Conducting Florida Quasi-Judicial Land Use Hearings That Work

Have you attended a land use hearing in a Florida city or county that was identified as being a quasi-judicial hearing? Were you impressed? Did it seem to work well, fairly, efficiently? Odds are, no. Most quasi-judicial land use hearings don’t seem to work very well.

Given that we are supposed to have been holding them on land use matters for a couple of decades or more, you would think we would have gotten them right by now. But that doesn’t seem to be case. There are many reasons. The purpose of this article is to try to address several of those reasons and make suggestions on how they can be fixed.1

The problems with quasi-judicial hearings start well before the actual hearing. They start in the misunderstanding of why the hearings are held and what is to be achieved and they continue through the regulations and into the hearing. Accordingly, this article is broken into four parts, which are:

1. Recognizing the proper function and purpose of the hearings;
2. Fixing the problems with the LDRs’ substantive provisions;
3. Changing the LDRs’ procedural provisions; and
4. Altering the way the hearings themself are conducted.

1. Proper Function and Purpose of Quasi-judicial Land Use Hearings

The first step to efficient and effective quasi-judicial land use hearings is to understand their function and purpose and how they are fundamentally different from the legislative type hearings we are used to holding. See the article Purpose of a Florida Quasi-judicial Land Use Hearing for the details, but, bottom line, the function of a quasi-judicial land use hearing is to be judicial-like in only applying the existing adopted regulations or policies to specific development applications, as opposed to the legislative-like creation of new laws or policies.2 Given this function, the only purpose of a quasi-judicial land use hearing is to apply the existing adopted regulations/policies/requirements to a specific application (i.e. to make a determination on whether the application meets the existing regulations/ policies/ requirements).3

The effect of this function/purpose is that it completely changes the focus of the hearing and, consequently, completely changes what happens (should happen) at those hearings. The focus is shifted from information gathering in a wide universe of possible issues to information gathering on very narrow points of regulation. It changes the roles of the participants in the process and their focus.4 It changes what evidence is presented, who presents it, and what must be done with it.5 And, most importantly, it changes what the decision-maker is being asked to do; the question before them is not “what do we want to do,” but “does this application do what it is required to do.” This fundamental shift must be recognized and be the foundation of the entire review process.

2. Fixing the Problems with the Substantive Provisions of the Land Development Regulations

With the focus of the quasi-judicial hearing entirely on the regulations to be applied, the scope, quality, and content of the regulations themselves becomes critical. Accordingly, the fixes start with the substantive provisions of the LDRs.

It goes without saying that the provisions of the LDRs must be lawful.6 There are also several concept changes to the substantive provisions that can improve the quasi-judicial process. Given the quasi-judicial hearing purpose, the main changes can be summarized as a) only require public hearings when needed; b) have specific, quality requirements; and c) clearly identify those requirements for each type of application.

a. Only Require Public Hearings When Needed

Not every application has to go to a hearing. If a hearing is required by the statutes, the local charter, or the comprehensive plan, it has to. But, for all the other applications, consideration should be given as to why it is going to a hearing.

Given the function and purpose of a quasi-judicial land use hearing, what are some improper7 reasons to review an application through a public hearing?

  • The request is controversial and neighbors are upset.
  • This type of use has been controversial in the past, so send it to a public hearing just in case.
  • The governing body, as the elected officials, wants to have a say in whether something is approved or not.

None of these reasons (or others like them) have anything to do with evaluating whether the request meets the applicable LDR and comprehensive plan requirements.

What are proper reasons to review an application through a public hearing?

  • The determination of whether there is compliance with a regulation8 or whether to grant certain waivers to or variances from the regulations9 cannot be definitively determined from information available to the staff.10
  • To make discretionary determinations which are beyond the authority of staff.11

These “proper” reasons are pretty narrow. It is likely a large number of applications that are currently sent to a public hearing would not need to go to a hearing, if analyzed under these reasons.

Similarly, many uses are classified as requiring a hearing review without an adequate understanding of what is the issue to be resolved at that level of review.12 If it is not understood what problem, issue, or concern caused the use to be in that classification, there is no way to determine what needs to be done to correct the problems to make the use approvable13 and no way to have specific standards or criteria to direct the decision. To resolve this, there needs to be clear understanding about why uses are classified as they are in the LDRs and that understanding needs to be clearly articulated and reflected in the LDRs criteria and standards.

b. Have Specific, Quality Requirements

Once it is understood why certain types of applications and uses are being sent to a public hearing, there must be appropriate, specific standards adopted in the LDRs that address those issues and that, if met, will resolve the issues; making it clear what needs to be done to allow the use to be approved.

