Petition for Writ of Certiorari to Review Quasi-Judicial Action: Agencies, Boards, and Commissions of Local Government: ZONING – Competent Substantial evidence  – competent substantial evidence in the record to support the hearing officer’s conclusion that structure is unsafe/unfit for human habitation – Petitioner failed to present evidence that the structure could be rehabilitated – court will not reweigh the evidence or substitute its opinion for that of the hearing officer – Petition denied.  Johnson v. City of St. Petersburg, No. 04-0026AP-88B (Fla. 6th Cir. App. Ct. Dec. 20, 2004). 

 

 

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

IN AND FOR PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA

APPELLATE DIVISION

 

PAMELA L. JOHNSON,

                                    Petitioner,

 

vs.                                                                                                Appeal No. 04-0026AP-88B

                                                                                                    UCN522004AP000026XXXXCV

CITY OF ST. PETERSBURG,

                                    Respondent.

________________________________________________/

 

ORDER DENYING AMENDED PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI

 

            THIS CAUSE came before the Court on the Amended Petition for Writ of Certiorari, the Response, and the Reply.  Upon consideration of the same and being otherwise fully advised, the Court finds that the Amended Petition must be denied as set forth below.

            The Petitioner, Pamela L. Johnson (Johnson), seeks review of the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Final Order Conditionally Approving Demolition (Final Order), entered by the Respondent, City of St. Petersburg (City), on February 26, 2004.  In reviewing the administrative action taken by the City, the Court must consider whether Johnson was afforded procedural due process, whether the essential requirements of law were observed and whether the City’s action is supported by competent substantial evidence.  See Haines City Community Development v. Heggs, 658 So.2d 523, 530 (Fla. 1995)(setting forth the standard of certiorari review of administrative action).   

            The record shows that the City issued, on October 1, 2003, a Demolition Violation Notice for a structure located at 1500 ˝ 21st Avenue North, St. Petersburg, a single family residence owned by Johnson.  The structure was declared to be unfit for human habitation and Johnson was advised that she must correct the unsafe property conditions by October 27, 2003.  As insufficient progress was made to correct the violations on the property, the City issued, on November 6, 2003, a Notice of Condemnation/Order to Demolish that ordered Johnson to demolish and remove the structure.  Johnson timely appealed the Order to Demolish and an evidentiary hearing was held on January 14, 2004.  After considering the evidence presented and the testimony of Johnson and several witnesses for the City, the hearing officer concluded that the structure is unfit and/or unsafe and that Johnson failed to present evidence that she could rehabilitate the structure.  The hearing officer conditionally approved demolition, but provided Johnson with an additional thirty days to submit the required documentation to the City upon which the parties could enter into a stipulation for Johnson to rehabilitate the structure.  Johnson failed to provide all the required documentation and no stipulation was reached.           

            On appeal before this Court, Johnson has not framed any issues for review and has failed to provide citations to authority or citations to the record that would show that Johnson was denied due process or that the City failed to adhere to the essential requirements of law.  See e.g. Urban v. City of Daytona Beach, 101 So.2d 414, 417 (Fla. 1st DCA 1958)(stating that the function of designating those portions of the record relied upon to demonstrate error rests exclusively with the party assigning error).  In support of her petition, Johnson makes several general statements, including: the Notice of Appeal Hearing failed to set forth any time limits; Johnson testified as to the soundness of the structure and her willingness to rehabilitate the structure; Johnson encountered criminal interference by a neighbor while trying to make corrections to the property; and, the hearing officer rejected Johnson’s testimony that she had entered into an oral contract with a contractor to correct the property violations for $2,500.00.

            First, the record shows that Johnson did receive a copy of the Condemnation Appeal Hearing Procedures that set forth the time limits for each party to present their side, limiting each party to 10 minutes for case presentation.  The record shows that Johnson had ample opportunity to present her case and was not denied due process from the time parameters imposed by the hearing officer.  Further, the Court finds that, prior to the appeal hearing, the City provided Johnson with sufficient notice and opportunity to correct the code violations that caused the property to be unsafe and unfit for human habitation, but that Johnson failed to make the corrections or to provide the documentation necessary to show that the structure could be rehabilitated. 

            Second, the testimony and evidence presented by Johnson as to the soundness of the structure, her willingness to rehabilitate the structure, interference by a neighbor in her attempts to correct the violations, and that Johnson had entered into an oral contract to rehabilitate the structure were all matters that had to be resolved by the hearing officer, as the trier of fact, in determining whether the structure should ultimately by demolished.  See e.g. Smiley v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 704 So.2d 204, 205 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998)(explaining that the trial court, as the trier of fact, is in a superior position to weigh the evidence and credibility of the witnesses and appellate court cannot substitute its judgment for that of the trial court unless unsupported by competent substantial evidence).  The Court finds that there is competent substantial evidence in the record to support the hearing officer’s conclusion that the structure is unsafe/unfit for human habitation and that Johnson failed to present evidence that the structure could be rehabilitate.  The Court will not reweigh the evidence or substitute its opinion for that of the hearing officer.  See Town of Manalapan v. Gyongyosi, 828 So.2d 1029, 1033 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002)(stating the appellate court cannot reweigh conflicting evidence and must defer to the local agency’s superior expertise in its policy determinations and factual findings); Heggs, 658 So.2d at 530 (finding that appellate court is not entitled to reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the agency).  Indeed, the Court notes that the hearing officer gave Johnson the benefit of the doubt and allowed her an additional thirty days to provide documentation that she could rehabilitate the structure, which she failed to do.  Accordingly, the Court finds that there is no basis to quash the Final Order and the request for certiorari relief must be denied.  

            Therefore, it is,

            ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Amended Petition for Writ of Certiorari is hereby denied. 

            DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers, at St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida this ________ day of December 2004.

 

 

 

 

                                                                        ___________________________________

                                                                        DAVID A. DEMERS

                                                                        Circuit Judge, Appellate Division

 

 

 

 

 

Copies furnished to:

 

Pamela L. Johnson

Post Office Box 10626

St. Petersburg, FL  33733

 

Pamela D. Cichon, Esquire

Assistant City Attorney

Post Office Box 2842

St. Petersburg, FL  33731-2842