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Alger v. United States

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

December 18, 2019

Richard T. Alger, et al., Petitioners,
v.
United States of America, et al., Respondents.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          On Petition for Writ of Certiorari from to the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower Tribunal No. 11-090 Appellate Division, Jacqueline Hogan Scola, George A. Sarduy, and Lisa S. Walsh, Judges.

          Lehtinen Schultz, PLLC, and Amanda Quirke Hand, for petitioners.

          Ariana Fajardo Orshan, United States Attorney, and Daniel Matzkin, Assistant United States Attorney; Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, P.L., Laura K. Wendell, and James E. White, for respondents.

          Before FERNANDEZ, MILLER, and GORDO, JJ.

          MILLER, J.

         Petitioners, Richard T. Alger, John L. Alger, and Alger Farms, Inc., seek second-tier certiorari relief from an opinion rendered by the appellate division of the circuit court of Miami-Dade County. In its decision, at the urging of respondent, the United States of America (the "United States"), the lower court quashed City of Homestead Resolution R2011-01-10 (the "Resolution"), which granted petitioners certain vested property rights in their land. Petitioners contend second-tier certiorari relief is warranted, as the court erroneously endowed the United States with standing to seek redress from the Resolution. For the reasons set forth below, we deny the petition.

         FACTS AND BACKGROUND

         For more than fifty years, petitioners have owned approximately two hundred and fifty acres of undeveloped land in Miami-Dade County. The property is located southwest of the Homestead Air Reserve Base (the "HARB") and within an area designated by the Department of Defense as an "accident potential zone."[1]

         In 1991, the City of Homestead (the "City") adopted the Homestead Comprehensive Airport Zoning Ordinance (the "1991 Ordinance"), restricting residential development on tracts of land located in the vicinity of the HARB. Less than five years later, petitioners' property was annexed to the City. In 2001, the City enacted an amendment to the Future Land Use Element of the City's Comprehensive Plan. As a result, petitioners' land was both designated for agricultural use and subject to the 1991 Ordinance.

         In 2008, the City passed two resolutions, adopting the 2007 Homestead Air Reserve Base Joint Land Use Study and the 2007 Air Installation Compatible Use Zone Study. Both examinations were commissioned to evaluate the impact of community growth on the viability of the HARB's continued mission. The City determined the latter study should serve "as a planning guide and tool to be considered in any future modifications and amendments to the City Code of Ordinances."

         In late-2010, the City enacted the Homestead Airport Zoning Ordinance (the "2010 Ordinance"), pursuant to section 333.03, Florida Statutes. City of Homestead, Fl., Rev. Ordinance 2010-09-25 (Sept. 22, 2010); see § 333.03(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2019) ("Every political subdivision having an airport hazard area within its territorial limits shall adopt, administer, and enforce, under the police power and in the manner and upon the conditions prescribed in this section, airport protection zoning regulations for such airport hazard area."). The 2010 Ordinance explicitly recognized that the "HARB serves a critical role in military, special operations, drug enforcement and interdiction, training, and hurricane response." Thus, consistent with the goal of the previously conducted studies, it was intended to establish standards designed to promote compatible civilian use, while preserving "the utility and capacity" of the HARB.

         The 2010 Ordinance delineated certain land use limitations by zone, grounded upon the existing potential for air traffic accidents. Petitioners' land falls within the accident potential zone 1 ("APZ1"), an area demarcated by the HARB officials as one with "significant potential for accidents, thereby, [requiring] extra protection." Consequently, the 2010 Ordinance restricts residential development on their property.

         Nonetheless, those land owners holding "vested rights," acquired through a "governmental act of development approval," granted prior to the adoption of the 2010 Ordinance, and demonstrating detrimental and reasonable reliance on said approval, are exempted from the use restrictions.[2] ...


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