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Port Authority drops land deal

The 60 acres were triple the price expected

By TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS, The Times-Union

The Jacksonville Port Authority walked away Monday from seizing 60 acres of land that it has been litigating over for two years.

After a jury decided in May that the plot north of Talleyrand Marine Terminal owned by Keystone Coal was worth $67.4 million - three times what the port expected - going through the rest of the eminent domain proceedings and buying the land wouldn't make sense, the authority's board decided Monday.

"This is why the slow take law is there," said board Chairman Dick Morales, referring to the method of condemnation the port used. "If the price comes up as something we believe is unrealistic, we can walk away."

The port's appraisers had valued the land at just under $20 million.

The land was worth more because Keystone President Tom Scholl was willing to take a risk on the property, which he bought for $8 million in 2005, said Scholl's attorney, Andrew Brigham.

"After two years of litigation, you just feel a sense of being free," Brigham said. "I think it is a victory for property rights. I think it underscores that a jury can level the playing field between the government and a private owner."

The Port Authority had planned to combine the property with other acreage it owns in the area, envisioning it as a smaller version of the new container terminal being built at Dames Point.

Now, Executive Director Rick Ferrin said, the port will seek proposals for the 27 acres of waterfront land it owns. It's likely to be used, he said, for non-containerized cargo brought in either by a new tenant or an existing tenant.

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Revised: February 10, 2010 .

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