The Real Deal Miami

Lower land prices won’t lead to more preservation

By Dan Weil | September 25, 2008 11:25AM

Officials of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area have begun working on a plan to protect and improve the area’s historic and natural resources.

The 126-acre parcel of land, which includes soccer fields and tennis courts, is one of only three in the country to receive the “outstanding natural area” designation from Congress.

But don’t expect local governments in South Florida to go around buying land to save for environmental and preservation purposes now that land prices have dropped.

“Governments are struggling for dollars like everyone else,” says Cliff Hertz, a partner specializing in real estate for Broad and Cassel law firm in West Palm Beach. “There’s not going to be a buying spree.”

Where local governments already have money from bond issues that they can use for this purpose, as is the case with Jupiter and Martin County, it will happen, he says. “But they won’t dip into general funds to do it.”

Harvey Oyer, a partner who deals with real estate at Shutts & Bowen law firm in West Palm Beach, notes that governments tend to buy land for conservation at times when development is encroaching on that land.

“They don’t have the foresight to buy land cheap in anticipation of the next upswing in the market,” he says. “Local governments have enough money to buy when the economy is doing well and developers buying land are paying taxes on their purchases.”

As for land governments already own, their decisions on whether to save that land for preservation or environmental uses probably won’t be any different now than during a real estate boom, Hertz says.