Legal Report, July 2013
General Counsel, Trela J. White
1. Posting of Budget on Municipality’s Official Website
Section 166.241, Florida Statutes, states that a municipality’s tentative budget must be posted on the municipality’s official website at least 2 days before its budget hearings. The final adopted budget must be posted on the municipality’s official website within 30 days after adoption. If the municipality does not operate an official website, then the municipality must, within a reasonable period of time, transmit the tentative budget and final budget to the county administrator who shall post the budgets on the county’s website.
2. Koontz vs. St. John’s River Water Management District
Case Number 11-1447 of the Supreme Court of the United States. Exactions of Property, Easements or Money In Exchange for Development Approvals.
The case involved a 14.9-acre property, which consisted primarily of wetlands and was owned by Coy Koontz, Sr. In the 1990s, Mr. Koontz sought a permit from the local water management district to develop 3.7 acres of the land. In exchange for the permit, the water management district demanded that Mr. Koontz develop only 1 acre of his land and conserve the rest, or pay for contractors to make improvements to other government-owned wetlands within the same watershed, but several miles away. Mr. Koontz turned down both options and the water management district denied the permit. Mr. Koontz then sued. The case centered on whether the water management district deprived Mr. Koontz of his private property rights without just compensation when it denied the permit. The water management district argued that nothing was actually “taken” from Mr. Koontz. On June 25, 2013, the United States Supreme Court sided with Mr. Koontz. The Supreme Court held that “[i]t makes no difference that no property was actually taken in this case. Extortionate demands for property in the land-use permitting context run afoul of the Takings Clause not because they take property but because they impermissibly burden the right not to have property taken without just compensation.” Following the Koontz decision, local governments should note that any demands for property, easements or money from a property owner in exchange for a permit are permitted only where there is a rational nexus (i.e. logical relationship) and rough proportionality between the conditions imposed and the projected effects of the development. Governments are prohibited from going beyond mitigation of project impacts and engaging in “out and out extortion.” When a government goes too far, either through a requirement that the applicant give up property or pay money, the government may be required to pay just compensation for the exaction. In sum, the “nexus” limitation and “proportionality” test state that a government cannot demand a concession from a property owner that is either unrelated to the harm caused, or disproportionate to it.
3. Town of Gulf Stream et al vs. Palm Beach County, and Sharon R. Bock, as Clerk and Comptroller of Palm Beach County, Intervenor
Case No. 502011CA017953XXXXMB. Inspector General Funding Lawsuit.
Fourteen municipalities have sued Palm Beach County challenging the method of funding for the Inspector General Program. The municipalities contend that the current funding method is an unlawful tax and invades municipal home rule budgetary authority. On July 11, 2013, a hearing was held on the municipalities’ Motion to Dismiss the County’s Amended Counterclaim. The County’s Amended Counterclaim contained two causes of action: (1) Count I for breach of ordinance; and (2) Count II for unjust enrichment. The Trial Court dismissed Count I of the County’s Amended Counterclaim because the County failed to plead how municipal sovereign immunity had been waived with respect to the charges for the IG Program. This dismissal was without prejudice meaning the County can re-file the Counterclaim within ten (10) days if it is able to allege a waiver of municipal sovereign immunity. The Trial Court dismissed Count II of the County’s Amended Counterclaim because the claim for unjust enrichment was barred by municipal sovereign immunity. This dismissal was with prejudice meaning the County cannot re-file this Count.
4. City of Orlando and Lasercraft, Inc. vs. Michael Udowychenko, etc.
Case Number SC12-1471. Red Light Cameras.
This case was reported on at the July 2012 League meeting and the details are contained in the July Legal Update, which is located on the League’s website. On November 6, 2012, the Florida Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction of the case. The parties have filed their respective briefs. No further action has been taken by the Florida Supreme Court at this time.
5. RLI Live Oak LLC v. South Florida Water Management District
Case Number SC12-2336. New Heightened Evidentiary Burden To Enforce Regulatory Programs Through Monetary Penalties.
This case was reported on at the January 2013 League meeting and the details are contained in the January 2013 Legal Update, which is located on the League’s website. On March 7, 2013, the Florida Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction of the case. The initial brief and answer brief have been filed. No further action has been taken by the Florida Supreme Court at this time.