As discussed in the article The Rules of the Game – Analyzing Development Standards, what is to be achieved by these standards must have a substantial relationship to the promotion of legitimate public purposes addressing the public health, safety, and welfare. The standards must be tailored to actually address (implement) those public purposes, based on an actual analysis of the situation. This means that the regulations must identify what they are trying to achieve and actually allow it to be achieved.14

As also discussed in the Development Standards article, the standards must be definitive, capable of consistent application, and reasonable. As discussed in the article We Could Play This Game Much Better If We Knew The Rules, although some Florida cases have upheld standards that many would consider rather vague, it is a much more appropriate goal to advance good decisions, which fully and consistently implement the local government’s adopted Comprehensive Plan and land development regulations, through clear, reasonable standards, than to make the standards so vague the decision-makers can make whatever decision seems expedient at the moment.

c. Clearly Identify Requirements

Before there can be a determination of whether an application meets the applicable regulations, it must be possible to identify what regulations are applicable; in this case, what are the requirements that must be met for the application to be approved through the quasi-judicial hearing review.

Determining the applicable criteria for rezoning applications is one example of a common criteria identification problem area. It is often difficult to find specific requirements that are to apply to rezoning decisions. The LDRs will either not list any criteria or will use phrases such as “the rezoning must be consistent with the provisions of the LDRs.” How can anyone tell what has to be met, much less measure whether they have been met?

A different problem is often seen for special exception15 applications. Special exceptions are uses that are allowed in certain circumstances. But many LDRs require review of not only those “certain circumstances,” but also review of whether the use meets criteria that have nothing to do with the use being a special exception (e.g. reviewing the criteria that also apply to the use where it is allowed as a permitted use), review of criteria that have nothing to do with the use (e.g. review of the aspects of the structure that would house the use that would otherwise be allowed without extraordinary review), or review of restrictions on property or structures not associated with the request being made (e.g. requiring a binding site plan for portions of the property that have nothing to do with the requested special exception).

The ways to fix these problems are to:

  • Clearly identify the different types of review and what they are to achieve;
  • Gather the applicable regulations for a particular type of review in one place in the LDRs or, at least, use extensive cross references, so it is immediately clear what is required for a particular type of application to be approved;
  • Be specific in the regulations which all applications of each type must meet to be approved;
  • If there are any, state the specific regulations that different applications of the same type must meet to be approved;
  • Only list regulations that go to the reason that the application requires a public hearing review;
  • If there are characteristics of the development, property, structure, or use that trigger the public hearing review (i.e. but for these characteristics, it would not have to be reviewed in this public hearing), only address those characteristics.

3. Problems with the Procedural Provisions of the Land Development Regulations

The solutions for a more efficient hearing process also start with the LDRs. In addition to complying with the requirements that govern all land use processes,16 there are common procedural problems that impact the efficiency and effectiveness of the quasi-judicial land use process. Some of these can be described as: a) not having a clear, proper process; b) not requiring that the proper process be followed; and c) not allowing and requiring the participants in the process to be responsible for their roles.

a. Clear and Proper Process

In many LDRs, the development review process is so onerous and confusing, it requires a professional engineer, planner, or attorney to navigate the way through the process. While good for those practitioners, it is not very efficient.

The quasi-judicial review process should have specific objectives to be achieved.17 Efficiency and effectiveness, as well as consistency and fairness in application, should always be objectives. The procedures to meet those review process objectives should be clearly laid out in a step-by-step process. Although there must be contingencies procedures for situations that do not fit the typical pattern, the guidelines for the application of these alternative procedures should also be clearly spelled out, so they are consistently and fairly applied.

The process must advance the proper purpose. As indicated above, the function of a quasi-judicial hearing is very limited. The procedures for that hearing process must implement and advance that limited function and not allow the proceedings to wander (or be forced) into improper areas.

b. Require the Proper Process Be Followed.

Even if the LDRs lay out clear and proper processes, they don’t mean anything if the words used weaken or supplant the process. One example of this is when the procedures are laid out clearly but words are used, such as “guide” or “steer,” that can be interpreted as allowing discretion in whether or not to follow the requirements. If certain standards are the adopted requirements, they must be applied; unless the provisions specifically lay out how and when certain requirements are not to be applied, there is no discretion in whether they control or not—they control.18

The procedures must also make it clear which are critical components. For example, if the provision of timely helpful information is one of the objectives of the process, this creates critical time-frames (e.g. the procedures must require that applications cannot be amended after certain points, notice of the application must be provided by a certain date, staff reports have to be finalized and available well before the hearing, participants wishing to have party-intervenor status must declare that intention by a certain point, and the potential participants must declare the nature of their concerns by a certain point). Those critical components then must be required to be strictly followed.

