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Chapman v. Town of Redington Beach

Florida Court of Appeals, Second District

October 25, 2019



          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Pinellas County; Thomas H. Minkoff, Judge.

          Marie Tomassi and Eric S. Koenig of Trenam, Kemker, Scharf, Barkin, Frye, O'Neill & Mullis, P.A., Tampa, for Appellants.

          Jay Daigneault and Randy Mora of Trask Daigneault, LLP, Clearwater, for Appellee Town of Redington Beach.

          Richard E. Fee, Kathleen M. Wade, Jillian L. Feltham, and Catherine F. Yant of Fee & Jeffries, P.A., Tampa, for Appellee Douglas Backman.

          SALARIO, JUDGE.

         C. Hayward Chapman and Jacqueline Chapman sued the Town of Redington Beach and their neighbor, Douglas Backman, over a series of improvements Mr. Backman made to his property that the Chapmans say violated the Town's zoning ordinances. The trial court rendered separate final summary judgments in favor of the Town and Mr. Backman. We affirm the judgment in favor of the Town without comment. But because Mr. Backman failed to show that he was entitled to summary judgment on the theory the Chapmans have not suffered special damages to support their standing to enforce the Town's zoning ordinances, we reverse the judgment in favor of Mr. Backman and remand for further proceedings.


         The Chapmans and Mr. Backman own neighboring beachfront properties. On January 18, 2016, the Chapmans filed a second amended complaint against the Town and Mr. Backman in which they describe numerous modifications that Mr. Backman has made to his property and allege that each violates a Town zoning ordinance. It also alleges that the Chapmans have suffered special damages because their property is "materially less safe and materially less valuable due to these violations." The complaint asks for declaratory judgment that the improvements violate Town ordinances and seeks supplemental and injunctive relief, including the removal of the improvements. See §§ 86.021, .061, Fla. Stat. (2015). As relevant here, the complaint identifies three violations for which the Chapmans seek relief; the complaint calls them the "accessory structure," the "safety sight triangle," and the "hedge."

         The accessory structure is a former workshop which Mr. Backman has partially renovated. According to the Chapmans, Mr. Backman got a permit to add a second story to the structure, but the permit was wrongfully issued because the value of the renovations exceeded fifty percent of the original value of the structure. The complaint also alleges that the permitted renovations have been abandoned because Mr. Backman has ceased constructing them.

         The safety sight triangle refers to what the complaint alleges to be a hazardous traffic situation caused by Mr. Backman's construction of a wall along the roadway to which the Chapmans' driveway connects. According to the Chapmans, this wall blocks the view of oncoming traffic from the Chapmans' driveway, thus making it dangerous to exit the driveway and posing a danger both to the Chapmans and to others driving, riding, or walking on the road. The Chapmans also allege that this wall was improperly constructed, as it exceeds the height limit imposed by Town ordinance.

         The hedge is a growth of vegetation along the ocean-facing side of Mr. Backman's property. The complaint alleges that it violates a Town ordinance because it is too tall and violates their littoral rights because it obstructs their view of the ocean. It also asserts that the obstructed view negatively affects the Chapmans' property value.

         Both defendants moved for summary judgment. The Town argued that it was not a proper party to the suit because (1) the Chapmans were not seeking the validation or construction of an ordinance and (2) a court decree compelling the Town to enforce its zoning ordinances would violate the doctrine of separation of powers. The trial court agreed with the separation of powers argument and granted summary judgment to the Town. Based on the arguments presented in this appeal, we find no error in that determination and affirm the summary judgment in favor of the Town.

         Mr. Backman's motion for summary judgment argued that the Chapmans lacked standing to enforce the Town's zoning ordinances because they had not suffered special damages-a peculiar injury that differed in the type of harm, rather than merely the degree of harm, suffered by the community as a whole as a result of the ordinance violation. He asserted that (1) the Chapmans failed to allege any damages stemming from the accessory structure and thus failed to allege the peculiar injury required for standing; (2) by alleging that the safety sight triangle was a hazard to others in the community, the Chapmans failed to allege that the safety sight triangle caused any injury that was peculiar to them; and (3) the hedge did not violate the Chapmans' littoral rights because the Chapmans' property is not littoral property and the Chapmans are not entitled to an ...

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