawmakers, and state environmental regulations have affected the property since the early 1980s.

Galleon Bay Corp., originally created by landowners Wolfgang and Hannelore Schleu, at first sought to develop 42 lots. In 1991, Monroe County approved a subdivision of 14 lots on 4.6 acres of developable property.

A state land-planning agency then objected to that much new building on the sparely occupied Lower Keys island that then lacked a connection to the power grid.

The Schleus were denied the 14 permits in 2001 and filed suit the next year. That eventually resulted in the $3 million judgment in 2006.

In the most recent court action over determination of actual damages, county attorneys argued Monroe County should not be held responsible for many of the regulatory limits imposed by state and federal agencies.

After Thursday's ruling, Circuit Court Judge Mark Jones will calculate interest on the lots' value since 2001. The county also has granted the development of three building permit allocations in the years since the suit was filed.

An attorney for Galleon Bay could not be reached for comment on further action.