Filtering by Tag: comprehensive plan
The policy permits mining in a certain areas "only" for public road building, agricultural and water management purposes. While the FDOT was the primary intended customer, the development order did not restrict the sale of mined aggregate for the stated uses, but only required annual reporting of sales and customers. There was deposition and trial testimony that the company could not track the use to which sold aggregate was put. Based on that, the 4th District held that the permit was inconsistent with the plain language of the policy and also reaffirmed that reviewing courts do not have to give deference to local government interpretations of their plans.
I am sure that this is not the last we'll hear of this matter. These mines have significant strategic importance because they would produce high-quality aggregate needed for highway construction and the nearest alternative sources (in the Dade County lakes belt) may be shut down on federal permitting issues. The other major south Florida source is in Lee County - but there the County Commission is waging war on aggregate producers and trying to prevent any new aggregate mines through aggressive comp plan policies and land development regulations.
So, the policy will be rewritten and adopted without the restrictive provisions, we'll have another fight, and if the lack of permitting will affect major road construction, I predict we'll get legislation next year that preempts local comprehensive plans and regulations of strategic aggregate mining operations.
1st DCA - ALJ/Admin Comm'n Misapplied Law and Evidence in Finidng Small Scall Amendment "Not In Compliance"
The Court found that the ALJ violated the applicable rules of statutory interpretation (that the specific governs over the general) by finding that the amendment violated a general coastal/environmental policy when a more specific policy addressed the location of RV parks. Again, we see the 1st DCA limiting the strict scrutiny language of Machado, which states the over broad position that every development order must comply strictly with each and every provision of the comprehensive plan.
The Court also found that the ALJ make a determination that the amendment was not "compatible" without competent substantial evidence. This is another important aspect of the case: the Court rejected the ALJ's acceptance of the lay opinion of the challengers that a mobile home park would have adverse impacts on the area including light pollution, traffic, and negative impact on housing values. The Court is, in effect, setting forth fairly stringent requirements for evidence regarding compatibility that requires expert testimony on most aspects commonly used to claim that uses are not compatible. The Court specifically rejected any analysis that the RV use was "inherently" incompatible with existing residential uses simply because it was different and more intense.
Important reading for future cases.
This was a classic problem of "strict scrutiny" rules under Machado v. Musgrove creating an absurd result. The Leon County Plan Conservation Element includes special provisions that apply to developments in the Lake Jackson watershed, including on that required the land development regulations to have special designations for the watershed that would effectively preclude residential development. However, one of the Future Land Use policies indicates that the designation requirements are not intended to apply in "closed sub-basins" - basins that don't discharge water into the Lake, even though they are within the general Lake Jackson drainage basin.
Opponents challenged and convinced the trial judge that because the FLU policy did not specify that it was intended to create an exclusion to the specific Conservation Element policy (it was simply included a a sub-policy below the general policy), it didn't have that legal effect.
The 1st DCA ruled that the entire set of policies had to be read together and that in that light, the only reasonable interpretation was that the FLU policy was intended to create an exception to the Conservation Element policy, and was consistent with its intent. Supporting this analysis, the Court said:
The Florida Legislature has established that in reviewing consistency, a court may consider the "reasonableness of the comprehensive plan, or element or elements thereof, relating to the issue justiciably raised or the appropriateness and completeness of the comprehensive plan, or element or elements thereof, in relation to the governmental action or development regulation under consideration." § 163.3194(4)(a), Fla. Stat.
Here, the trial court’s order incorrectly reviewed the development order and the Plan by neglecting to consider the “reasonableness of the comprehensive plan, or element or elements thereof.” By reviewing the applicable provisions of the Plan as a whole, the most reasonable and holistic interpretation, based on both the text and the synthesis of the document, we have no doubt that the development order is consistent with the Plan. This is necessarily so, because when read in pari materia, it is clear that the Plan and its elements provide that within certain Zones that actually discharge rainwater runoff into Lake Jackson, Leon County has established much more stringent development limitations for one primary purpose: to protect Lake Jackson from polluted rainwater runoff
It is hard to underestimate the importance of this decision to landowners/developers. For years, neighbors and local government attorneys have used the "each and every element" language in Machado to argue that development orders must be consistent with unreasonable, atomic analyses of particular plan provisions - which can easily be taken out of context. Every land use lawyer in Florida knows the result: every complex plan in the state has provisions that can be used to defeat ANY development order at any time through an unreasoning application of the consistency doctrine and vague and subjective plan provisions. This opinion is a strong stake in the ground that "strict scrutiny" must be balanced by a reasonable application and result.