Anyone that may wish to speak at the hearing also needs to know what they need to address, in what form, and then be held to it. As was suggested in the article We Could Play This Game Much Better If We Knew The Rules, the list of the applicable standards the application needs to meet, and against which the appropriateness of the application will be measured in the hearing, should be provided in the notice to surrounding neighbors. The standards also should be readily available, on an application petition by petition basis, on a source, such as the local government’s web site, that can be accessed by anyone that might be interested in commenting.19

c. Allow and Require the Participants To Be Responsible For Their Roles

As described in the Rules and Testimony articles, each participant in the quasi-judicial process has a specific role to play. The provisions of the LDRs must clarify what those roles are, what they entail, and what must be done to fulfill those roles. And the requirements must hold the participants to their role.

The regulations must also allow the roles to be fulfilled; must set out clear pathways that don’t allow one participant (or the process itself) to create roadblocks or unreasonable obstacles. This means, in addition to timely notice, full and timely information availability to and from all participants. Consideration should be given to requiring at least an outline of the evidence points to be raised by opponents before the hearing, so there is less risk of the hearing version of “trial by ambush” occurring.

One of the most critical participants in the quasi-judicial role is the decision-making body. For there to be any chance of the quasi-judicial process working properly, the LDRs must clearly delineate what the decision-makers are to consider and what they are not. And the LDRs must hold them to those requirements.

4. Problems with the Way Quasi-judicial Hearings Are Conducted

Now we come to the hearing itself. Some of the problems at the hearing can be summarized as: a) procedures are not followed, b) too much irrelevant information is allowed in the hearing record, c) the decision-makers do not have a reasonable opportunity to consider the evidence provided, and d) there is no way to know why the decision-makers made the decision or the evidence on which it was based.

a. The procedures are not followed;

All the procedures in the world mean nothing, if they are not followed. If the participants in the hearing do not have confidence that the written procedures are going to be followed, they cannot prepare efficiently or effectively; the only recourse is to address everything and the kitchen sink, in the hope that something works. To work fairly, effectively, and efficiently, the adopted standards and procedures must be consistently applied at the hearings.20

b. Too much irrelevant information is allowed in the hearing record;

As explained in the Testimony article, the only appropriate testimony in a quasi-judicial land use hearing is that which provides competent substantial evidence on whether or not the application meets the relevant code requirements. Anything else isn’t helpful to the process and, in fact, can be quite harmful, with its distraction from and confusion of the relevant issues and the actual basis of the decision.

It is difficult, however, for participants to drop the decades long perpetuated expectation of legislative hearing type testimony; people are used to “having their say” at land use hearings and are reluctant to change. Rather than continue to allow it at quasi-judicial land use hearings, however, there needs to be meaningful alternatives.

One major alternative is to take as many steps as reasonably possible to encourage community testimony on comprehensive plan formation and amendment and in the formation of the LDRs; in other words, boost community input on the legislative policy making steps. This is often difficult to do. People don’t focus on an issue until it impacts (or is believed to impact) them directly.

So, another alternative would be to have a public discussion point at each public hearing (or at least those held before the governing body), outside of the actual quasi-judicial hearing, where people are allowed to talk about what they feel are short-comings of or changes needed to the comprehensive plan, the LDR standards, or other such policy issues. The points they raise would not be considered in the actual hearing on the specific applications, but this would provide an entry point to address future changes that may need to be made, raised by those that are most immediately concerned.

Another way of reducing irrelevant issues being considered in the quasi-judicial hearing is to take the elected body out of the quasi-judicial review process. Worries about how the voting constitutes will view a decision on a single application or whether a vote is a wise political move are not legitimate consideration in a quasi-judicial hearing. Taking the politicians out of the process may go a long way toward taking the politics out of the review. This may be strongly resisted in some jurisdictions, but it should be given due consideration in an effort to keep the proper focus in quasi-judicial hearings.

c. The decision-makers do not have a reasonable opportunity to consider the evidence provided.

