Appeals court allows shopping center, car dealership easement agreement to stand

By Carrie Salls | Dec 21, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH – The District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District upheld the 15th Judicial Circuit Court Palm Beach County’s decision to enforce a permanent easement between a shopping center and car dealership, according to an opinion entered Dec. 19.

The appeals court said Janoura Partners LLC, which owns the shopping center, argued on appeal that “the trial court erred in granting a permanent injunction in favor of the auto dealership,” Palm Beach Imports Inc.

According to the appeals court ruling, the previous owners of the auto dealership and shopping center agreed to the easement in 1989 during construction of the dealership. The 1989 cross-access agreement (CAA) “allows for vehicular and pedestrian traffic between the two parcels,” the ruling said.

In addition, the court said the original CAA required the auto dealership, but not the shopping center, to maintain the easement and perform necessary landscaping.

The court said a developer’s agreement signed by the town of Jupiter in 1993 allowed the entity that owned the dealership at that time to assign the CAA to another party and set restrictions that required vehicles for the dealership to be loaded and unloaded only on the dealership’s property.

However, the appeals court ruling said the new owner of the car dealership subsequently attempted to make changes on its property. As a result of the proposed modifications, the town said the dealership must get written permission from the shopping center owner to allow vehicles to be loaded and unloaded on shopping center property. The shopping center agreed to allow the loading and unloading in exchange for a $500 monthly payment.

Although a new owner that bought the shopping center property in December 2014 allowed the loading and unloading of automobiles to continue until April 2015, the court said it eventually notified the dealership that it would terminate the agreement.

“The shopping center notified the town of Jupiter of the change, stating it ‘was necessary due to ongoing access issues and property damage we have experienced since our purchase of the center,’” the appeals court ruling said.

After the shopping center argued to the town that the agreement “could not be unilaterally canceled,” the new owner of the shopping center agreed to amend the deal, increasing the monthly payment to $2,500, but the dealership refused and filed a lawsuit against the shopping center that asked the Palm Beach County court to prohibit the shopping center from “interfering with its loading and unloading pursuant to the CAA.”

Appeals court Judge Melanie May said in her ruling that the lower court was correct in finding that “the intention of the CAA was the loading and unloading of auto transports on the shopping center property.”

“There was no evidence that the use of the property ‘interfered in any way with anyone or any aspect of’ the shopping center, as the trial court correctly noted,” May said.

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