The Court went on to reject an argument that this interpretation would create other "absurd" results in applying the Plan - citing not only the speculative nature of those claims, but also stating that the "absurdity" doctrine in statutory construction should be applied restrively.
In discovery, the Village admitted that the Plan Amendment - and the project - were consistent with the comprehensive plan. Apparently the project required a future land use map amendment that brought the map into consistency with other policies, and the project was totally consistent with the other policies an map.
The Village, in effect, claimed that it had complete legislative discretion to deny the FLUM amendment and therefore the development orders even if they were otherwise consistent with the Plan. The circuit court disagreed and the 3d DCA upheld the circuit court.
This is a MUST READ. The facts may end up unique, but the case is the first case that establishes a critical proposition: that local governments may be obligated to adopt amendments and development orders that are consistent with their Plans.
5th DCA Mangles the "As Applied" Requirement of the Bert J. Harris Act and Confuses Reasonably Foreseeable, Reasonable Investment Backed Expectations
In 2002 the Citrus County Commission approved a rezoning and development plan, which neighbors then challenged as inconsistent with the comprehensive plan. A plan designation adopted in 1997 limited development density around lakes to 1 unit per 20 acres, but (and the 5th DCA ignores this critical component of the trial court's analysis) also had a provision allowing the County Commission to approve higher densities and uses consistent with the existing zoning/land use designation. This property had a "generic" zone district and an existing RV/camp park. Based on this combination of existing uses and density, the planning staff and eventually the county commissioners thought the property was vested for density and qualified for the exception in the comprehensive plan.
The rezoning was challenged under § 163.3215 as contrary to the low density land use designation, and the circuit court in that case sided with the neighbors, holding that the plan didn't allow the rezoning or use. Based on this new 2002 court interpretation of the effect of the 1997 comprehensive plan amendment, the developer sued under the Bert Harris Act and won at the trial court level. However, the 5th DCA, not liking the outcome, went searching for reasons to overturn the circuit court decision. In the process, the 5th DCA avoided key facts and misinterpreted the Act.
Under the Act, a landowner may seek compensation when a specific action of a governmental entity inordinately burdens either a vested right or an “existing use” of property. One of the definitions of an "existing use" is a "reasonably foreseeable, non-speculative land use that is suitable for the real property, compatible with adjacent land uses, and that has raised the fair market value of the property . . . " (a "reasonably foreseeable use"). One of the definitions of an inordinate burden is that a property owner is permanently unable to realize "reasonable investment backed expectations" in the vested right or existing use.
Here, the 5th DCA determined that the suit was filed too late under the Act, which requires the property owner to provide a notice of claim to the government entity involved within 1 year of the application of a new statute, regulation or ordinance that inordinately burdens real property. A "specific action of a government entity" is a defined term that specifically includes action on a permit or application, i.e., the application of a statute, regulation or ordinance to the particular property at issue. Within the Act there are various internal references to the application - rather than adoption - of statutes, regulations or ordinances, which clearly establish that a property owner must make some kind of application and have it acted upon or suffer some form of enforcement action, before filing a claim. This was also the interpretation of all of the commentators who wrote about the Act. So, if the prior property owner had made a claim in 1998 against the adoption of the plan amendment, the County's correct defense would have been that it was premature until an actual application had been made and denied, giving the County a chance to determine whether other provisions of the plan allowed relief from the objective density limits in the designation.
