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Easements Sometimes Limit What You Can Build on Your Own Property… But Not in This Case

SeaRanchLakesSept07MallGenerally, when one purchases a piece of property, one assumes that the purchase comes with full autonomy over that property. In some cases, properties are subject to easements that limit how an owner uses its property. In a recent case, the 3d District Court of Appeal ruled that an owner of one parcel within a shopping center was free to construct a new building on its space, despite the existence of an easement. Even though the new building would eliminate more than a dozen parking spaces, the construction was permissible because the easement did not dictate maintaining a specific number of parking spaces.

The case centered around the use of one space within the Palm Springs Mile Shopping Center in Hialeah. In 1993, Palm Springs Mile Associates, Ltd., the shopping center’s owner, recorded an easement. Five years later, Casino Investment, Inc. bought a parcel within the center. In 2007, Casino proposed to build a freestanding building on its property. That building proposal would spread onto an area currently used for parking and would eliminate 15-20 parking spaces.

With the Palm Springs Mile Shopping Center, as with many malls, the easement was a reciprocal agreement that governed every parcel in the shopping center and pertained to common areas like the parking area. The easement in the Palm Springs Mile case was executed to ensure that no parcel owner could undertake any action that would inhibit getting into or out of the shopping center. It also ensured that parcel owners would allow general use of the parking spaces in their parcels.

The center owner claimed that Casino’s proposal violated the easement and sought to block the building’s construction. The trial court concluded that the proposal clearly did not comply with the easement and barred its construction. The appeals court ruled for Casino, however. The easement barred projects that would impede ingress or egress, but Casino’s project was at the north end of the center and had no impact on the routes in or out of the center.

The easement also contained a provision about parking, but that restriction only demanded that Casino do nothing that would impair the owner’s ability to have equal access to the parking spaces within Casino’s parcel. The easement did not demand that Casino maintain any set number of parking spaces, meaning that Casino’s destruction of the 15-20 parking spaces was not necessarily a violation of the easement.

Since the easement “unambiguously permitted the construction” that Casino proposed, the appeals court ordered the trial court to issue a declaratory judgment in Casino’s favor.

Whenever you seek to purchase a space in a mall or shopping center, it is very important to understand exactly what restrictions and limitations go with that property. For clear and useful advice, along with skilled representation regarding your commercial real estate issues, consult the experienced Florida real estate attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon. Our attorneys can help you fully understand and analyze all the details of any easements affecting properties you own or are considering purchasing.

Contact us online or by calling (305) 935-4440 to schedule your consultation.

More blog posts:

Contract Addendum Establishes Agreement as Unambiguous, Defeats Need for Extrinsic Evidence in Real Estate Dispute, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Dec. 5, 2014

Foreign Investment in South Florida: Real Estate and Immigration, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Nov. 27, 2013

Photo credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans at Wikimedia Commons.