878 F.2d 1360 (11th Cir. 1989), 88-5383, Lake Lucerne Civic Ass'n, Inc. v. Dolphin Stadium Corp.

Docket Nº:88-5383.
Citation:878 F.2d 1360
Party Name:LAKE LUCERNE CIVIC ASSOCIATION, INC., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. DOLPHIN STADIUM CORP., et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:August 03, 1989
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Page 1360

878 F.2d 1360 (11th Cir. 1989)

LAKE LUCERNE CIVIC ASSOCIATION, INC., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,


DOLPHIN STADIUM CORP., et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 88-5383.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

August 3, 1989

Page 1361

H.T. Smith, George F. Knox, Long & Knox, P.A., Miami, Fla., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Glenn J. Waldman, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Robert L. Shevin, Miami, Fla., for Dolphin & Robbie.

Samuel S. Goren, Josias & Goren, P.A., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for South Florida Regional Planning Council.

Robert L. Krawcheck, Dade County Atty., Miami, Fla., for Dade County.

Stephen H. Reisman, Rosenberg & Reisman, Miami, Fla., for Mortons, Boderman.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Before RONEY, Chief Judge, VANCE, Circuit Judge, and KAUFMAN [*], Senior District Judge.

Page 1362

KAUFMAN, Senior District Judge.

The institution of this federal case is the latest round of litigation following a series of state trial and appellate court proceedings related to the construction of a new sports stadium complex in Dade County, Florida. In this federal case, appellants, three individual homeowners and three homeowner associations, 1 assert that their contract rights have been unconstitutionally impaired (Count I), that the applicable zoning resolution of the Board of Commissioners of Dade County was adopted in violation of appellants' substantive due process rights (Count II), and (in Count III) that appellants' "civil rights have been abrogated" by appellee Dade County and by other defendants acting "under color of [state] law" by "a stark pattern of discriminatory practices affecting the property and housing rights of black citizens." Appellants seek declaratory and equitable relief, monetary damages, attorney's fees and costs and have prayed a jury trial. Jurisdiction is asserted, and is present, under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1331 and Sec. 1343.

Appellees are Dade County, Florida, South Florida Regional Council, the Dolphin Stadium Corporation, and individuals and trustees alleged to be developers of the stadium and adjacent commercial enterprises associated with the stadium complex. 2 The district court granted summary judgment for appellees and assessed costs against appellants.

Factual and Procedural Background

The stadium complex includes the home of the Miami Dolphins professional football team plus a commercial and industrial development. It is located on more than 430 acres in an area in northwestern Dade County known as Lake Lucerne. The land for the project was donated, subject to certain rights of reversion, by certain of the individual and/or trustee appellees to the County, which in turn leased it to appellee Dolphin Stadium Corporation.

In 1977, the property, then owned by certain of the appellees, was rezoned from agricultural to single-family and townhouse use. At that time, pursuant to the request of the Dade County Board of County Commissioners, the owners subjected the property to a covenant restricting its commercial use. That covenant included the following provision:

This Agreement may be modified, amended, or released as to any portion of the land described herein by a written instrument executed by the then-owner of the fee-simple title to the lands to be affected by such modification, amendment or release, along with a majority of the property owners within 350 ft. of the property for which such modification is proposed, as well as along with a majority of the property within 350 ft. of the property shown in the [Metropolitan Dade County Comprehensive Development Master] Plan, and approved after public hearing by Resolution of the Board of County Commissioners or Zoning Appeals Board of Metropolitan Dade County, Florida, whichever by law has jurisdiction over such subject matter.

Subsequently, after plans were formulated for what has now become the stadium complex, the developers were apparently unable to obtain the necessary consents to obtain release of the restrictive covenant as to the entire desired area. Therefore, they reduced the area requested for rezoning by creating a 351 foot setback from two nearby housing developments, thus eliminating the need for consents from the property owners in that setback area. Also, the

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developers construed the restrictive covenant as assigning to the owner of each parcel of land, including Dade County and the State of Florida, one vote per parcel regardless of how many parcels that person owned. Pursuant to that construction, the developers obtained the consents of the owners of 111 out of a total of 161 parcels in the reduced area--more than a majority vote of the owners on a parcel-by-parcel basis, but the votes of only 18 of the 55 owners of all of the parcels--far short of a majority of such owners.