The 5th DCA paid no attention to all of this evidence that specific action on an application or permit was the trigger for a government action that creates liability, and determined that the mere adoption of some ordinances - or plan policies - can be the “specific action of a government entity” that triggers the 1 year requirement. The 5th DCA opined that where a comprehensive plan or other regulation includes a clear and objective standard (like height or density), the mere adoption of the ordinance "applies" that ordinance to property and triggers the one year challenge period. The 5th DCA found that the plan designation had that kind of objective limit - completely ignoring the plan provision that authorized the
The 5th DCA then used its interpretation of the plan provision to hold that the use permitted by the overturned rezoning could not have been a "reasonably foreseeable, non-speculative land use." Even though the planning department thought the rezoning and use/density were permitted under the plan (and existing zoning), even though the County Commission thought it was consistent with the plan, and even though it took a "consistency challenge" by neighbors to determine that the development was not consistent with the comprehensive plan, the 5th DCA determined that the developer had no right or ability to rely on the interpretations of those professionals before proceeding, and that a development that is (later determined to be) inconsistent with the plan cannot be "reasonably foreseeable."
The 5th DCA also applied this distorted view of the facts to the Circuit Court's determination that the property had been inordinately burdened, holding that the owner could not have had "reasonable investment backed expectations" because he closed on the property after the adoption of the plan amendment that (the Court reasoned) prohibited the development. This interpretation ignores U.S. Supreme Court and
The Court found that the developer could not have relied on the County staff representations of the comprehensive plan because they were (later found to be) legally incorrect, and that this precluded the landowner from having either an "existing use" (in the form of a reasonably foreseeable use) or an "inordinate burden" (because there was no reasonable expectation). This is a misinterpretation of the Act. While under Florida law "vested rights" against the application of a regulation are not created by a legally incorrect statement by a government official ("yeah, I think you can fill that wetland"), the District Court mistakenly ties this doctrine to whether a landowner has a "reasonably foreseeable use" or "reasonable investment backed expectations."
The 5th DCA’s holdings fly in the face of the legislative intent that the Act provide a remedy for property owners harmed by the application of statutes, regulations and ordinances adopted after 1995. However, if, as occurred here, the adoption of a new, post-1995 law precludes a landowner from having a "reasonable investment backed expectation" then the only people with a cause of action are those who had already had established vested rights at the time the new law was adopted. The District Court's analysis incorrectly makes "reasonable investment backed expectations" and "reasonably foreseeable uses" under the Act dependant on the landowner's ability to establish the existence of a vested right. This is demonstrably wrong: the first part of the cause of action separately protects BOTH vested rights and "existing uses," but the 5th DCA’s formulation requires a property owner to have a "vested right" in order to have both a right that would be inordinately burdened and a reasonably foreseeable use. The District Court's combination of incomplete treatment of the relevant plan provisions and errors in analysis have the effect of writing protection for "reasonably foreseeable uses" out of the Act, a result that is inconsistent with both the intent and the language of the Act.
1st DCA Confirms that Local Governments Must Issue Development Orders for Development as Defined Locally and Under Sec. 380.04, Fla. Stat., for Evalua
In Johnson v. Gulf County, the 1st DCA (on this case’s second trip from the circuit court to the 1st DCA), held that (1) a landowner was required to obtain a development order to fill certain lands alleged to be wetlands and to subdivide his property into 5 lots, so that (2) the complaining neighbors could bring a §163.3215 challenge against the action.
This action started in 2006. A landowner got a determination from FDEP that his property did not include jurisdicational wetlands of the state. He then began to fill them. He also used provisions of the
The neighbors complained that the filling violated the comprehensive plan, and also tried to bring claims under § 163.3215. The County claimed there was no need for any development permit or order (under the County code) and therefore nothing to challenge. The neighbors also claimed that the subdivision of the property violated the local ordinance.
In the first go-round, the circuit court dismissed the neighbors’ claims without leave to amend. The 1st DCA reversed, stating that the neighbors had to be given the chance to amend the complaint, but stating nothing about the substance of the matter. On remand, the circuit court dismissed the amended complaint.
The circuit court held that the filling of the wetlands (assuming they were) did not materially alter the use, density or intensity of use of the land. It found that no development order was necessary and that even if one was necessary, the filling of non-jurisdictional wetlands was not inconsistent with the plan. It also found that the “lot split/reconfigure” process used did not require full subdivision approval.
