Wednesday, October 27, 2004

UPDATED: DRI DO vesting under 163.3167(8) limited by 1st DCA; comp plan consistency applies to "sub-substantial" deviations

I was bemoaning the paucity of new land uses cases to post the other day. Just in time for the holiday season, the 1st DCA released this opinion on Monday, which holds that DRI's are not vested against the application of the local comprehensive plan for changes in the Development Order, even when those changes do not reach the scope of a "substantial deviation."

The specific situation (which will almost certainly cause litigation over whether the opinion means what it says) was that a developer proposed a change in a longstanding but continually devleoping DRI development order. The change would have altered the use of several parcels, adding 66 units and allowing a higher high-rise that was approved in the DO.

The RC and DCA found that the changes did not qualify as a substantial deviation. The developer applied for a NOA to change the DO with the County Commission, which denied it. This threw the issue to the gov and cabinet sitting as FLWAC, who denied the change, based on its inconsistency with elements of the comprehensive plan (not on the basis that it was, in fact, a substantial deviation).

The 1st DCA entered an en banc opinon (with dissents) to bind the entire panel. Here's the key holding:

Once a DRI has been approved, the right to develop pursuant to the terms of the DRI vests. See § 163.3167(8), Fla. Stat. (2001). Vesting means development rights obtained through a previously approved DRI are not lost by subsequent changes in the law. It does not, and cannot, create entitlement to greater rights than those originally obtained.

Accordingly, a proposed change jeopardizes vested rights because, by definition, the change seeks different development rights than those development rights originally approved

While the facts here involve a decision on an NOA by FLWAC, the language here is stark: it says, essentially, that any change to a DRI DO does not enjoy the statutory vesting against the provisions of Chapter 163. This means that they are subject to challenge under s. 163.3215 for consistency with the Plan. That is a BIG deal.

While the 1st's en banc opinion pretty much ensures that this will apply to most administrative reviews of DRI issues, it remains to be seen whether other District Courts will apply it to DRI changes within their jurisdictions, and it seems a good bet that someone will disagree and the issue will eventually wend its way to the Supremes. In the meantime, I suspect that we'll see a bill in the next legislature to "fix" this.

PS - I got an email from a friend who took the above as being critical of the opinion. I'm not - I think that it's consistent with the clear and limited language of the vesting provision, not to mention the basic point that such exemptions should be strictly construed. It's consistent with the thinking of a lot of folks I know, but it never was clearly litigated - and the Edgewater case threw the whole matter into doubt.

I am surprised that this had to come up in such a sideways fashion rather than head on in a 163.3215 challenge to a local government action on a DO; especially since 3d parties have been excluded from challenging those DO's through the administrative process of 380.07. That section does not make the 380.07 challenge the sole remedy to address the adoption of a DRI development order, so if the DO doens't have the vested exemption, it seems to me to be fair game under 3215. But it appears that (other than Edgewater) no-one's done it.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Notice and a hearing does not a quasi-judicial proceeding make

In this opinion involving a bid challenge, the 3d DCA demonstrated that rigorous analysis of the nature of delegated authority sometimes prevails, even in the post-Snyder era of slipshod "functional analsysis."

The court held that a decision on a bid challenge was not quasi-judicial and reviewable by certiorari simply because the process provided for a noticed hearing by a hearing examiner prior to a final decision by the Board of County Commissioners. Instead, the court found that the decision was an "executive" administrative decision, challengable in a de novo action. It therefore found that the Appellate Division of the 11th Circuit was correct in transferring the matter to the civil division for trial.

While the court did not lay out the complete rationale (citing to other cases), it is clear from the context that the decision is executive because the decison of the Board is not based on the evidence produced at the special master hearing, but is effectively de novo based on the evidence, argument, and the County Manager's recommendation. The guiding ordinance does not meet the tests laid out in DeGroot v Sheffield and Bloomfield v Mayo for a delegated quasi-judicial proceeding.

A victory for clear thinking and vigorous analysis.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Temporary moratorium on approvals doesn't violate due process/not a taking

In this opinion, released on September 29, the 4th DCA held that a nine month moratorium placed on approvals of multi-family developments while a review of the comprehensive plan and land development regulations did not violate substantive due process and wasn't a taking.

On the due process end, the court held that there was a substantial nexus between the moratorium and the permissible public purpose of maintaining the status quo, agreeing with the trial court when it determined that "the temporary moratorium was an important land-use planning tool . . . to ensure that the community's problems were not exacerbated during the time it takes to formulate a regulatory scheme."

On the takings issue, the court predictably (but without much analysis) relied on Tahoe-Sierra Pres. Council v. Tahoe Regional Planning Council, 535 U.S. 302 (2002) for the proposition that temporary moratoria do not constitute a taking.

The covenent can be mightier than the LDR

In this case, released in late August, the 2d DCA reminds us that covenants restricting use are enforceable as long as they benefit the rest of the properties, even if conditions change.

Citing an earlier case, the court provided this standard for when a property can be relieved of the burdens of a covenant:

in Essenson v. Polo Club Associates, 688 So. 2d 981, 984 (Fla. 2d DCA
1997), this court held that the party seeking to be relieved of the deed restriction
hadfailed to carry its burden of proof by showing that "the change occurred,
(1) after theagreement, (2) without any fault on its part, and (3) that the
change destroyed all valueof the covenant," in spite of the fact that the
plaintiff demonstrated changed circumstances resulting from a rezoning
affecting its property.
The court found that even though the property in question here fronted a major street and had been rezoned to support the medical office desired by the new owner, the covenant still had benefits for the other owners in the subdivision.