The City of North Port created a road
improvement district to maintain and improve roads throughout the City. The Court ruled that the City lacked home
rule power to levy the assessments against various parcels of vacant land owned
by West Villages, a CDD with special legislative powers:
In this case, NPRDD’s special assessments on
West Village’s property fall within the limitations on home rule delineated in
section 166.021(3) because (1) West Villages is not authorized by law to pass
through the special assessments to property assessed separately by West
Villages, and (ii) NPRDD is prohibited by the constitution from compelling
payment by the Florida Legislature. In
other words, there is no way for West Villages to lawfully pay the assessments.
It is difficult to determine at this point
whether the Court has created an exception that will swallow the more general
rule that state agencies are liable to pay user fees and similar charges,
unless specifically exempted by statute. What is also interesting is that the fight
here had to start as a certiorari challenge to the City’s levy of the special
assessments under the Chapter 170 process.
This constrained West Village’s ability to argue that the assessments
are patently unreasonable because West Villages (and the property within it) already
maintains the roads within that area, and the funds would be used to improve
roads in other areas of the City that would clearly not be used by, or benefit,
the assessed parcels, or any lands within the West Villages.