The 1st DCA reversed. It looked at the County’s plan, which included requirements that wetlands get certain protections, and determined that nothing in that plan (or the land development code) stated an FDEP determination that a wetland is not jurisdictional means that it is outside the County’s jurisdiction. It also held (and this is important to people in a lot of areas) that a minor replat process is also a development order
The 1st DCA properly found that, under the definition of development in the
The Court then did (again, appropriately) a de novo review of the provisions of the County’s subdivision regulations and found that the splitting/reconfiguring done here required a full subdivision.
Fifth DCA Reverses Itself, Circuit Court and Board of Adjustment to Hold that Special Use Permit was Inconsistent with Comprhensive Plan
The Zoning Board issued a Special Use Permit to conduct a horseback riding school and hold endurance trail ride competitions on land designated “Rural Residential” by
While the action is described as one for “declaratory relief,” review of the footnotes and the dissent clarifies that it was brought pursuant to §163.3215,
The majority’s approach is consistent with cases like Dixon v. City of Jacksonville, Saddeh v. City of Jacksonville, and Bay County v. Harrison, holding (a) courts review the provisions of comprehensive plans de novo and do not give deference to local interpretation, and (b) plans are interpreted so that land uses not specifically permitted (or permitted by direct implication) within a land use category are presumed to be prohibited, particularly when they are permitted in other categories.
The dissent by Judge Griffin questions whether the SUP was a development order subject to challenge under § 163.3215. The dissent’s main focus and claim is that the majority essentially overanalyses the issue and ignores the provision of the Rural Residential category that permits “Activity and Resource Based recreational uses.” In her review of the record, Judge Griffin focused on the findings of the Zoning Board and the circuit court judges that tied the “boarding and riding school uses” more to recreational uses than commercial uses, and noted that commercial uses that are recreation-oriented were permitted. Judge Griffin also questioned the analytic approach to consistency. It appears she would hold in order to find a development order inconsistent with a plan, there must be a specific provision that is violated. I think this holds true with policies that involve development standards (prescribing wetland buffers, for example), but is much more problematic when it involves the uses permitted in particular land use categories.
This case is very interesting and important because even though they come to different conclusions, both the majority opinion and the dissent are doing exactly what the courts should be doing: digging into the meaning of the plan, the LDCs and the record to determine whether the local government is or is not acting within the boundaries of the Plan. By passing §163.3215, the Legislature instructed the courts to “act as super-zoning boards” in the interpretation of the plan.
As a side note, this is one of those cases where I read the opinions and think that I could have gone either way on the analysis. All in all, I think the majority opinion got too caught up in the staff’s early categorization of the use as “agriculture: commercial” and didn’t focus enough on whether the use could be considered “activity and resource based recreational.” That said, and without the benefit of the record, the combination of a boarding facility, a riding school, and endurance contests seems to me to push it into a commercial use that is not “activity based recreation.” I also recognize that rural areas did, do and should permit more flexibility in how the lands are used productively and I would probably lean the other way if there was evidence that other, similar types of uses in the area and in the same land use category had similar levels of activity and mipact. If this kind of commercial activity related to rural/agricultural uses was intended, the Plan should have included a definition or description of "activity based recreation" to include things like canoe/kayak rentals, riding/boarding facilities, etc.
1st DCA – High Density Condo Hotel Does not Violate Plan that Sets Residential but not Transient/Hotel/Motel/Temporary Density.
The 1st DCA overturned a trial court decision that found a 279 condo/hotel project that is a “resort condominium” under state law to violate a 15 dwelling unit per acre residential density found in the comprehensive plan (the site is about 2 acres). The 1st found that the units were not “dwelling units” and that the plan – unlike many – did not set a separate density for “dwelling units” and “transient” type units (including resort condominiums).
This is a fairly straightforward plan interpretation case on one hand, but on the other shows that the 1st DCA still looks at the interpretation of comp plans with more acuity than almost any other district.
That twist is that the landowners didn't start the rights determination process till later, and got caught up further when the City incorporated and adopted and amended the County's land use regulations.
