FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Lee County; Elizabeth V. Krier,
Belcher, II, of Belcher & Epstein, P.A., Fort Myers, for
Dolores D. Menendez, City Attorney, and Steven D. Griffin,
Assistant City Attorney, Cape Coral, for Appellee.
Trafalgar Woods Homeowners Association, Inc., sued the City
of Cape Coral in a dispute over credits against special
assessments for irrigation water. The circuit court posited
that the Trafalgar Woods planned development ordinance
provided for the award of irrigation credits only to the
project developer, and it dismissed the homeowners'
action with prejudice. We reverse because the court
misinterpreted the ordinance.
city approved the planned Trafalgar Woods project in 1992 by
adopting Ordinance 88-92. Section III(G)(5) of the ordinance
The developer shall receive a credit for the installation of
irrigation lines throughout the project. The credit shall
reduce any proposed special assessment when irrigation water
becomes available from the City of Cape Coral. The credit
shall be applied against any special assessment to be levied
against individual lots in the development. Property owners
will only be assessed for "off site" improvements
such as transmission mains and pumping stations.
the homeowners' association filed a complaint against
Cape Coral for declaratory judgment, promissory estoppel, and
breach of contract. It recounted that although the city had
not yet provided irrigation water when Trafalgar Woods was
built, the developer had installed on-site irrigation systems
and appurtenances as contemplated in the development
ordinance. Then, between 1993 and 1995, the developer turned
over control of the community to the homeowners pursuant to
the subdivision by-laws. Ultimately, the city's
irrigation water system was made available to the
development. The homeowners' complaint alleged that the
parties were in a dispute over the valuation of the credits
against special assessments associated with municipal
Coral moved to dismiss, arguing among other things that the
homeowners have no claim to the credit. The city based this
assertion on the interplay between the above-quoted section
III(G)(5) of the development ordinance and section IV(B). The
This Development Order shall be binding on the developer and
its heirs, assignees, or successors in interest. Those
portions of this Development Order which clearly apply only
to the project developer, shall not be construed to be
binding upon future owners of the project lots. It shall be
binding upon any builder/developer who acquires any tract of
land within the Trafalgar Woods Subdivision.
city maintained that the first sentence of section III(G)(5)
clearly indicates that only the developer may receive a
credit for the irrigation improvements and argued that
section IV(B) therefore "specifically excludes any such
right for the benefit of a lot owner." The circuit court
agreed, holding in its order of dismissal that "[a]s a
matter of law . . . in accordance with Section IV(B) of . . .
Ordinance 88-92, the Irrigation Water Special Assessment
Credit referenced in Section III(G)(5) clearly applies only
to the Developer of the Trafalgar Woods . . . ."
review the dismissal of the homeowners' action de novo.
Ruiz v. Brink's Home Sec., Inc., 777 So.2d 1062,
1064 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001). On a motion to dismiss, the
court's consideration is confined to the four corners of
the complaint; it accepts all of the plaintiff's
allegations as true and draws every reasonable inference
arising from those allegations in favor of the plaintiff.
Green v. Cottrell, 204 So.3d 22, 30-31 (Fla. 2016).
For purposes of the motion, all facts properly pleaded are
deemed admitted. Fearick v. Smugglers Cove, Inc.,
379 So.2d 400, 402 (Fla. 2d DCA 1980).
issue before the circuit court was whether under section
IV(B) the credit provided in section III(G)(5) inured only to
the benefit of the developer or whether it extends as well to
the developer's successors in interest. When resolving
this question, the court mistakenly relied solely on the
first sentence of section III(G)(5). To be sure, in isolation
that sentence describes only a credit to the developer. But
under a longstanding fundamental principle applicable to
statutes and ordinances, "words, phrases, clauses,
sentences and paragraphs of a statute may not be construed in
isolation[.]" Weitzel v. State, 306 So.2d 188,
192 (Fla. 1st DCA 1974). Rather, the sentence must be read in
the context of the entire provision. Id.; see
also Fla. Dep't of Envtl. Prot. v. ContractPoint Florida
Parks, LLC, 986 So.2d 1260, 1265 (Fla. 2008) (stating
that every statute must be read as a whole with meaning
ascribed to every portion and due regard given to the