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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Helpless, Woman Sees City Wreck Her Home

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CN) - Jacksonville demolished a woman's historic Victorian home without proper warning, though all it needed was a brace on a porch gable - then sent her the bill, the woman claims in court.

Beverly Brooks sued the City of Jacksonville in Federal Court for the unconstitutional taking of her home, and denial of due process.

Brooks paid $70,000 in April for the 2,776 square-foot home in the Springfield National Historic District area of Jacksonville. It was a four-bedroom, two-bath Victorian, built in 1906.

Brooks set about restoring the home, consistent with the area's redevelopment efforts, before making it her primary residence. She hired a general contractor who began obtaining permits from the city.

The contractor's repairs made the house structurally safe and habitable, but the city found the porch gable did not meet the codes and needed repair.

The Jacksonville Historic Preservation Committee agreed to fix the bracing to the porch gable, but the city demolished the house instead, without proper warning, Brooks says in the lawsuit.

"Unbeknownst to the owner, on May 17, 2013, the Municipal Code Compliance Department, rather than complying with the Historic Preservation Commission's request to simply brace the porch gable, and rather than complying with the recommendations of its own engineers, who after conducting a structural engineering study recommended repairing the bracing to the porch gable rather than demolishing the entire structure, sent out a Notice of Emergency Action, which purported to notice the plaintiff of the impending demolition of the structure, and which purported to offer plaintiff the opportunity to appeal the decision 'within 5 days of receipt of the notice.'"

That notice was prepared on a Friday, put in the mail on Monday, and Brooks got it that week. She says she "immediately" contacted the city to appeal, but it demolished her house the next day.

That denied her the 5-day appeal period, she says. It also was an unconstitutional taking of her home without compensation. She says the city had no right and no reason to destroy the house - and no right to send her the bill of $11,391.44 for the demolition, though it did that too.

Brooks seeks compensation, damages and costs of suit.

She is represented by Christopher Wickersham.

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