Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Environmentalists ask DeSantis to veto bill that could stifle development challenges

In a letter Wednesday, they wrote part of the bill could stop advocates from suing to protect the Everglades in the future.
Environmental advocates say a provision in HB 7103 could hurt efforts to protect the Everglades by stifling challenges against developers and leaving losing parties with all attorneys' fees.
Published May 30

Environmental groups across the state are asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a bill limiting what regulations local governments can set on new developments, saying a provision pertaining to legal fees could stop advocates from suing to protect the Everglades in the future.

HB 7103, which lawmakers passed on the final day of policymaking in this year’s session, restricts how local governments can implement inclusionary zoning regulations to require developers set aside a fraction of units for low income residents. Though local governments can still set such zoning policies, the bill requires that any costs to the developer associated with setting aside such housing be fully offset by incentives like bonuses or waived fees.

Another provision in the bill also requires those who lose development disputes in court pay both parties’ legal fees, which the Sierra Club and about 40 other local and statewide organizations are arguing will have a chilling effect on future efforts to protect the environment.

In a letter to DeSantis’ office Wednesday, the groups described lawsuits they have filed based on local comprehensive plans — which address issues like water quality and coastal management — and which they called a “critical tool that is used to ensure that Everglades restoration efforts are not further hindered.”

“HB 7103 will make a losing party, in consistency challenges, automatically liable for a prevailing party’s attorney fees,” the groups wrote. “If it becomes law, HB 7103 would effectively eliminate the only means left for Floridians to enforce consistency with local comprehensive plans, including those relevant to the protection and restoration of the Everglades.”

“In general, citizens who may bring challenges to defend against environmental threats, such as loss of wetlands that filter pollution and reduce flooding, do not have the same financial means as developers and/or local governments,” they added. “Citizen comprehensive plan challengers typically struggle just to cover their own attorney fees; the risk of having to pay the attorney fees of local governments and/or other intervening party would make challenges much less available to concerned citizens.”

During discussion of the bill in session, sponsor Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican, had called the attorneys’ fees provision necessary to discourage frivolous lawsuits. But in their letter, the groups argued that it was unneeded.

“Florida law already deters baseless legal challenges and prevents spurious litigation for improper purpose, such as undue delays of lawful development proposals,” they wrote, adding that the bill would also encourage courts to adopt shorter “summary procedures” that would limit discovery in legal cases. “Summary procedures are not appropriate for consistency challenges which involve complicated questions of law and fact and are often expert intensive.”

The bill has yet to be sent to DeSantis, who is currently on a trade mission to Israel. Under Florida law, DeSantis can only veto a bill in its entirety.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. This March 7, 2016, file photo shows the Trump National Doral clubhouse in Doral. WILFREDO LEE  |  AP
    A party spokeswoman confirmed to the Miami Herald Thursday that the annual event, to be held over several days in late January, will take place at Trump National Doral Miami, located near Miami...
  2. Ross Spano serving in the Florida Legislature in 2017. The Dover Republicans 2018 campaign for Congress is now under federal investigation. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The House Ethics Committee revealed the Dover Republican is under federal investigation for possibly violating campaign finance law.
  3. Student activists with the March For Our Lives group, founded after the Feb. 2018 Parkland shooting, hold a banner that promotes their new "peace plan" to prevent gun violence, while demonstrating in the rotunda of the state capitol building in Tallahassee. Emily L. Mahoney | Times
    The 18-year-old student director of March for Our Lives Florida said school shootings are so common they are “not shocking” anymore.
  4. Gov. Ron DeSantis greets local officials at Dunedin High School on Oct. 7, 2019, part of a swing around the state to announce his plan to boost starting teacher pay in Florida to $47,500. He revealed a related teacher bonus plan on Nov. 14 in Vero Beach. MEGAN REEVES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The new plan would replace the controversial Best and Brightest model that DeSantis had called confusing.
  5. Florida Senator Darryl Rouson on the floor of the Florida Senate. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
    His office said he had been considering filing the bill, but a Times/Herald investigation published Wednesday prompted them to move more quickly.
  6. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., questions FBI Director Christopher Wray during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Also pictured is Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., left. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Scott is co-sponsoring a bill to overturn a 1950s Supreme Court ruling.
  7. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence — was paid $761,560 annual salary as head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. MIAMI HERALD  |  [Bob Eighmie Miami Herald file photo]
    Former state Sen. Denise Grimsley, a friend of Carr’s, is stepping in as interim president and CEO of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
  8. In this 2017 photo, then-Gov. Rick Scott, left, speaks with then-Florida Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran in Tampa. The two were instrumental in refusing to expand Medicaid in Florida. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
    According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Florida likely suffered the second-highest total of deaths in that time period — 2,776 — attributed to not expanding Medicaid,...
  9. Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg delivers a Veterans Day address at a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) ELISE AMENDOLA  |  AP
    State rep. Ben Diamond: Mayor Pete is ‘the type of leader that can really bring our country together’
  10. Former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and U.S. Rep. Val Demings have prominent roles in the impeachment of President Donald Trump. [AP Photos]
    Pam Bondi, Matt Gaetz, Val Demings and more will factor prominently in the coming weeks. Here’s how.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement