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Surf Works, L.L.C. v. City of Jacksonville Beach

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

November 8, 2017



         Petition for Writ of Certiorari - original jurisdiction.

          Paul M. Harden and Zachary Miller, Jacksonville; Steve Diebenow of Driver, McAfee, Peek & Hawthorne, Jacksonville, for Petitioners.

          Susan Smith Erdelyi of Marks Gray, P.A., Jacksonville, for Respondent.

          B.L. THOMAS, C.J.

         Petitioners Surf Works, L.L.C. and Nadime Karan Kowkabany petition this court for a writ of certiorari to quash the circuit court's decision upholding Respondent Jacksonville Beach's denial of Petitioners' application for rezoning. Because the circuit court applied the incorrect law, which departed from the essential requirements of the law, we grant the petition.


         In 2014, Petitioners filed a rezoning application seeking to rezone the classification of property in Jacksonville Beach from Central Business District to Redevelopment District ("RD"). The property was the site of Mango's Beach Bar and Grille, which Petitioners intended to redevelop into a mixed-use facility of office and retail space, with the majority of the proposed development devoted to a two-story bar named "Surfer - the Bar." Petitioners envisioned their proposed bar as becoming a destination for surfers and surf enthusiasts.

         Petitioners' application for rezoning specifically stated their intention to locate the proposed bar within 500 feet of two other alcoholic beverage establishments, contrary to Respondent's Land Development Code ("Code"). (Mango's Bar had been grandfathered into the location.) Petitioners acknowledged that their proposed bar was inconsistent with the provisions of section 34-407 of the Code, which imposed additional requirements for outdoor bars and restaurants, but noted their proposed deviations were permissible under the flexible RD zoning process. Under the Code, the expressed purpose of this RD zoning district is to

achieve a diversity of uses in a desirable environment through the application of ¶exible land development standards and to foster creative design and planning practices in the Jacksonville Beach Downtown Redevelopment Area in order to encourage economic vitality and redevelopment pursuant to the objectives of the Jacksonville Beach Community Redevelopment Plan.

Jacksonville Beach, Fla., Code § 34-347(a) (2015) (emphasis added).

          This section of the Code outlines the procedure that must be followed to receive an RD zoning district classification. Specifically, it requires land to "receive approval of a preliminary development plan pursuant to the procedures and standards" of section 34-347(c). Jacksonville Beach, Fla., Code § 34-347(c)(1). To obtain this approval, an applicant must submit a proposed preliminary development plan to Respondent's Planning and Development Director. Once the application is determined to be sufficient, it is further reviewed by Respondent's Redevelopment Agency and Planning Commission, which recommends either approval, approval with conditions, or denial. The application and recommendations are then forwarded to the city council for a public hearing for final action on the preliminary development plan "pursuant to the standards in section 34-347(c)(3)(i.)." Jacksonville Beach, Fla., Code § 34-347(c)(3)(h.)(2.) (emphasis added).

         If the city council votes to approve the preliminary development plan, "[i]ssuance of a development order for [the] preliminary development plan for an RD zoning district classification shall constitute an amendment to the official zoning map to RD zoning district." Jacksonville Beach, Fla., Code § 34-347(c)(3)(k.) (emphasis added).

         Petitioners' application was reviewed once by Respondent's Planning Commission and twice by Respondent's Community Redevelopment Agency under section 34-347(c) of the Code, and both bodies recommended approval of the application.[1] There was no indication that any additional provisions of the Code were factored into the review. Also significant here, Respondent's Senior Planner noted that while Petitioners' proposed development departed from the conventional zoning criteria of sections 34-393 and 34-407(b), those "characteristics [we]re allowed to be addressed and modified from the normal standards as part of the RD zoning process, which was created to allow flexibility from traditional standards in an effort to encourage ...

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