Rectory Park, L.C. v. City of Delray Beach

Decision Date07 May 2002
Docket NumberNo. 01-8569-Civ.,01-8569-Civ.
Citation208 F.Supp.2d 1320
PartiesRECTORY PARK, L.C., a Florida limited liability corporation, et al., Plaintiffs, v. CITY OF DELRAY BEACH, a Florida municipal corporation, Defendant, and Block 77 Development Group, L.C., a Florida limited liability corporation, Intervening Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida

Charles L. Siemon, Todd George Messenger, Siemon & Larson, Boca Raton, FL, for Rectory Park, L.C., a Florida limited liability corporation, Sundy Estates LC, Salero Properties, Inc., Naupilus Ltd., Agama Path Inc., plaintiffs.

John Fletcher Romano, Romano Eriksen & Cronin, West Palm Beach, FL, Charles L. Siemon, Todd George Messenger, Boca Raton, FL, for The Dharma Foundation III, a Florida nonprofit corporation, plaintiff.

Henry B. Handler, William John Cornwell, Weiss & Handler, Boca Raton, FL, Susan Adeen Ruby, Jay Toivo Jambeck, Delray Beach City Attorney's Office, Delray Beach, FL, for City of Delray Beach, Florida, a Florida municipal corporation, defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFFS' CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO COUNTS II AND III OF THE PLAINTIFFS' COMPLAINT

HURLEY, District Judge.

This case presents the question whether the City of Delray Beach's conditional use zoning ordinance contains sufficiently clear and definite standards to withstand a vagueness challenge. The court concludes it does and, therefore, will grant the City's motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Rectory Park, L.C., Sundy Estates, L.C., Salerno Properties, Inc., Naupilus, Ltd., Agama Path, Inc., and the Dharma Foundation, III, Inc. (the "property owners") own real property in the City of Delray Beach, adjacent to or within one block of the two properties that are the subject of this litigation. The defendant City of Delray Beach ("the City" or "Delray Beach") is a Florida municipal corporation. The defendant-in-intervention, Block 77 Development Group, L.C. ("the developers"), is the owner of the property that has been re-zoned.

The factual background to this case starts in 1984 when a citizens task force assembled to spur the redevelopment of Atlantic Avenue, a then-blighted east-west major artery which bisects Delray Beach. The task force issued a report about the issues facing the downtown area, such as the need for physical improvements, increased parking, and the need to amend zoning and land-use regulations to achieve these goals. In this regard, it recommended several zoning proposals geared toward stimulating residential development in the downtown area. Encouraging people to live in the downtown area was seen as a critical component in the overall goal of reinvigorating the downtown core. To this end, one proposal called for the creation of a new zoning category to facilitate assembling land and developing larger multi-use projects.

The city commission formed the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (the CRA) to carry the momentum forward and foster downtown redevelopment. It, in turn, designed a community redevelopment plan for the downtown area. Part of the plan called for the City to amend certain zoning regulations that were viewed as impediments to residential development in the downtown area. Thereafter, the commission enacted amendments allowing for densities of greater than thirty units per acre in the downtown area, provided that certain performance requirements were met.

One of the provisions in question, Section 4.4.13(I) of the City's zoning code, as amended, provides that, within a certain area of the central business district, "[T]he maximum permissible density of a particular project will be established through the conditional use process, based upon the degree to which the development complies with the performance standards [subsequently set forth], the required findings of Section 2.4.5(E), and other applicable standards of the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations."

Block 77 is a parcel of land in the City's central business district. It is bounded on the north by Atlantic Avenue, on the east by Southeast Second Avenue, on the south by Southeast First Street, and on the west by Southeast First Avenue. It is zoned "central business district," which permits thirty units per acre residential density as-of-right. Block 69 is located immediately west of Block 77. It is contained within the City's Old School Square Historic Arts District ("historic district" or OSSHAD). It is bounded on the north by Atlantic Avenue, on the east by Southeast First Avenue, on the south by Southeast First Street, and on the west by South Swinton Avenue. Block 69 is zoned as a historic district.

The CRA targeted Block 77 for re-development. It solicited proposals for a mixed-use project, with appropriate parking facilities, and specified improvements to a nearby park. The developers (Block 77 Development Group) responded with a proposal, called the Worthing Place Project ("the project"), which contained a mixed-use residential and retail building of just under sixty feet in height. It included 219 residential units, 12,292 square feet of retail space and a 200-space parking garage which would be located adjacent to Block 77 on Block 69. To succeed, however, the project required conditional use approvals permitting density in excess of thirty units per acre and a height of up to sixty feet. Further, to allow construction of the proposed parking garage, a text amendment would be required to take six lots from Block 69, which is in the City's historic district, and permit them to be developed under standards applicable to the central business district.

The developers submitted their proposal to the City's historic preservation board, which issued a recommendation favoring the needed text amendment. In turn, the planning and zoning board, after considering the preservation board's recommendation, voted 4-1 to recommend approval of the text amendment to the city commission. Next, the planning and zoning board reviewed the developers' applications for conditional use for density above thirty units per acre and for height up to sixty feet. It approved those applications by a vote of 4-2 and 5-1, respectively.

The planning and zoning board documented its analysis in a report which was provided to the city commission. The city commission ultimately voted to grant a conditional use approval (the "development order") for the project. It authorized an increase in density from thirty dwelling units per acre to ninety-two units per acre, and an increase in height from forty-eight feet to sixty feet. The city commission also held a quasi-judicial hearing in which it adopted Ordinance No. 47-99, the "text amendment." This operated to re-zone the property where the garage was proposed to a hybrid central business district/historic district zone, in which the parking garage was a permitted use.

The plaintiff property owners object to the commission's action, contending that it crams six stories of apartments (219 units), up to 17,900 square feet of retail space, and 416 parking spaces onto an area of 2.38 acres. They assert the project will dominate the landscape of the western portion of downtown, and be "utterly gigantic" in comparison to its neighbors in the historic district. Driven by these concerns, they filed this lawsuit seeking to have the City's conditional use ordinance declared void for vagueness.

JURISDICTION

This court possesses removal jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 because the plaintiffs' complaint contains claims challenging a municipal ordinance under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

DISCUSSION
A. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is warranted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The moving party bears the burden of meeting this exacting standard. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the facts and inferences from the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the burden is placed on the moving party to establish both the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

The non-moving party, however, bears the burden of coming forward with evidence of each essential element of his claims, such that a reasonable jury could find in his favor. See Earley v. Champion Int'l Corp., 907 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir. 1990). In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, "an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings, but ... must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

"The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-movant's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial and requires the court to grant the motion for summary judgment. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. If the non-moving party fails to "make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [his] case with respect to which [he] has the burden of proof," then the court must enter summary judgment for the...

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