If the playing field wasn't already titled enough in favor of developers, here's a front page article from this morning's St Augustine Record about an effort by Florida State Senator Keith Perry (R- Alachua,Marion (northern half) and Putnam Counties) to allow "those challenged on a development plan to counter-sue for legal fees if they eventually prevail" in court.The bill (SB 996) sponsored by Perry would make it potentially much more costly (up to $50,000) for citizens to challenge a developer, thus making a playing field already titled in favor of developers even more so - just what we needed!If, after reading the article, you want to express your opinion on SB 996 to Senator Perry,here is his email address: firstname.lastname@example.orgIf you want to share your opinion with our own State Senator, here's Senator Travis Hutson's email: Hutson.Travis@flsenate.gov
Here's the link to the article:
If you cannot access the article on line, here it is in full:Posted February 23, 2017 12:02 am - Updated February 23, 2017 04:17 am
By STUART KORFHAGE email@example.comProposed Florida Senate bill would allow developers to counter-sue for attorneys’ feesA bill introduced by a Central Florida senator could make opposing new development a pricey gamble.Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) has introduced SB 996, which would allow those challenged on a development plan to countersue for legal fees if they eventually prevail.In other words, according to critics, the bill would mean opposing a development could cost a local government or community group up to $50,000. That’s the maximum award allowed in the bill.One of the major opponents of the bill is the group 1000 Friends of Florida, a nonprofit group that’s goal is to “create more sustainable communities and better protect vanishing natural lands across Florida.”The group recently put out a news release that warns of the consequences of the bill. Thomas Hawkins, policy and planning director, for 1000 Friends of Florida, told The Record he’s worried the bill will keep groups from opposing bad developments.“The bill says that anybody challenging the development permit can be the target of the developer’s lawsuit,” Hawkins said. “So that’s us opining on, who are the folks who oppose developers? It’s environmental groups. It’s growth management groups like 1000 Friends of Florida. It’s community groups.”When reached Wednesday, Perry said he did not submit the bill to shut down opposition but simply to make it fair in a permit dispute. He said it doesn’t matter whether it’s a large development at stake or a small neighborhood dispute. The goal is to avoid frivolous suits that drain the resources of one side without a legitimate cause.“I think everybody desires a system that’s fair to everyone involved,” Perry said. “There has to be at least some liability potential on either side. Both sides, when you go through this, there has to be some kind of fairness and balance in the system. “You can’t have people use it just to delay — whether it’s a large development or an addition on a house.”In SB 996, the stated goal is to equalize the two parties. It says: “The purpose of this section is to diminish the deterrent effect of seeking review of, or defending against, governmental action by providing in certain situations an award of attorney attorney’s fees and costs against the state and to diminish the imbalance of consequences when seeking review of, or defending against, such challenges in administrative proceedings by providing in certain situations an award of attorney fees and costs against the party that does not prevail.”However, Hawkins and others say the bill would actually favor the big, deep-pocketed development companies over citizens groups or nonprofits. “One of the main things that we do on behalf of our members is challenge the worst development proposals around the state,” Hawkins said. “And this bill would make it impossible for us and for community groups trying to challenge those bad developments to get into court.”In North Florida, one of those people who devotes much of her practice to representing community groups opposed to certain developments is St. Augustine attorney Jane West. She’s currently working with the county and South Anastasia Communities Association in defense of a lawsuit challenging the denial of the Kings Grant development in southern St. Johns County. West said SB 996 would simply crush citizen opposition because it would force groups to pay for their own attorney and then possibly the developer’s attorney, as well.“One of the few last remaining hopes for Florida is the private citizen that cares enough about where they live to get engaged,” West said. “And now we’re going to punish them by making them pay for developers’ attorneys fees? That’s pretty egregious.”Taking on large developers can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Hawkins mentioned a controversial development that was stopped in the Orlando area thanks to the efforts of Save Orange County Inc. He also used the group Stand By Our Plan as one example that could be affected by Perry’s bill. That group is opposing a large development in Alachua County called Plum Creek.Perry said his bill would not take away the opportunity to oppose development. It would just hold the opposition accountable if it were only trying to delay a project without valid reason. “It does say, if you’re going to file this and the courts rule what you did was invalid, you have some responsibility for that,” Perry said.West disagreed, saying it would be another impediment — and a large one at that — to those trying to stop unsavory development in their own community.“This is just so lopsided,” she said. “In my opinion, it sends a message that anyone who cares about real Florida … just their own neighborhood, basically is going to be far too intimidated to take action on how they feel. It’s an incredibly intimidating piece of legislation. It’s already so onerous for private citizens to raise the money to hire an attorney to adequately represent them.“It would basically stop challenges completely in their tracks.”If you're interested, here's a link to the "1000 Friends of Florida" http://www.1000friendsofflorida.org/
Even David Beckham would have trouble scoring on that field. Maybe Florida needs a few more friends?On behalf of St Augustine Residents Count,
In an e-mail, First Amendment patriot Warren Cellis commented:
1. It will make more and more citizens aware of what a complete and total unresponsive to the will of the people scam the 'rule of law' has become.
2. It will not squelch now very legitimate discontent; rather it will greatly piss people off even more and heighten and intensify that discontent.
3 That so fostered more intensified discontent will cause people to put their energy where it truly belongs; outside the crooked system protesting in the streets of those who create this baloneyspeak legislation and boycotting the piggish businesses that are favored by it.
4. It will also cause more and more people to put their energy into questioning the backgrounds of these Mepublican asswipes and cause them to microscopically examine their corrupt relationships and special dealings with wealthy pig xtrevilist corporate developers.
5. It will also then create more Ed Slavins and activists like yourself. And that's a good thing Lee!
Regards, thanks for all that you do and keep hammering.
On behalf of Intentionally Made Homeless and Oppressed Residents Everywhere Count.
cc Ed Slavin