Procedural Complexities in Challenging Development Orders
There was a dispute over a grant of a variance. Decision was subject to an (unspecified as to procedure) adminstrative appeal, which failed. The decision was then taken to circuit court in declaratory action. Action was dismissed w/out prejudice to file a petition for writ of certiorari, which apparently wasn't pursued (more on this later). That order (the language of which we are not provided), was not appealed.
Two years later, the plaintiffs try to revive and amend the suit with a second amended complaint and the trial court grants the motion. The writ of prohibition proceeds and is then granted on the grounds that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to consider the motion to amend.
OK, this may be a correct result, but it points out a slew of problems for neighbors challenging development orders - and also similar problems for landowners challenging denials.
First, let's look at the original dismissal. We don't know if it properly characterized the action below as quasi-judicial, and therefore subject only to cert review. We don't know if the action was filed w/in 30 days, or if the dismissal appeared to be a death knell to any challenge. Moreover, we don't know if it was a proper, appealable "final order." There is a "magic words" component to an order granting a motion to dismiss - if it only grants the motion, but doesn't actually dismiss the underlying case, it's not a final order and it's not appealable. This then gets into an entire issue of when/how you'd appeal it, whether you'd need to appeal it, etc.
Then there's the fact that the court dismissed the case without leave to amend. Given the 2d DCA decision in the recent Concerned Citizens case, a petition for cert is conducted under the civil rules. Given another recent decision, these are original actions, not appeals. That means that, if the Plaintiffs had properly invoked the original jurisdiction of the court within 30 days of the action, there is a very good arguement that they should have been given leave to amend the already instituted action to be a proper petition for certiorari and to file an appendix, etc.
And if the action was not dismissed by a final, appealable order (no analysis in this opinion), and if it improperly treated the issue of "reforming" the pleading to be a petition for writ of cert, then the circuit court probably did have jurisdiction and the 2d's action is incorrect. Unfortunately, there's not enough information in the opinion to tell.
We really, really need to get better opinions out of our appellate review process on land use decisions. A good reason for creating a new, independent administrative tribunal to hear all administrative appeals from local DO decisions.