If all the evidence is presented at the hearing, how is a decision-maker that has to make a decision immediately, at the hearing, supposed to wade through and analyze what is and what isn’t competent substantial evidence? In most quasi-judicial hearings, as they are conducted today, it is not realistic to think it can be done. A spur of the moment decision is very likely to be based on emotions rather than facts. So what is the solution?

One option is to change when and how the evidence is presented into the record. If the evidence is largely in the record before the hearing, the hearing itself would be just to cross-examine the providers of the testimony, to seek clarifications, and resolve any questions. This would require significant procedural changes to the LDRs,21 but would allow for well-informed hearings with less surprises.

A second option would be for there to be two meetings on each application; the first would be the public hearing, where all the evidence is gathered, and the second, some reasonable time later, would be a “Government in the Sunshine” law compliant meeting, where no testimony would be given, but the decision-making body can discuss the evidence among the members.22 This option could have one body hold both hearing/meetings or would allow one body or hearing officer to hold the public hearing and a different body make the final decision at the meeting.

A third option would be to have a hearing officer conduct the public hearing and make the decision some period after the conclusion of the hearing. This would allow time for consideration of the submitted evidence before the formation of the final decision. This option would be available for all types of quasi-judicial decision except, possibly, for rezonings,23 and, maybe even for them.24

d. There is no way to know why the decision-makers made the decision or the evidence on which it was based.

Fulfilling their decision-maker role of determining if the application meets the existing regulations probably means the decision-makers must explain their reasoning. Regardless of when the decision is made, the only way to have any meaningful understanding of what was the basis of the decision is for the decision-maker to say. This doesn’t need to be in excruciating detail, but there does need to be statements made as part of the motion25 that review the applicable requirements and state how and why they are or are not met.26 This can involve going through each requirement or be as simple as stating: “the applicant has met the burden of proving compliance with the applicable requirements, as evidenced by X, Y, and Z of the application material, and the application opponents have not sufficiently demonstrated that this is not the case;” or “the application does not meet requirement X because the evidence shows this situation versus the required situation.” This, of course, doesn’t mean the decision-maker didn’t really decide based on some improper information, but if there is competent substantial evidence to support what they said was the reason for the decision, that is all that is required, and is probably as much as it is reasonably possible to consistently achieve.

It has been said that requiring the decision-maker to say why they reached the decision takes away the discretionary power of the decision maker and ties them to statements that may not reflect the full reasoning behind each decision-maker’s decision. In response to the first part, it should be remembered that the only discretion the decision-makers have in a quasi-judicial hearing is determining whether or not, based on the evidence in the record, the application met the applicable requirements. Therefore, their discretion is already significantly restricted and stating how that allowed discretion was applied does not create a further limit. As to the second point, it probably isn’t possible to have a statement that captures the entire reasoning of the decision-makers, but it should be possible to capture at least the essence of the reason, and that essence must be on proper grounds. Regardless of the full reasoning behind the decision, if the decision-maker cannot provide at least one legitimate justification for the decision, based on the restrictions of the proper function of a quasi-judicial hearing, the decision should not prevail. Leaving the participants and any reviewing court to dig through the record to try to find one piece of competent substantial evidence to support the decision may make it easier for local governments to win lawsuits, but it does not provide any information that would allow an understanding of how the regulations are to be applied in the future. Further, it eliminates the likelihood of consistent application of the requirements and is fundamentally unfair to the other participants–applicant and opposition alike.

There is debate currently about whether local governments must provide written findings of fact. State law27 requires that denials be in writing, with a citation to the requirement or authority supporting the denial. This seems to indicate that, at least for denials, that there should be a written determination indicating the grounds for the denial. That doesn’t mean, however, that it needs to be formal findings of fact and conclusions of law, but it does indicate the intent of the legislature that, at least for denials, there needs to be a written explanation of the reason for the denial. The statute supports the point that the only way there can be a meaningful explanation of the action taken is if the decision-maker provides an explanation in the record. So, although it may not be necessary to have formal findings, there does need to be written reasons for the decision, relaying and reflecting what was said by the decision-maker(s) in the hearing.28

Conclusion

Changing the efficiency and effectiveness of Florida quasi-judicial land use hearings is a difficult complicated task. Even though they may have been called quasi-judicial hearings, Florida has seen decades of what were essentially legislative type hearings. This is the type of hearing most jurisdictions are used to and it is difficult to break away from that. But it is suggested that, in addition to being more legally sound, there are significant benefits that can come from improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the quasi-judicial land use process, such as increasing predictability, decreasing processing times, and helping to more fully and effectively implement the local comprehensive plan and planning policies.

