The short story is that he settled a long battle with the State of Florida, who were threatening to take his land for an Everglades Rehabilitation project.
"This is all I've ever had," he said. "This is all I wanted. I worked like hell to buy it. I bought it in 1976 for $60,000 because nobody else wanted it. It was solid damn rock and cabbage palms and slash pines. You can't farm on it or nothing. All I could do really good was to set up a fish farm. But there's no replacing this piece of land.
We love it and don't want to leave it," Hardy said. "I'm not interested in their money. But with the lawyer fees and [the services of other experts], they brought us down. We don't have a damn thing now."
But alas, ultimately Florida made him an offer, and a pile of legal fees, he could not refuse.
Senior Judge Jack Schoonover signed papers today (April 15th, 2005) approving a deal by which Hardy, 69, will receive $4.95 million for HardyÂs 160-acre homestead in Southern Golden Gate Estates, a mostly abandoned subdivision south of Interstate 75.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has tried since 2002 to negotiate a deal to buy HardyÂs land. Hardy had refused as much as $4.4 million to leave. He also rejected several land-swap offers.
...Despite the deal, Hardy said Wednesday morning that he was in "deep, deep pain" for not being able to stay on his land until he died.
Hardy said the fight with the DEP has been "a living hell." He said he wanted to make a stand for private property rights and continued to insist that the DEdoesn'tsnÂt really need his land for the restoration. He said heÂs through fighting.
$4.95 million is no small sum, unless of course its offered for something that is priceless. Would you trade your spouse, your children, your parents for $4.95 million? Hyperbole? Sure, I'll cop to that. But how else can one put oneself in his shoes? For me, a hunk of land isn't that valuable, but who am I to judge what Mr. Hardy values?
The use or threat of Eminent Domain for public projects,opposedssed to the private abuse Kelo allows, is perhaps, at times, a necessary evil. I won't, with this post, begin a debate about the relative public merits of the Everglades Restoration. I just found this man's tale impressive and worthy of sharing. For Mr. Hardy this clearly wasn't about the money, it was a fight against the powers of the State to preserve a lifestyle he loved.
Property Rights Research.org