Commercial real estate developers in Florida may find it helpful to know that there is recourse to due process when issues arise concerning the approval of building plans. As reported by the Boca Raton Tribune, city officials voted unanimously to deny a developer’s request for a variance to build a four-story ocean-front residential duplex. The new building was to be located about a half-mile away from Boca Raton’s Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, which is situated on a protected 20-acre stretch of barrier reef.
The Boca Raton City Council decided against the variance because it would have allowed the developer to build beyond the Coastal Construction Control Line. An exception to the rules would have been required to proceed with construction extending past the CCCL. The multimillion-dollar luxury homes developer, however, filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach Circuit Court alleging the city wrongfully deprived the landowner to build by failing to provide a fair hearing.
The developer’s suit claims that the city was biased and its actions were based on self-interest when the development plans were rejected. The complaint also alleges the city acted unfairly by getting the land appraised for $7.2 million and then refusing to buy it when the developer offered it for sale.
The developer claims to have been in compliance with city and state environmental laws. Information was provided to demonstrate how the construction project met all of the city’s requirements for preserving the area’s sea turtles, their nesting areas and continued survival. The sea grapes and sand dunes that currently occupy the land would remain after the duplex was erected. The suit alleges that the city cut the developer’s presentation short and did not allow enough time for his team of experts to finish speaking.
City officials, on the other hand, claim they reviewed the developer’s plans and provided an opportunity for taxpaying residents to express their concerns and dissent. Neighbors argued that permitting construction close to the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center would attract more developers to the area and also block the current views of the ocean. The city determined that the plans did not meet the criteria to receive an exception that would allow for the duplex to be built.
The developer’s story as reported in the Sun Sentinel illustrates how an alleged denial of due process may be asserted when challenging a city’s decision. Developers may have the right to present their case in court to challenge the outcome of a vote when a city blocks a construction effort.