IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
IN AND FOR PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA
SALLY ANN LAWSON and
vs. Appeal No.01-4170-CI-88A
CITY OF ST. PETERSBURG,
THIS CAUSE came before the Court on the Amended Petition for Writ of Certiorari, filed by the Petitioners, Sally Ann Lawson and Helena Murphy (Petitioners), the Responses, filed by the Respondent, City of St. Petersburg (City), and the Intervenor, Straub Court, Inc., (Developer), and the Petitioners’ Reply thereto. Upon consideration of the same and being otherwise fully advised in the premises, the Court finds that the Amended Petition is denied as set forth below.
The Petitioners brought this appeal following the entry of a Resolution by the St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), approving a residential/commercial development, otherwise known as “5th Avenue Lofts” (Proposed Development), upon finding the Proposed Development to be in compliance with the Intown Redevelopment Plan (IRP). The Petitioners’ primary argument is that the Proposed Development is inappropriate and incompatible with the IRP and the surrounding neighborhood. The Petitioners also assert that the decision of the CRA departs from the essential requirements of law and that the CRA failed to provide the Petitioners with procedural due process. As set forth in the Order on Motions to Dismiss, entered November 20, 2001, the Court is without certiorari jurisdiction to review alleged inconsistencies with the IRP, so will limit its review to whether the Petitioners were accorded procedural due process of law and whether the essential requirements of law were observed in the proceedings below.
First, it is clear that the Petitioners were accorded procedural due process of law. Although the Proposed Development was originally scheduled for the CRA’s consideration on April 5, 2001, this hearing was rescheduled to allow the architect time to meet with neighbors to discuss their concerns. On April 19, 2001, the matter was again rescheduled, to May 3, 2001, to allow for a public hearing with notice. Notice of this hearing was both mailed and published in advance of the May hearing. On May 3, 2001, the Petitioners appeared at the hearing, with their attorney, and were given an opportunity to speak to the CRA, present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. The record shows that the CRA provided interested parties, including the Petitioners, with public notice and a public hearing, although none was required for approval of the Proposed Development. Accordingly, the Court finds the Petitioners were accorded ample procedural due process. See Hernandez v. Ward, 437 So.2d 781, 782 (Fla. 2d DCA 1983)(explaining minimum due process requirements).
It is also clear from the record, that the CRA observed the essential requirements of law in approving the Proposed Development. Although the CRA recognized that the Proposed Development already met the applicable zoning requirements, that no variance was needed, and that the City’s staff recommended approval, it is apparent from the record that the CRA did not “rubber stamp” this project. Rather, the CRA made its decision to approve the Proposed Development after consideration of the testimony and evidence presented at the May 3rd hearing, in addition to evaluating the criteria set forth in the IRP. Therefore, the Court finds that the CRA observed the essential requirements of law in the proceedings below. See Haines City Community Redevelopment v. Heggs, 658 So.2d 523, 528 (Fla. 1995)(elaborating on the meaning of “departure from the essential requirements of law”).
Therefore, it is
ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Amended Petition for Writ of Certiorari is denied.
DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers, at Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida this 9th day of April 2002
NANCY MOATE LEY
Circuit Judge, Appellate Division
Copies Furnished To:
Ann Lawson, Esquire
135 5th Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
A. Galbraith, Jr., Esquire
Assistant City Attorney
Post Office Box 2842
St. Petersburg, FL 33713
K. Rahdert, Esquire
Karen A. Monteros, Esquire
535 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, FL 33701