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Citizen Files Lawsuit to Stop Orlando Land Sale to Orlando City SC: What You Need to Know

The Mane Land has obtained a copy of a complaint to be filed in Orange County by a local citizen who is attempting to stop the sale of the stadium land by the City of Orlando to Orlando City. The plaintiff argues that the city is disregarding state statute by reselling the land to the club and has asked a judge to stop the sale. We analyze the case.

Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

In a civil case set to hit the Orange County Circuit Court in the coming days, a private citizen, Lawanna Gelzer, the Inner City Neighborhood Association, and others are suing the City of Orlando, requesting that the court put a stop to the transfer of land to Orlando City Soccer for the building of the new soccer-specific stadium, which is already underway. (The complaint was posted online in PDF form here by Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel).

The brief two-page Motion for Injunctive Relief is asking the Court to find that the City of Orlando's actions of selling the land located adjacent to the stadium is improper under the Florida statute governing eminent domain.

The Complaint

Gelzer's complaint, although compelling in her argument that she would be directly affected by the eminent domain actions, as she owns rental property located in the Parramore neighborhood, will most likely not succeed.

Eminent domain is authorized under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as the legal ‘taking' of land by a government body, whether city, county, or federal, which is being done for the purposes of public utility, such as roadways, parks, and even public event spaces, such as stadiums. The central argument brought by Gelzer is that the city has intent to sell the land to Orlando City for the purposes of building the stadium and that the transfer is illegal because the city will no longer own the land it has taken under the justification of "public purpose," which is a specific exception under the Florida Statutes for permissible eminent domain.

The Precedent

The seminal 2005 case which reached the Supreme Court of the United States, Kelo v. City of New London, found that private redevelopment plans are considered "public use" under the Fifth Amendment's 'Takings Clause' and is therefore permissible for a city to lease or sell land to a private entity for such purpose.

The plaintiff, Ms. Gelzer, is seeking to have the sale of the land stopped.

However, late this afternoon, the Orlando City Council approved the sale of the 12-acre lot located at 601 West Church Street to Orlando City Soccer Club. The $155-million dollar stadium will host soccer events as its primary objective, however, numerous other civic events are expected to take place in the new facility as part of both the city's and the club's goals of outreach into the Parramore neighborhood.

Because the sale of the property has already gone through, it is unlikely that a judge will reverse it at this point based on a motion for injunction to stop an action from happening rather than to reverse one.

Calls to Ms. Gelzer's attorney seeking comment on the merits of the case were not immediately returned.

The Mane Land will continue to monitor this story as it develops.