Mr. Brigham represented one of Florida’s agricultural hall of fame farmers, W.D. “Billy” Long, in the acquisition by the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority of his property along the shores of Lake Apopka in Central Florida.
Years before, Mr. Brigham had assisted his father, Toby Prince Brigham, in representing Mr. Long in the eminent domain taking of his muck farmland by the St. Johns River Water Management District (“SJRWMD”). In the 1950’s, the government had invited farmers to reclaim the land and grow row-crop vegetables in the rich muck surrounding Lake Apopka. Billy Long came to Florida in 1952 with $2,000 in his pocket and a John Deere tractor. He developed Zellwood sweet corn and varieties of carrots that were sold in grocery stores along the entire U.S. East Coast and reflected the best of Florida’s commitment to agriculture. The Long family had been farming for two generations when the priorities of government changed and concern for the environment replaced growing our own domestic vegetables for our tables. The 1,000 acre farm was taken by the SJRWMD for the Lake Apopka Restoration. SJRWMD sought to pay for the farm a value equivalent to rentals of farmland between others farmers in the Zellwood Drainage District. This would equate to only one or two years worth of income from farming. A settlement was reached that paid the Long family approximately ten times that amount following a successful legislative effort to require in the Lake Apopka Restoration Act that the income from farming be used to value the real estate.
The subsequent acquisition by the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority was a partial taking for an overpass embankment and stormwater pond for the Outer Beltway on the remnant property left after the taking by the St. Johns Water Management District. After an initial offer $242,200, Mr. Brigham was able to negotiate a settlement for the Long family in the amount of $915,000 on the argument that the OOCEA’s taking would do significant damage to the remnant property which now had a highest and best use for a single family residence estate with views to Lake Apopka once the restoration by the SJRWMD is complete.