Sunday, May 17, 2015

City Cannot Levy Special Assessments Against Special District Absent Express Authority to Levy or Pay: B. North Port Road and Drainage District v. West Village Improvement District, 82 So. 3d 69 (Fla. 2012)

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.

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