Jordan v. St. Johns County
|22 June 2011
|5D09–4379.,Nos. 5D09–2183,5D09–4378,s. 5D09–2183
|63 So.3d 835
|Robert JORDAN, Linnie Jordan, et al., Appellants,v.ST. JOHNS COUNTY, et al., Appellee.
|Florida District Court of Appeals
[63 So.3d 836]
Thomas E. Warner and Dean A. Morande of Carlton Fields, P.A., West Palm Beach, for Appellants.Stephen B. Gallagher, Robert H. Sturgess and Stella J. Lane of Marks Gray, P.A., Jacksonville, and Patrick F. McCormack, St. Augustine, for Appellee.JACOBUS, J.
The Appellants all own parcels of real property in Summer Haven, a subdivision located on a barrier island just south of the Matanzas Inlet. The only vehicle access to Summer Haven is by a county-owned road known as Old A1A. The underlying complaint centered around allegations that the Appellee, St. Johns County, failed to adequately maintain Old A1A. In this appeal, the Appellant property owners challenge the final summary judgments entered in
[63 So.3d 837]
favor of the Appellee County. For reasons we will explain, we affirm in part and reverse in part.
By way of background, in 1960 the State of Florida rerouted State Highway A1A approximately 800 feet to the west of its original location. The original shorefront roadway naturally became known as Old A1A. The state deeded the road to St. Johns County in 1979, together with the accompanying right-of-way. The 1.6–mile stretch of road was bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Intracoastal Waterway. When the County took title to Old A1A, there were already a few beachfront homes and several platted lots abutting the road. The parcels ran from Block 3 in the north to Block 65 in the south. The County issued a number of building permits over the years, and several additional beachfront homes were built. Old A1A stood between the beachfront lots and the ocean, and it served as the only means of vehicular access to those parcels of property, which together came to be known as the Summer Haven subdivision.
Old A1A is subject to repeated damage from natural forces such as storms and erosion, which makes the road difficult to maintain. A group of Summer Haven property owners filed suit against the County, seeking relief for what they viewed as the County's intentional failure to maintain the road in useable condition. Count I of the fourth amended complaint was for declaratory relief and sought a determination of whether the County had a duty to maintain the road. Count II requested a permanent injunction compelling the County to maintain the road at a certain level. Count III claimed inverse condemnation for the diminished access to Summer Haven. Counts IV and V, respectively, contained claims for declaratory relief and inverse condemnation based on a county ordinance that placed a temporary moratorium on the issuance of residential building permits for Summer Haven.
The County filed a counterclaim seeking a declaration that the County had the sole authority and discretion to determine what constituted reasonable road maintenance. In addition, the County filed a third-party complaint to ensure that all Summer Haven property owners were joined in the suit with the original group of plaintiff-owners. The third-party complaint contained five counts for declaratory relief, which roughly corresponded to the five counts of the fourth amended complaint.
Ultimately, the trial court entered final summary judgment in the County's favor on all of the counts in all three pleadings. The Appellant property owners collectively challenge those three judgments in this consolidated appeal. We conclude that summary judgment was improvidently entered on Counts I and III of the fourth amended complaint.
We reverse the summary judgments on Counts I and III of the fourth amended complaint because we believe the trial court's decision went too far. With regard to Count I, the trial court effectively held that the County had no duty to repair or restore Old A1A, except in its absolute discretion. This is basically the County's position on appeal. The Appellants, on the other hand, argue that the County has a duty to repair and maintain its roads in “good order,” and that it has failed to do so.
To resolve the matter, we turn to the...
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