Property rights bill clears final House stop with fewer local government concerns

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A House property rights bill prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court case involving a Florida landowner was amended Wednesday to resolve many concerns raised by local governments.

The Supreme Court in 2013 overturned a Florida Supreme Court ruling against the late Coy A. Koontz Sr., who sought to build on 3.7 of his 15 acres in Orange County. He refused when told by the St. Johns River Water Management District to reduce the development size or pay to restore wetlands elsewhere.

Property rights supporters hailed the U.S. Supreme Court decision. And in January, Rep. Katie Edwards, a Democrat from Plantation, filed HB 383, which creates a cause of action to recover monetary damages for landowners where state and local governments impose conditions that rise to the level of “unconstitutional exactions.”

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee adopted a bill amendment by Rep. John Wood that he said narrows the definition of damages that can be claimed and clarifies the actions of government that can be challenged.

Representatives of the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida League of Cities who previously opposed the bill said many of their concerns were addressed.

“We are in full support of this amendment,” said Stephen James, representing the Florida Association of Counties. “We continue to work on this bill — if so in the Senate we will be there every day as well.”

Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist representing the city of Venice, said the city remains concerned that a property owner may agree to conditions but later decide he can’t meet them.

In that case, he said, the city could be sued for revoking the permit. Iarossi suggested reducing the time period from 180 days for a property owner to file suit for a prohibited exaction.

“You have fixed the vast majority of concerns we had (with the bill) and we appreciate that,” Iarossi said. “This is the one remaining thing and we look forward to working with you on that.”

There were no other comments in opposition to the bill. Groups supporting it include the Association of Florida Community Developers, the Florida Home Builders Association, and the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.

Edwards, a Democrat from Plantation, called the bill a “labor of love” that was inspired by members of a family who told her at a funeral they spent “26 years of hell at the hands of a government official just to get a right-of-way permit.”

“What they were asked to do quite frankly was criminal and it was wrong,” she said. “My bill seeks to prevent that from happening to any family again.”

Her bill now is headed to the House floor. The Senate companion, SB 284, has two more committee stops.

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee.

Bruce Ritchie


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