Developer demands $99M of compensation from Martin County for land-use decision

Hobe Sound Ranch Ltd. may sue the county for rejecting a new land-use designation for 2,658 acres of vacant land west of Hobe Sound
May 12, 2019 03:00PM

Harmony Ranch development site west of Hobe Sound (Credit: Treasure Coast Newspapers)

A developer is demanding $99 million of compensation from Martin County for rejecting a proposed land-use designation that would allow a 2,400-home development called Harmony Ranch.

The developer, Hobe Sound Ranch Ltd., failed to win approval of its proposal to change the land-use designation for 2,658 acres of vacant land west of Hobe Sound where Harmony Ranch would be built.

The current “agricultural” land-use designation for the land limits residential development density to one home per 20 acres.

In April 2018, Martin County commissioners unanimously rejected the proposal to change the land-use designation of the 2,658-acre site to a mix of “residential estate” (two homes per acre), “rural” (one home per two acres) and “agricultural ranchette” (one home per five acres).

Tampa attorney John Tasso, who represents Hobe Sound Ranch, told county commissioners in a letter that their action reduced the value of the 2,658 acres by $99 million.

Tasso told commissioners that, unless they negotiate a settlement with Hobe Sound Ranch, the developer may file a claim in circuit court for compensation under a state law, the Bert J. Harris Private Property Rights Protection Act.

Hobe Sound Ranch already has sued Martin County in circuit court, and the case is ongoing, according to county spokeswoman Martha Ann Kneiss.

The lawsuit alleges that the county’s refusal to change the land-use designation of the 2,568-acre site forced Hobe Sound Ranch to retain the land as open space “with essentially no economic beneficial use.”

Hobe Sound Ranch has been trying for more than 20 years to build on its land west of Hobe Sound, which historically has been used for cattle grazing.

The components of the developer’s planned Harmony Ranch development would include a town center with such tenants as a bank and a grocery store, in addition to single-family homes and multifamily residential buildings. [TCPalm.com]Mike Seemuth