The "Rolling Oaks" Litigation

In Mildred Harris, et al. v. Dade County, et al. ("Rolling Oaks I "), filed December 21, 1984 in the Circuit Court for Dade County, two of the three individual appellants and one of three corporate appellants in this appeal brought suit for equitable and legal relief, seeking to prevent construction of the stadium project. Defendants in that case were all of appellees in this federal action. On August 23, 1985, the circuit court dismissed, with prejudice, four counts of the nine-count complaint, and dismissed the five other counts as premature, with leave to amend. With respect to the dismissals with prejudice, the circuit court concluded that: (1) Count I, in which plaintiffs contended that the gift of public land to a private for-profit development was not a proper public purpose, was without merit because the need for a sports stadium constituted a proper public purpose, even if the stadium was being developed by a private party; (2) Count II, in which plaintiffs alleged lack of proper notice of a public hearing, did not entitle appellants to relief because Dade County had properly exercised its discretionary powers and because the notice and hearing requirements did not apply to county land conveyed for the purposes involved; (3) Count III, in which plaintiffs asserted an illegal contract for zoning, did not state a ground for relief because the Dade County zoning authorities had not contractually obligated themselves to make any zoning change; and (4) Count VIII, in which it was alleged that the law requiring bidding for acquisition of county property had been disregarded, failed to state a cause of action because the applicable law, as was the case with Count II, did not apply to county land conveyed by the County for the specific purpose involved.

With respect to the counts in Rolling Oaks I held to be premature and dismissed with leave to amend after final action by the Dade County Board of County Commissioners, the circuit court concluded: (1) Count IV, in which it was contended that appellees were prohibited by the restrictive covenant from making a zoning change, provided no basis for relief because that covenant itself expressly provided for modification, and because "[a]ny judicial determination of the continued viability of the restrictive covenant prior to a final administrative action rezoning the subject property would be unnecessary and premature"; 3 (2) Count V, in which it was alleged that the promised rezoning was substantially invalid, was not meritorious because no final action had been taken by the Board of County Commissioners and because administrative remedies in that regard had not been exhausted; (3) Count VI, in which plaintiffs asserted a violation of the law prohibiting the obligation by the County of unapproved funds and the pledging of the County's credit, could not be maintained prior to such expenditure or contract to expend public funds; (4) Count VII, in which plaintiffs claimed that the County violated an industrial revenue bonds statute, did not state a basis for immediate relief because the stadium, as a public project, qualified for the issuance of industrial revenue bonds, and because a suit seeking declaratory judgment concerning the validity of any such bond issue would constitute an advisory opinion; and (5) Count IX, in which it was urged that the rezoning constituted a taking without just compensation, was prematurely stated pending application of the zoning ordinance to plaintiffs' property.

Page 1364

On appeal, in Rolling Oaks Homeowner's Ass'n, Inc., et al. v. Dade County, et al., 492 So.2d 686 (Fla. 3d D.C.A.1986) ("Rolling Oaks II "), in a per curiam opinion filed June 26, 1986, the District Court of Appeal for the Third District concluded that the five counts dismissed as premature with leave to amend should have instead been dismissed without leave to amend, "allowing the refiling of a new suit if, as and when such alleged causes of action mature." Id., at 688. The district court also held that Count VIII was not prematurely brought and remanded that claim for further consideration by the circuit court. Otherwise, the district court affirmed the circuit court's holdings. 4

The Zoning Hearing

On September 26, 1985, after the decision in Rolling Oaks I and before the decision in Rolling Oaks II, a rezoning hearing took place before the Dade County Board of County Commissioners. During that hearing, some of appellants in this appeal, several county officials, certain attorneys, some of whom are of counsel in this appeal, residents and community leaders supporting and opposing the stadium project, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson testified. The restrictive covenant and whether it had been properly released were discussed at length.

The hearing concluded late at night after the Board of County Commissioners passed and adopted a zoning resolution by vote of 7-1, with one commissioner absent...

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