I think there may some different defenses and issues than were presented in the Monroe case ---- in particular, what happens if property is subjected to a limitation by one government agency or local government, then the same restriction is reapplied by another jurisdiction - does a new cause of action get created? But that question is totally buried in the larger mistake regarding facial vs as applied challenges.
The problem is that in the process, the court totally mangled the difference between a "categorical" taking and an "balancing test" taking, confusing them with facial vs. as applied takings. The Court held that a challenge based on the deprivation of "all economic use" of the property was a facial taking and would be subject to the four year statute from the time of adoption, but that these were claims of substantial deprivation of value and the time ran from the final application:
In an as-applied claim, the landowner challenges the regulation in the
context of a concrete controversy specifically regarding the impact of the
regulation on a particular parcel of property. Taylor, 659 So. 2d at 1167. The
standard of proof for an as-applied taking is whether there has been a
substantial deprivation of economic use or reasonable investment-backed
expectations. See generally Penn Central Transp. v. City of New York, 438 U.S.
104 (1978) (considering the economic impact of the regulation on the claimant,
the extent to which the regulation has interfered with distinct investment-backed expectations, and the character of the government action; diminution in the property value alone cannot establish a taking); Taylor, 659 So. 2d at 1167. The question presented is whether the record shows that the Landowners were deprived by the enactment of the 2010 Comprehensive Plan of all economic use of their property, which amounts to a facial taking, or were deprived of substantial use of their property, but left with some economic value, which is an as-applied taking.
The problem is that the court's analysis here is totally wrong: a "categorical" Lucas-type claim that a regulation has deprived the landowner of all economic use is almost never a facial claim, nor can it be under the ripeness requirements that the Court discusses later in the opinion.
Here, the application of Monroe County's comp plan and ldr was at issue. On their face, they preclude development in huge areas of the county and require compliance with strict "rate of growth" requirements that preclude even individual building permits for existing lots. But the ordinance has an entire administrative process for both vested rights and for what amounts to an administrative determination that a taking will occur if rights aren't given, with recommendations to either grant a permit or buy the property.
With particular respect to the whole Monroe County regulatory scheme, courts have held that the availability of this remedy precludes takings claims until or unless the process is followed. They also have held that no temporary or permanent taking can occur until after the completion of the process. So the ripeness and other doctrines effectively preclude a facial challenge to the ordinances (and most land use lawyers knew this) .
The core distinctions are categorical takings, which do not require a demonstration of the value of the property taken or remaining in order to demonstrate the taking, and "balancing" type tests where the financial or economic impact must be assessed against the property as a whole.
Which then gets you to the different sub-causes of action under a takings theory:
1. Illegal conditions (Nollan/Dolan) on a development permit or application that require an exaction. This clearly requires a property-specific application, but it is a categorical type taking in that if the exaction is not proportional to the impacts created, it is a taking regardless of the effects on the value of the property as a whole However, the essence of this claim is that the government assessed the exaction against a particular proposal, so it is always as-applied.
- Note these distinctions were behind the whole highway reservation as a takings fight in the early 90s. One decision held that the reservation statute, which prohibited all development within reservation areas designated next to state roads, was unconstitutional because it "took" property (the right to use the reserved area) without making any provision for compensation. Later cases clarified that even if such statutes are unconstitutional, there are not actual "takings" of property until or unless the reservation is applied to a particular property so as to deny particular uses and the government refuses to either vary the prohibition or pay compensation.
2. Illegal violation of the right to exclude/imposed right to use (Loretto Teleprompter) - an ordinance or statute that allows another person or the government to use your property (like to hang cable television) is a forced grant of easement or license - this is a "categorical" taking in that it doesn't require a demonstration of the value of the right 'taken' or the remaining rights in the property. However, there is not taking until someone takes advantage of the ordinance or statute, so it almost always an as-applied claim.
3. The Lucas case: total taking of all economic use . This is a "categorical" taking because if all use is removed, the relative burden is irrelevant, but it is an as-applied test. If a regulation prevents ANY use of property, it is a taking. However, in almost any conceivable situation in order to prove that it does that, a landowner would have to apply to use the property and be denied, or to try to get some administrative determination of rights (as here) and be told there are none. So ripeness and damages issues almost always will make this an as-applied challenge.
