Florida to appeal ruling overturning 2009 growth law changes

The Attorney General’s Office says it will appeal a judge’s ruling on a controversial 2009 growth management law that may have created uncertainty and confusion among local governments and developers.

Chief Circuit Judge Charles Francis on Aug. 26 struck down the changes contained in SB 360, which removed a requirement in state law that developers pay for new roads. The bill, which was passed in 2009, also designated eight of the state’s largest counties and 411 cities as “dense urban” areas where state oversight of large developments was removed.

The Attorney General’s Office filed a notice in Circuit Court on Friday saying that it was appealing to the 1st District Court of Appeal on behalf of Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul after Francis denied requests for rehearings. A group of cities successfully challenged the law as an “unfunded mandate” prohibited by the state constitution.

SB 360 was one of the most controversial bills in 2009 as it was supported by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Home Builders Association and faced opposition from environmental groups. Supporters said the bill would encourage urban infill and development while opponents said it would create urban sprawl while removing needed state oversight.

Some cities and counties have successfully adopted new development rules to comply with SB 360 while others were in the process, said Miranda Fitzgerald, an attorney in Orlando with Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed.

The state’s decision to appeal stays the implementation of the ruling, the Florida Department of Community Affairs said in a notice posted on its web site Monday. But Fitzgerald said the ruling should cause other cities and counties to wait before moving forward to adopt development rules under SB 360.

“It’s confusing and I think everybody’s going to be gun-shy,” she said. SB 1752 this year protected cities and counties that had received approval of new rules, but Fitzgerald said it’s uncertain whether local governments that did not receive approval prior to the Aug. 23 court ruling will be protected.

EDITORS NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the ruling was being appealed on behalf of Gov. Charlie Crist. Although Crist was a defendant in the lawsuit, the ruling is being appealed only on behalf of Atwater and Cretul.

(Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting brucebritchie@gmail.com.)