MIAMI – a judge in the U,S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division, recently denied a motion by Miami-Dade County to dismiss a land-use dispute case by 3630 Investment Corp.
U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno issued the ruling June 29 in the case in which 3630 Investment accused the county of improper stormwater drainage and lack of infrastructure to prevent sediment from accumulating in a boat basin on the plaintiff's property in Miami, resulting in the basin gradually becoming shallower.
The county's motion to dismiss the case centered on the idea that the plaintiff lacked standing as a party, successively acquiring the property decades after the original drainage system was put in.
In considering the case, the court looked at the timeline of alleged sedimentation and the failure of the drainage system to work properly.
“Here, plaintiffs have standing because their takings claims allegedly accrued at some point between 2012 and 2014 – while plaintiff 3630 owned the basin bottom – when the consequences of the sedimentary deposit had manifested itself in a manner that interfered with vessel mooring in the marina, and plaintiffs became aware the county was responsible for the deposit,” the court order said, citing the United States vs. Dickinson case that dealt with a "gradual physical issue."
“Adopting the county's position that the accrual of the claims occurred sometime after 1962 – when the sediment became permanent – would require this court to disregard the plain language of the Supreme Court's decision in Dickinson and make a factual determination at the motion to dismiss stage,” Moreno said in his ruling.
The court also addressed an assertion by the county that because the flow of the water is a natural event, and the county doesn't control the existence of the settlement, the government should not have the responsibility to deal with the issue.
“While the county may not control the sediment's existence, the county presumably may be able to control the amount, if any, that is deposited onto plaintiffs' property through the stormwater outfall pipe. But for the county's easement that permits the use of the stormwater drainage system, the sedimentary deposit may not have occurred, or if it did occur, may have been exacerbated by the drainage system,” the ruling said.
Citing further case law and the need to look at the case in a certain light favorable to the plaintiff, the court denied the county's motion to dismiss and required the county to file an answer to a second amended complaint by Aug. 3.