The big and still unresolved issue in these cases has to do with "use" versus "non-use" value: what if all use is prohibited, but the land has some use to someone other than the owner, perhaps as open space, or as a beach access, or some other function that is totally accessory to a separate parcel. Under the strict language of Lucas, and one critical footnote, the focus is on the value created by the use of the property by the owner, and the potential for some value to the property in its sale or passive use by another would not count. But that isn't followed in a number of cases.
4. Penn Central Balancing -- This is the general and difficult case where there are some uses left to a property, but they are significantly limited in a way that so limits "legitimate, investment backed expectations" so as to create a taking (along with several other considerations described in the opinion). It always is an "as applied" challenge, because it is the particular effect of the regulation on the particular facts of the property and expectations of the owner that are at issue.
The 3d DCA opinion is simply mind-blowingly wrong and perverse: if you claim that an ordinance deprives you of all economic use, you can only raise that within four years of adoption, even if you haven't actually had it applied to your property so you can prove it.
This opinion would create a situation where the government was better off getting someone into the application process and then - four years later- adopting an interpretation that the owner couldn't use the property at all than if the government allowed some (but not much) use of the property.
One can only hope that this will get corrected, and quickly.
The issue that the dissent fixed on is the one that might also be the political chain around this measure's neck: the very restrictive requirements for signing petitions to require a referendum for a particular plan amendment. The dissenting justices found that the summary's failure to disclose those restrictions made it misleading. I'm quite sure that quotes from the dissent will be placed front and center in materials attacking the amendment.
I personally wish those provisions were not there - or less onerous. I think that the idea of having a referendum by petition (rather requiring them automatically) is a decent compromise - but the pretty extreme limitations on this amendment may limit its use as an anti-Hometown Demagogy weapon.
The gist of the Court's complaint was that the impact statement assumed that there would have to be a significant number of special elections:
As drafted, the revised financial impact statement would mislead voters into
believing that implementation of the amendment will require the expenditure of
millions of dollars. Such an inference is patently contrary to the purpose of
the amendment, which is to limit the number of amendments to local comprehensive
land use plans.
Of course, the courts statement of the "purpose" of Hometown Demagoguey is simply not true: the purpose is not to limit the number of amendments, but to subject them to referenda. Limiting the number of amendments is not a stated purpose - at least it's nowhere in the ballot title and summary.
A majority of the Court (at least this time - see later opinion on the "counter-amendment") seem dedicated to seeing this as a "good government" reform- there seems to be no recognition of the highly problematic and anti-democratic effects it will have. There's no recognition of the number of state-mandated amendments that will have to be processed (many on an annual basis) and voted on, no recognition that there is a right to seek plan amendments, no recognition that each amendment might require its own place on a ballot, no recognition that there aren't twice a year elections in most jurisdictions.
In CNL Resorts v. City of Doral, the 3d DCA overturned an ALJ order that dismissed a counts in a challenge to a comprehensive plan amendment that claimed inconsistency with the provision of the state comprehensive plan that requires consideration and protection of private property rights.
The first interesting issue was that the court accepted the interlocutory appeal of the dismissal on the basis that concurrency windows were shutting and would harm the landowner:
Here, we agree that CNL would be deprived of an adequate remedy and suffer
irreparable injury due to the City having limited roadway capacity. In order to
develop property, landowners need to obtain the requisite permits from the City.
Thus, during the pending proceedings, the surrounding permitted neighbors will
continue to develop their properties and consume the available roadway. In turn,
once the available roadway capacity is filled, CNL will not be able to obtain a
permit, and its development rights will be extinguished. Therefore, CNL has
shown there is no adequate remedy without this Court’s immediate review, and we
have jurisdiction to hear CNL’s petition
On the substantive issue, the ALJ had found that the petitioner was trying to raise constitutional claims that were not proper in the administrative forum. The 3d DCA disagreed, finding (correctly, I think) that the claim was whether the statutory requirement to consider and respect property rights had been met.
If this challenge is ultimately successful, it creates an interesting theory for landowners who believe that the plan provisions improperly restrict property rights - worth reading for everyone.