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Naked Lady Ranch, Inc. v. Wycoki

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

November 20, 2019

THE NAKED LADY RANCH, INC., a Florida not-for-profit corporation, Appellant,
v.
MICHAEL WYCOKI, JR., Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, Martin County; Barbara W. Bronis, Judge; L.T. Case No. 43-2016CA281.

          David C. Borucke of Cole Scott & Kissane, P.A., Tampa, and Steven L. Brannock of Brannock & Humphries, Tampa, for appellant.

          Jonathan Mann and Robin Bresky of the Law Offices of Robin Bresky, Boca Raton, for appellee.

          Taylor, J.

         Appellant, the Naked Lady Ranch, Inc. ("NLRI"), appeals an adverse final judgment entered following a bench trial in its action for declaratory relief, nuisance, and injunctive relief. This case arose out of NLRI's suspension and termination of the defendant, Michael Wycoki, as a member. We hold that the trial court erred in conducting a de novo inquiry into the merits of NLRI's disciplinary decision, and that the defendant's membership was suspended and terminated pursuant to a procedure that was fair and reasonable and carried out in good faith as required by section 617.0607(1), Florida Statutes. We therefore reverse for entry of judgment in favor of NLRI on its claims for declaratory and injunctive relief.[1]

         The Naked Lady Ranch is an aviation community in Martin County that consists of fifty private residences on parcels of at least five acres. By stipulation, the parties agreed that the covenants in the Declaration do not run with the land.

         NLRI is a not-for-profit corporation that was incorporated to provide "physical facilities of private roads and of aircraft runways" for its members. To be a member of NLRI, a person must own five acres of land within the community, make a written application to NLRI's Board, and receive Board approval. NLRI's governing documents do not contain a formal, written disciplinary procedure.

         By signing his membership application, the defendant agreed that he "may be suspended" if his "actions violate the trust of acceptable airport operations," and that "commercial operations are not permitted" at the NLRI facilities.

         During his membership in NLRI, the defendant paid a private pilot to fly his twin-engine airplane out of the NLRI airport early in the morning about once or twice a week, transporting himself and several co-workers to work at medical clinics around the state. The co-workers were paid by their employer for the time they spent flying to work.

         NLRI's counsel sent the defendant a letter informing him that NLRI's Board had called a meeting to review his membership status. The letter alleged that the defendant was using the NLRI facilities for commercial operations.

         At the meeting, the defendant was represented by counsel. The meeting included opening statements, witnesses, evidence, and cross-examination. Following the meeting, the Board suspended the defendant's membership, finding that he was conducting a commercial activity and was operating a "for hire aircraft."

         NLRI's counsel sent the defendant's counsel a letter inviting him to provide additional "evidence, if any, that he is not conducting a commercial activity." The letter also warned that, should the defendant continue to use the runways during the suspension, the Board would conduct a meeting to terminate his membership.

         The defendant continued to take early morning flights out of the NLRI airport during his suspension. The Board held another meeting on the defendant's membership status. The defendant's attorney was initially present, but left shortly after the meeting started. Following the meeting, the Board terminated the defendant's membership due to his continued use of the NLRI facilities during his suspension, his ...


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