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Austin Turner concentrates his practice in the areas of land use and environmental law and is admitted to practice in all Florida state courts. He counsels clients on land use entitlements, such as comprehensive plan amendments, rezonings, DRIs, variances, and other matters which commonly arise for property owners. Austin also assists clients regarding legal issues relating to property contamination and regulations for surface or ground water. He advocates on behalf of clients before agencies including the Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Prior to joining Henderson Franklin, Austin served as a summer associate in 2014 and also worked as a law clerk at a large land use and environmental law firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. Austin also spent time during law school at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection working at the Defense Section of the Office of General Counsel, for which he was recognized at his graduation ceremony with a certificate for his distinguished pro bono services.

Before graduating summa cum laude from Florida State University College of Law, Austin was inducted into Phi Delta Phi, a legal honors society. He was also the recipient of eight book awards, which are provided to students who earn the highest grade in their class. In his final year of law school, Austin was chosen to become a member of his local chapter of the American Inn of Court, a prestigious group whose mission is dedicated to fostering professionalism and civility in the practice of law.

Unlike certain “unalienable rights” granted to citizens under the United States Constitution, property interests are traditionally understood to have been created by a number of independent sources such as statutes, ordinances, or contracts. The general concept of property itself is construed as the group of rights inhering in the citizen’s relation to the physical thing, such as the right to possess, use and dispose of it.

Modern courts, however, acknowledge that the traditional notion of property interests encompass a variety of other valuable interests, such as intangible and incorporeal rights (e.g., leases, easements, right-of-ways, and mortgages) or other uses which extend well beyond the historic norms of property to establish an entirely legitimate claim to certain additional land use entitlements as well.

What is an “Exaction”?

The term “exaction” is when a condition for development is imposed on a parcel of land which requires the developer to mitigate anticipated negative impacts of the development. An exaction may include some sort of mandatory dedication of real property for impact fee payments, sewer or water utility connection fees, or public use of land for a park, school, or transportation facility or expansion anticipated for certain related infrastructure improvements.

The Doctrine of “Unconstitutional Conditions”


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Due to the growing use by local governments of certain quasi-judicial code enforcement proceedings to obtain compliance with their local land use and zoning regulations, it is important for Florida property owners and business operators to have a thorough understanding of administrative enforcement proceedings.

Local Government Enforcement Authority

Florida’s statutory scheme governing local code enforcement procedures is divided into two separate parts under Chapter 162 of Florida Statutes. There is no statutory provision prohibiting local governments from enforcing their land use development and zoning regulations by other means. Section 162.13 provides that the provisions of Chapter 162 are supplemental procedures for local governments to achieve code compliance and are therefore intended “to provide an additional or supplemental means of obtaining compliance with local [government] codes.”

Penalties and Fines


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Florida’s State Constitution & Amendments Proposed by the Constitutional Revision Commission (“CRC”)

Once every twenty years the Florida Constitution provides for the creation of a thirty-seven member revision commission (hereinafter referred to as the “CRC”) which is appointed for the specific purpose of reviewing the Florida Constitution and proposing changes to be considered for voter consideration.

As such, the CRC has been uniquely vested with the duty to examine the Constitution of the State of Florida, as revised in 1968 and subsequently amended, hold public hearings, and file with the Secretary of State its proposed changes, if any.

Florida Constitution Article XI, Section 2


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As of January 1st of 2017, it has been reported that the total value of real property in Lee County increased for the fifth consecutive year to $105.6 billion (nearly 9% higher than 2016 values).

With this year’s Truth in Millage (“TRIM”) Notices just around the corner (typically mailed by the Lee County Property Appraiser in mid-August), one recent legal opinion highlights the nuances of remedies available to the property owner—and the Property Appraiser—in the event assessed values are contested.

Background on Florida’s “Save Our Homes” Doctrine

For real property that has been classified as a “homestead” in Florida, the Save Our Homes provision of Section 193.155(1), Florida Statutes, allows for an annual increase of only 3% in the assessed value of property, or the yearly increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less. Moreover, under 193.155(2), Florida Statutes, if the capped value exceeds the market value in a given year, the capped value will be reduced to the market value.

Nikolits v. Haney


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tax.jpgWith Florida’s 2017 Regular Session officially adjourned on May 8, 2017, only 203 bills (of the total 1,606 general bills filed) survived both chambers of the Legislature.

