Challenge to state development law continues

Plaintiffs are taking the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

The growth-management group 1000 Friends of Florida is appealing a circuit judge’s decision last month that tossed out a challenge to a 2019 state law that opponents say will prevent people from fighting local development decisions.

1000 Friends of Florida and individual plaintiff Robert Howell filed a notice that they are taking the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal, according to documents posted online Wednesday.

The case has targeted part of the 2019 law that deals with attorney fees in disputes about whether local development orders are consistent with comprehensive growth-management plans.

Under the law, losing parties in lawsuits about development orders can be forced to pay the attorney fees of “prevailing” parties — a change that opponents say creates huge financial risks for citizens who want to challenge local government approvals of development plans.

The lawsuit, in part, has alleged violation of constitutional due-process and First Amendment rights.

But after hearing arguments last month, Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper said he would grant motions by the defendants, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson and Secretary of State Laurel Lee, to dismiss the case.

The Department of Economic Opportunity is the state land-planning agency, while Lee is the custodian of laws. Cooper agreed with state attorneys that Lawson and Lee and their agencies are not responsible for carrying out the law.

Wire Services


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