Florida Supreme Court upholds $3.3 million Ocean Concrete award

The Florida Supreme Court has rejected Indian River County’s appeal of a $3.3 million award in a long-running property rights case involving controversial plans to develop a concrete batch plant near Sebastian.

The Supreme Court last Thursday denied the county’s petition for review, stated it would not entertain a motion for rehearing and awarded $2,500 in attorney’s fees to Ocean Concrete, Inc.

While County Attorney Dylan Reingold expressed disappointment in the decision, Ocean Concrete owner George Maib declared victory in a lawsuit he filed more than 13 years ago.

“It’s a relief to me to know that after so many years, I finally get a little justice,” Maib said. “It was disheartening for many years . . . [this is] something that really caused me a lot of damage.

“To stand up to something like this, you’ve just got to be willing to go the distance,” Maib said. “After what this caused to my family and my business, I was never going away.”

Ocean Concrete sued in November 2007 after county commissioners disallowed concrete batch plants in light industrial zones following community outcry against the company’s plans for such a facility on an 8.5-acre light industrial tract on Old Dixie Highway near Sebastian.

Up until the change, concrete batch plants were allowed in light industrial zones and the county had already reviewed Maib’s plans as he moved forward with his project.

At issue in Ocean Concrete’s claim under the Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act was the value of the proposed concrete batch plant that was lost as a result of the government action.

Indian River County won the first trial in 2016, but Ocean Concrete has prevailed ever since.

An appellate court threw out the county’s victory in May 2018 and ordered a new trial for damages. That ruling was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court in December 2018.

Ocean Concrete won a $3.3 million award in the second trial in September 2019 and withstood appeals in the 4th District Court of Appeals in November and again last week in the Florida Supreme Court.

“We are disappointed that the Florida Supreme Court decided not to take jurisdiction,” Reingold said. “We are conferring with outside counsel with respect to the outstanding attorneys’ fees issue.”

But Maib said he expects Indian River County to continue trying to avoid paying the $3.3 million award.

“I wouldn’t expect the county to willingly cut me a check at this point,” Maib said. “We’ll see them do what they can do to delay this further. That’s been the modus the whole way so far, so I wouldn’t assume anything to be any different at this point.”

“In most circumstances, yes, I would be paid,” Maib said. “The right thing to do would be to put this to rest. Anything else is just a further burden on the taxpayer. It’s a dead end at this point.”

The Florida Supreme Court decision is a victory for landowners whose property loses value as a result of governmental action, Maib said.

“This really clarifies a lot for the next guy in line,” Maib said. 

“That gives me good feelings.”

Maib credited his attorney, Geoffrey D. Smith & Associates of Melbourne for the victory. 

“My hat is off to my attorney who has stayed in this game for so many years under a lot of duress, up against these guys with unlimited resources,” Maib said. “It was his work that helped me get here today. I’m blessed to have had him.”

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