1000 Friends files brief to defend Florida growth management laws

1000 Friends of Florida
March 11, 2018 1:00 p.m.

One hallmark of Florida growth management law is that each city and county has to comply with its own comprehensive plan which is adopted and lays out the community vision on many topics including growth, water, recreation, transportation, and environmental conservation.

That a community should comply with its plan, once it has gone to the trouble of creating one with community and property owner input, seems like a no-brainer. But before 1985, local governments were not required to adhere to their comprehensive plans. Development that didn’t meet plan requirements could still occur.

Now, Florida is at risk of returning to that pre-1985 state.

At issue is the consistency challenge. The way the legislature decided to hold local governments accountable to their comprehensive plans is through citizen enforcement. Florida Statutes allow any resident who is adversely affected by a development decision to challenge whether that decision complies with the law through the courts. This process is called the consistency challenge.

But recent court decisions have said the consistency challenge can only enforce use, density, and intensity requirements of comprehensive plans. When development violates the law for any other reason-like historic preservation, environmental conservation, compatibility with surrounding development, etc.-some courts have said Florida law offers citizens and property owners no protection.

1000 Friends of Florida is entering the fray to defend growth management in Florida. The organization this week filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief in Miami v. Cruz, a Third District Court of Appeal case.

The plaintiffs in this case are protecting their historic neighborhood from encroaching commercial development that does not comply with the city’s comprehensive plan. They have had to turn to the courts to compel the city of Miami to follow its own rules. But the courts have said historic preservation rules in comprehensive plans cannot be enforced. 1000 Friends argues in its legal filing that the city is wrong.

“Growth management in Florida is built on two pillars,” explains 1000 Friends Policy & Planning Director Thomas Hawkins. “One is that local governments create plans that meet minimum standards in Florida law. The other is that-once a plan is in place-the local government will follow that plan when permitting development.” Says Hawkins, “If local governments don’t actually have to follow their plans, then planning will become a meaningless exercise. This issue is at the very heart of Florida’s system of growth management.”

“1000 Friends participates in litigation when the outcome will have ramifications on growth management for all Floridians. Miami v. Cruz is just such a case,” adds 1000 Friends Interim President Vivian Young. “What the court decides here may determine whether planning in Florida matters.”

In addition to itself, counsel for 1000 Friends is also representing Florida Defenders of the Environment, Inc. and Florida Wildlife Federation, Inc.

1000 Friends of Florida, a statewide not-for-profit membership organization, was founded in 1986 to serve as “watchdog” over planning and growth issues in the third largest state in the nation.
For more information, visit www.1000friendsofflorida.org.

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