final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Santa Rosa County. David
Douglas L. Smith of Burke, Blue, Hutchison, Walters &
Smith, P.A., Panama City, for Appellant.
M. Findley of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell &
Berkowitz, PC, Tallahassee, for Appellees Gregory S. Brown
and Stan Colie Nichols; Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General,
and Timothy E. Dennis, Chief Assistant Attorney General,
Tallahassee, for Appellee Leon M. Biegalski.
Ministries, Inc. appeals an order granting summary judgment
in favor of Gregory S. Brown and Stan Nichols, as Property
Appraiser and Tax Collector for Santa Rosa County, Florida.
Genesis had filed an action challenging tax assessments made
from 2005 to 2013. Genesis raises several arguments regarding
its entitlement to tax exemption during this period, only two
of which merit discussion.[*]We agree with the trial court's
conclusion that Genesis was not entitled to exemption from ad
valorem taxes from 2005 to 2012. However, as to the 2013 tax
year, because the property appraiser failed to comply with
the statutory notice requirements of section 196.193(5),
Florida Statutes (2013), the property appraiser improperly
denied Genesis's existing tax exemption for 2013.
Accordingly, we reverse the grant of summary judgment with
respect to the 2013 taxes and remand for entry of summary
judgment in favor of Genesis consistent with this opinion.
1994, Reverend Dr. Michael Palmer formed Genesis Ministries,
Inc. under the laws of Delaware. At or around the same time,
Genesis acquired title to property in Santa Rosa County,
Florida. From 1994 to 2004, Genesis operated a Christian
church and school on the property-Genesis Ministries and
Victory Christian Academy. Palmer also formed a Florida
non-profit corporation, Genesis Ministries, Inc., without
specifying the purpose of the non-profit. Genesis applied for
and was granted a "religious exemption" from ad
valorem taxes from 1994 to 2004.
2004, Palmer closed Victory Christian Academy, dissolved the
Florida non-profit Genesis Ministries, and moved to Iowa.
After the school closed, Russell Cookston, a former employee
of Genesis Ministries, entered into a commercial lease and
agreement with Palmer to lease the property where the former
church and school had operated. Cookston formed a new
corporation called Lighthouse of Northwest Florida, Inc. for
the purpose of operating a new Christian church and school-
Lighthouse Ministries and Lighthouse Academy. From 2005 to
2013, Lighthouse of Northwest Florida, Inc. paid rent and
operated the Christian church and school on the property.
Genesis, as the property owner, continued to receive a
"religious exemption" from ad valorem taxes from
2005 to 2012.
February 26, 2013 letter, the property appraiser informed
Genesis that it no longer qualified for a tax exemption for
the property. An investigation by the property appraiser
revealed that Genesis had dissolved in 2004. Thus, according
to the property appraiser, Genesis erroneously received
exemption from ad valorem taxes from 2005 to 2012. The
property appraiser indicated it would file a lien against
Genesis for recovery of the amount of taxes exempted from
2005 to 2012, plus penalties and interest. In the same
letter, the property appraiser notified Genesis that it was
revoking Genesis's tax exempt status for the 2013 tax
August 2013, Genesis received a standard Truth in Millage
Notice listing the amount of taxes owed for 2013. The
county's 2013 tax rolls were certified on October 18,
2013, and Genesis's property was listed as fully taxable
with no exemption.
seeking explanation from the property appraiser, Genesis
received a letter that the tax determination would not be
changed. Genesis then sold the property and paid the tax lien
and 2013 taxes under protest. In September 2014, Genesis sued
the property appraiser, the tax collector, and the executive
director of the Department of Revenue, asserting its
entitlement to the religious exemption from 2005 to 2013 and
seeking a refund of the taxes paid under protest.
trial court dismissed Genesis's complaint on
jurisdictional grounds, finding Genesis was barred from
challenging both the imposition of the tax lien and the
denial of the 2013 exemption because Genesis failed to file
suit within 60 days after the certification of the tax rolls
as required under section 194.171(2), Florida Statutes
(2013). Genesis appealed, and this Court reversed. See
Genesis Ministries, Inc. v. Brown, 186 So.3d 1074, 1082
(Fla. 1st DCA 2016) (Genesis I). We held that the
60-day period in section 194.171(2) does not apply to actions
challenging a tax lien. Id. at 1079. As to the
denial of the 2013 exemption, we reiterated that the 60-day
period does not begin to run if the property appraiser fails
to strictly comply with the applicable statutory notice
requirements. Id. at 1077 (citing Chihocky v.
Crapo, 632 So.2d 230, 232-33 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994)). We
remanded the case, noting that further record development was
necessary to determine whether the property appraiser
complied with the requirements of section 196.193(5), Florida
Statutes (2013). Id. at 1080-82.
remand and after several months of discovery, the parties
filed competing motions for summary judgment. Genesis argued
it was entitled to exemption because it continuously operated
a Christian church and school on the property through
Lighthouse of Northwest Florida, Inc. The property appraiser
argued Genesis had no involvement with the operation of the
Christian church or school and instead used the property for
the purpose of obtaining substantial lease income. As to the
denial of the 2013 tax ...