Brevard County v Jack Snyder 627 So. 2d 469 (Fla. 1993) Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds!
Facts • Jack & Gail Snyder owned a small piece of land – one-half acre – zoned for General Use (GU).
General Use • Brevard County widely used this zoning category. It allowed a number of residential, commercial and business uses. • The Brevard Comp Plan designated the property for “residential” use, thus proscribing the non-residential uses allowable in GU at this site while allowing virtually all types of residential uses.
Facts • Jack & Gail Snyder owned a small piece of land – one-half acre – zoned for General Use (GU). • Snyder submitted a rezoning request to multi-family, • This would allow 6 to 8 apartments to be built on the half-acre lot. • Snyder committed to fix the flood elevation problem before the petition got to the planning & zoning board for action. • P & Z recommended for the rezoning.
The property was shown in the Comp Plan as Residential Use. • Both the existing zoning of General Use (GU) and proposed RU-2-15 (Multi-family) zoning were consistent with the Comp Plan • The neighbors appeared arguing that they did not want apartments in their single family neighborhood due to the increase in traffic.
No Apartments in Brevard! But it’s in The Plan!
The property was shown in the Comp Plan as Residential Use. • Both the existing GU and proposed RU-2-15 were consistent with the Comp Plan • The neighbors appeared arguing that they did not want apartments in their single family neighborhood due to the increase in traffic. • The BCC did not state a reason for the resulting denial.
Snyder filed a petition for certiorari in the circuit court. The 3 judge panel denied the petition 2- 1. • Snyder then filed a petition for certiorari in the Fifth District Court of Appeal. • The Fifth DCA sided with Snyder:
The 5th DCA found . . . • that the Snyders’ petition for rezoning was consistent with the comprehensive plan; • that there was no assertion or evidence that a more restrictive zoning classification was necessary to protect the health, safety, morals, or welfare of the general public; and • that the denial of the requested zoning classification without reasons supported by facts was, as a matter of law, arbitrary and unreasonable.
Brevard County appealed to the Supreme Court arguing . . . • That the County was engaged in a legislative action and • That the standard of review was “fairly debatable,” citing Euclid v Ambler. • Snyder argued for strict scrutiny being applied to rezonings because of the requirement of plan consistency in Florida law. • Shouldn’t consistency with the Comp Plan mean something?
“Rezoning actions • which have an impact on a limited number of persons or property owners, • on identifiable parties and interests, • where the decision is contingent on a fact or facts arrived at from distinct alternatives presented at a hearing, and • where the decision can be functionally viewed as policy application, rather than policy setting, • are in the nature of quasi‑judicial action.”
Quasi-judicial if . . . • Limited number of people or property affected • Interests and parties are known • Decision is contingent on facts • General policy has previously been set.
Legislative . . . • An action by a governing body is “legislative” if • They are adopting a policy that will have general applicability to similarly situated properties or persons • The application of that policy will be done later based upon facts about particular situations.
Example • City establishes a policy, • by enacting an amendment to the zoning ordinance, • That no property may be zoned or rezoned that will result in daily vehicular traffic greater than 2,000 at an unprotected elementary school crossing. • This is an establishment of policy and thus a legislative act.
Example continued . . . • When a rezoning application came in that otherwise met the criteria for the requested use, • Traffic volumes would have to be checked to determine whether that use would result in more than 2,000 vehicles per day at an unprotected elementary school crossing. . • This is the application of a policy and thus not legislative.
Quasi-Judicial • An action based on the application of previously established policy in a particular situation • Based upon the facts as they apply to that situation.
Would the rezoning of a particular parcel result in more than 2,000 vehicles per day at an unprotected elementary school crossing? • This is the application of an established policy • With the action on the application dependent on conclusions of fact with respect to; • Traffic to or from the subject development • Passing through an unprotected elementary school crossing
“[W]e hold that a landowner seeking to rezone property has the burden of proving that the proposal is consistent with the comprehensive plan and complies with all procedural requirements of the zoning ordinance. • At this point, the burden shifts to the governmental board to demonstrate that maintaining the existing zoning classification with respect to the property accomplishes a legitimate public purpose.”
“[I]n order to sustain the board's action, • upon review by certiorari in the circuit court, • it must be shown that there was competent substantial evidence presented to the board to support its ruling.”
What is competent, substantial evidence? • Competent . . . • That the individuals submitting the evidence are, by education, training or experience, competent to undertake the development of the evidence submitted. • Substantial . . . • The sufficient time and effort when into the development of the evidence that it may be relied upon by the decision maker(s). • Evidence . . . • That it be submitted on the record and challengeable by other interested parties.
So . . . • Some qualified individual would have to • Study the traffic impact of the subject development and • Determine whether that traffic would result in more than 2,000 vehicular trips at an unprotected elementary school crossing • And then prepare a report containing the analysis and conclusion, which is • Submitted for the record and be available for cross examination.
As Quasi-judicial . . . • Ex parte communications are restricted • Witnesses must be sworn • Cross examination is permitted • Commissioners are confined to the facts on the record in making their decisions.
Questions . . . • Would rezonings that have an impact on a large number of persons or property owners, or . . . • on unidentifiable parties and interests • still be legislative????????? and
Would some other land use decisions that also have an impact on a limited number of persons or property owners, on identifiable parties and interests • Also be quasi-judicial????? • Say, like plan amendments?
See G. Penn, Trying to Fit an Elephant into a Volkswagen: Six Years of the Snyder Decision in Florida Land Use Law, Florida LR, 52:1, 2000, 217-247.