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The 2009 Florida Legislature’s attempt to provide some relief to the development community met its demise in a Tallahassee circuit court. Circuit Judge Charles Francis’ order of Final Summary Judgment, entered on August 26, 2010, declared Senate Bill 360 unconstitutional as a violation of Article VII, Section 18(a) of the Florida Constitution, which prohibits the adoption of “unfunded mandates” to local governments. City of Weston v. Crist, Case No. 2009CA2639, 2nd Jud. Cir. According to the opinion, the law would have required certain local governments to spend over $3 million in the aggregate to process plan amendments required by the bill.

The Court found that this expenditure would not be “fiscally insignificant” so as to exempt the bill from the constitutional restrictions. Senate Bill 360 (also known as the Community Renewal Act) attempted to provide several boosts for development interests, including:

  1. exempting development from the Development of Regional Impact process in local governments identified as Dense Urban Land Areas (DULAs);
  2. establishing transportation concurrency exemption areas in local governments designated as DULAs; and
  3. providing two year extensions for certain permits that expired between September 2008 and December 2012.  

The Court’s judgment declared Senate Bill 360 unconstitutional and ordered it “expunged” from the official records of the State. During its 2010 session, the Florida Legislature took some preemptive measures anticipating a possible negative decision from the Court on Senate Bill 360. Senate Bill 1752 re-enacted the permit extension provisions of Senate Bill 360 and provided for an additional 2-year extension under certain conditions. Senate Bill 1752 requires notification be provided to the affected government agency by December 31, 2010. Because local government and agency interpretations and the application of Senate Bill 1752 may vary, permit holders who exercised their right to an extension under Senate Bill 360, or who want to exercise their rights under Senate Bill 1752, are strongly encouraged to seek competent legal review and guidance.