LAKELAND — The 2nd District Court of Appeal on June 30 said Florida homeowners' claims against additional commercial development were outside the purview of the Consistency Statute, affirming a Circuit Court’s decision. 

Judge Edward LaRose delivered the opinion.

According to background information in the ruling, Frederick and Barbara Heine live in a residential community south of the North Lake in Lee County, which is part of the 800 acres owned by Alico West Fund, a land development and agribusiness company. The North Lake and South Lake connect, and the Heine used both for recreation.

In 2010, Lee County amended its comprehensive plan to designate a portion of Alico's property to the Florida Gulf Coast University community, court records state. Alico’s new rezoning resolution would cater to the housing, commercial and recreational needs of nearby university students, faculty and staff. The resolution authorized an increase in development of up to 250 hotel rooms, 246,500 square feet of commercial/retail space, 100,000 square feet of office space and 300,000 square feet of research and development space.

The Heines challenged the resolution, alleging it was inconsistent with provisions of Lee County's comprehensive plan, citing reasons such as failure to consider noise and security on the property and failure to enforce conditions regarding minimum square footage of commercial space and minimum residential density requirements. A trial court granted summary judgment on Alico's and Lee County's joint motion, ruling that the Heines' challenges were not within the scope of the Consistency Statute because they do not qualify as uses, densities or intensities of uses.

LaRose affirmed the trial court’s order, writing that Florida law mandates consistency between a local government's comprehensive plan and its development orders, and the Lee County board of commissioners' rezoning resolution qualifies as a development order.

LaRose wrote that the Consistency Statute was intended to liberalize standing, not broaden the scope of what a party with standing may challenge beyond use, density and intensity and that the trial court was correct in construing the statute literally, rather than liberally.

The Heines were represented by Robert K. Lincoln of the Law Office of Robert K. Lincoln P.A. in Sarasota.

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