From the handful of legislation that ultimately passed this year, Joint Resolution CS/HJR 21 was enacted. This resolution proposes an amendment to the State’s Constitution that would limit a local government’s authority to assess non-homestead real property for purposes of ad valorem taxation.

Background

Under Florida’s Constitution, ad valorem taxation is expressly reserved to local governments. The state is prohibited from levying ad valorem taxes on real and tangible personal property.

When preparing an annual assessment, the State Constitution also generally requires that all property be assessed at just value (i.e., market value) on January 1st of each year. Thereafter, such assessments are used to calculate property taxes to fund counties, municipalities, district school boards and certain special districts.

Florida’s Existing Limitations on Assessments for Non-Homestead Property


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Over the past several years, hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) has become a very divisive environmental and political issue in many areas of the country. As our society’s desire for cleaner energy has become more of a priority, lawmakers and agencies at federal, state, and local levels have been confronted with determining whether and to what extent the use of hydraulic fracturing methods should be regulated, and whether such activities pose a potential threat to our drinking water sources.

What is Fracking?

Developed in the 1940’s, hydraulic fracturing is a method to extract conventional oil and gas resources found in permeable sandstone and carbonate reservoirs by drilling vertically into rock formations and injecting fluids under high pressures.


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For those of you who missed it, Thursday’s 2017 Commercial Real Estate Outlook Conference offered exciting sneak peeks into new, major downtown Fort Myers developments, insightful discussions on the impacts technology and millennials are having on the real estate industry, and a general feeling of optimism toward 2017’s real estate market.

While blogging etiquette won’t

imac-965325_1280As 2016 closes, we reached out to our team and asked them to share some of the most notable issues in real estate and land use & environmental law:

Residential Closing Best Practices Requirements by Amanda Barritt

2016 saw the CFPB regulations and Best Practices requirements move into high gear with respect to financed residential

landscape-nature-sunset-cloudsFor those unfamiliar with the program and its history, the Lee County (the “County”) Conservation 20/20 program functions as the County’s environmental acquisition and management program that was established to protect our local drinking water, provide nature-based recreational opportunities, protect areas from flooding and provide wildlife habitat.

The Conservation 20/20 program was originally created on July 31, 1996, when the Board of County Commission (the “BOCC”) adopted Ordinance No. 96-12, which created a “Land Committee” to assist in implementing the “Lee County Conservation Land Acquisition and Stewardship Program.” Thereafter, the 20/20 program was substantially amended by Ordinance No’s 96-12, 05-17, and 13-09. Ordinance No. 15-08 was the most recent amendment, which establishes a 15 member appointed citizen’s advisory committee called the “Conservation Lands Acquisition and Stewardship Committee” (CLASAC). CLASAC is tasked with the responsibility of advising the BOCC regarding the acquisition, restoration, improvement and management of conservation lands to meet its enumerated objectives and duties.

It is important to emphasize that, following the adoption of Ordinance No. 15-08, any changes to the County’s 20/20 program must be approved by a “super-majority” vote of the entire BOCC.

Which Lands Qualify for Consideration under Conservation 20/20?


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18050124324_b43e965017_zFollowing two recent incidents, a new emergency rule has been enacted in Florida to ensure that the public, local governments and the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) are notified by all responsible parties following a pollution incident.

Background

On August 28, 2016, Mosaic Fertilizer (“Mosaic”) notified DEP of suspected damage to a gypsum stack liner located at its New Wales Concentrate Plant, which ultimately created a sinkhole that released processed water into the underlying groundwater. While DEP responded to the site within 24 hours to assess potential response actions, the public did not learn of the issue until three weeks later. Also, although DEP reports indicated that no contamination had migrated off-site and therefore no public notification was required under the applicable Florida regulations, many residents remained concerned about the mere possibility of off-site contamination and the timeliness of Mosaic’s public notice.

Thereafter, on September 7, 2016, unauthorized discharges of domestic wastewater were released into Tampa Bay by facilities operated by the City of St. Petersburg, in Pinellas County. Similar to the Mosaic sinkhole, the public and environmental stakeholders expressed concerns about the accuracy and timeliness of information provided to the public by City officials.

Governor Order’s New Emergency Rule


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