Ways to do this can be summarized as follows:

  • Recognize in the regulations and the hearings that the
    proper function and purpose of the hearing is only to determine whether the application meets the adopted requirements.
  • Fix the problems with the LDRs’ substantive provisions that
    inhibit or prevent the exercise of the proper quasi-judicial function, through methods such as:

    1. Only requiring public hearings when needed;
    2. Having specific, quality requirements; and
    3. Clearly identifying the applicable requirements.
  • Change the LDRs’ procedural provisions that negatively
    impact efficient, effective, and proper hearings, through methods such as:

    1. Making the applicable process clear and for proper reasons;
    2. Require that the proper process be followed, without
      conflicting or undermining provisions; and
    3. Allow and require the participants to be responsible for their roles.
  • Alter the way the hearing itself is conducted, through steps
    such as:

    1. Consistently following the adopted procedures;
    2. Limiting the information presented to competent substantial evidence, as much as possible, by ensuring everyone knows the “rules” and by providing other forums outside the hearing to allow them to “have their say;”
    3. Provide the decision-makers reasonable opportunities to
      consider the evidence in the record before making a decision; and
    4. Require the decision-makers to make at least basic
      statements of their decision reasoning and what competent substantial evidence they are using to support their decision.

End Notes

1. There are many reasons and many aspects of the reasons for the problems with quasi-judicial hearings. The same is true for the solutions. What is proposed here is an attempt to understand and address fundamental core issues and to offer starting points for solutions. Back to text.
2. Bd. of County Com’rs of Brevard County v. Snyder, 627 So.2d 469, 474 (Fla. 1993); Evergreen Tree Treasurers of Charlotte County, Inc. v. Charlotte County Bd. of County Com’rs, 810 So.2d 526, 532 (Fla. 2d DCA 2002); D.R. Horton, Inc.–Jacksonville v. Peyton, 959 So.2d 390, 398-99 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007). Back to text.
3. For rezonings, one of those requirements is determining whether it is appropriate to change the status quo. Back to text.
4. See the article We could play this game much better if we knew the rules. Back to text.
5. See the articles on Limited or “anything goes” – Testimony evidence in land use quasi-judicial hearings and What is Competent Substantial Evidence in Florida Land Use Hearings? for more. Back to text.
6. See the article Limitations on Florida Police Powers for more on what is needed to make them lawful. Back to text.
7. The reasons are “improper” if the issues they raise can only be resolved by reviews outside of the adopted lawful regulations. Back to text.
8. If compliance with a regulation can be definitively determined by staff, with no additional information being needed (e.g. whether a setback is met), there is no reason to send the application to a public hearing. If the regulation is met, the application must be approved; if not, it must be denied. If, however, the compliance question requires additional information not readily available to the staff, but may be available through a public hearing, then it would be appropriate to send the application to a public hearing to gather that information. Back to text.
9. Again, if the staff can definitively determine if the waiver/variance meets the requirements for the granting of the waiver or variance without additional information, it is appropriately reviewed at an administrative level, rather than at a public hearing level. If, however, determining compliance with the waiver/variance criteria requires additional information that may be available through a public hearing, it would be appropriate to send the application to a public hearing to gather that information. Back to text.
10. There may be relevant (competent substantial) information that surrounding property owners or the general public can provide that is not otherwise available to staff, but it is questionable whether a public hearing is the best way to gather that information. If there is a concern that there may be relevant information unavailable to staff, it may be more appropriate to devise a way to solicit that information in the staff review process, rather than attempt to acquire the information through the rather hit-or-miss information gathering environment of a public hearing. Back to text.
11. There are basically two types of non-legislative decisions local government may, lawfully, make—ministerial (one based on a nondiscretionary duty to act as required by the law (i.e. the official has no choice but to make a decision and the law lays out what must be done)) and discretionary (a non-ministerial decision that the official has the authority to make, as specified in the authorizing legislation, if there are adequate standards in the legislation to restrict the discretion exercised). See the future article on Ministerial versus Discretionary Decisions for more. A ministerial decision would not be beyond staff’s discretion because, by its definition, there is no discretion on whether and how to act. A discretionary decision can be made by staff, if they are so authorized by the applicable legislation. Because all discretionary administrative decisions, by staff or by a decision-making body, must be limited by definitive standards, it can be difficult to quantify what would make it more appropriate to have a non-staff body make the discretionary decision rather than staff. Back to text.
12. Quasi-judicial hearings cannot create new rules or make policy decisions (a decision that goes beyond the application of the criteria). Therefore, the reasons a development request is classified as a special exception, rather than an administrative staff level permitted use review cannot be so the public can decide if they want the use in their neighborhood, or to allow the decision-making body to make a case-by-case analysis of the appropriateness of a use in the jurisdiction, or to allow the staff to bump a politically unpopular or controversial request to the elected officials level. The policy decision of whether a use can ever be made appropriate in the jurisdiction or a particular area, and the standards that would make it appropriate, must be made at the time the regulations are created and adopted. That cannot be done on a case-by-case basis. A controversial applicant or application must be reviewed in the same way as the same use in a similar area that is not expected to create controversy. See the future article Classification of Uses for more. Back to text.
13. The fact that the use is listed as a possible use (if approved in the quasi-judicial hearing) says that there must be some way to make the use appropriate. Otherwise it would be prohibited. Back to text.
14. For example, an “X” use shall be reviewed as a special exception in the “Y” zoning district to determine whether the “Z” type impacts have been mitigated to the same or equivalent level as the permitted uses allowed in the zoning district. The goal, in this example, in reviewing this use as a special exception is to have specific impacts mitigated; the measurement (how the goal is implemented) is whether the mitigation makes the impacts comparable to those from permitted uses in the district. Back to text.
15. The term “special exception” is used here to include conditional uses, special uses, special permits, or any other such classification that requires a public hearing to determine if the use is to be allowed in a specific location. Back to text.
16. As with all government actions, the quasi-judicial land use process and its decisions must be in accordance with applicable constitutional protections. The most relevant ones in this case are protections of due process and equal protections rights of an opportunity to be heard, fairness, equal application of requirements, and unbiased, impartial decision-makers. The process and decision must also be consistent with all other applicable laws (federal, state, and local, including any local charter and the comprehensive plan). Back to text.
17. Examples of objectives might be to require the submittal of all necessary information from the applicant before the review starts; to keep the review focused only on the issues to be addressed in the review; to provide meaningful information at a meaningful time to the applicant and all potentially interested persons; etc. Back to text.
18. Miami-Dade County v. Omnipoint Holdings, Inc., 863 So. 2d 375, 377 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003) (finding that “quasi-judicial boards cannot make decisions based on anything but the local criteria enacted to govern their actions”). Back to text.
19. Also in this notice and information source should be an explanation of what is competent substantial evidence, perhaps with examples. Back to text.
20. One of the key parts of following the procedure is to keep the list of adopted standards in the forefront of the discussion, as a part of the notices to neighbors, in the staff report, and as a list before the decision-makers. Back to text.
21. Such as requiring that potentially impacted or interested persons be notified of the application when it is filed (or found complete for processing), rather than just notice of the hearing; requiring those wishing to be considered “parties” to seek that status early; requiring everyone to put their evidence in writing; a process for times when significant new information is presented at the hearing; and safeguards to prevent abuse of the system. Back to text.
22. It would require that the evidence be collected in a meaningful form for the body’s consideration well before the decision meeting. Back to text.
23. The statutory requirements that rezonings be adopted by ordinance or resolution (§166.041 and 125.66, F.S.) suggest that the governing body must make the final decision on the matter. Back to text.
24. It may be possible, however, to delegate the decision to a hearing officer and have the governing body ratify the decision in an ordinance or resolution. This would work well with an appeal opportunity to the governing body of the hearing officer’s decision; if the rezoning decision is appealed, an appeal hearing would be heard and if it is not appealed, the ordinance would be approved without review. Back to text.
25. Each decision-maker can probably even make a different statement about why they are voting a certain way (e.g. “I am voting for the motion, not for the reasons that Commissioner A stated, but because ….”). Back to text.
26. Since the application has to meet every applicable requirement to be approved and only needs to not meet one to be denied, it is much easier to state the reason for a denial. Back to text.
27. Sections 166.033 (for municipalities) and 125.022 (for counties), F.S.Back to text.
28. This doesn’t include a written creation by the staff or local government attorney that manufactures after the fact justifications for the decision not reflective of what the decision-maker actually said. Back to text.

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3 responses to “Conducting Florida Quasi-Judicial Land Use Hearings That Work

  1. Pingback: Development Standards | Florida Land Development Regulations

  2. Pingback: What is Competent Substantial Evidence in Florida Land Use Hearings? | Florida Land Development Regulations

  3. Pingback: Limited or “anything goes?” – Testimony evidence in a Florida quasi-judicial land use hearing | Florida Land Development Regulations

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