This appeal concerns the validity of a Broward County ordinance that requires a developer/subdivider, as a condition of plat approval, to dedicate land or pay a fee to be used in expanding a county level park system sufficiently to accommodate the new residents of the platted development. The appellant has asserted that Broward County lacks legal authority to adopt this type of ordinance. We do not agree and, thus, we affirm the trial court's conclusion that the ordinance is valid.
The appellant is a real estate development corporation that paid a fee under the ordinance and later commenced this action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief as well as a refund of the fee. The appellant has challenged the part of the ordinance that requires, as a condition of plat approval, the dedication of land or the payment of a fee for use by the county in acquiring and developing county level parks.
The ordinance has three alternate provisions: (1) the developer can dedicate three
We discern two principal thrusts in appellant's overall attack on the ordinance: (1) the appellant asserts that the Broward County Commission lacks authority under the Broward County Charter to enact this type of ordinance and (2) the appellant asserts that no Florida court has countenanced the imposition of land or fee requirements for use by a county in expanding its county level parks. Included in these attacks are allegations that the ordinance violates fundamental constitutional rights including due process and equal protection and allegations that the ordinance constitutes an unconstitutional taking without just compensation and is, in fact, an illegal tax. In response, the appellee contends that the ordinance does not exceed the broad home rule powers of the Broward County Charter and that the ordinance merely exacts reasonable and valid regulatory fees.
At the outset, we note that counties, as political subdivisions of the state, derive their sovereign powers exclusively from the state. Florida charter counties, such as Broward County, derive their sovereign powers from the state through Article VIII, Section 1(g) of the Florida Constitution which provides in pertinent part:
Through this provision, the people of Florida have vested broad home rule powers in charter counties such as Broward County.
The people have said that charter county governments shall have all the powers of local government unless the state government takes affirmative steps to preempt local legislation.
In the absence of preemptive federal or state statutory or constitutional law, the paramount law of a charter county is its charter. Cf. City of Miami Beach v. Fleetwood Hotel, Inc., 261 So.2d 801 (Fla. 1972) (city charter). In essence, the charter acts as the county's constitution and, thus, ordinances must be in accordance with the charter.
The people of Broward County have empowered their county government with very broad powers by incorporating the following provisions into their charter:
Pursuant to these provisions, the people of Broward County have conferred all the powers a Florida charter county can have, subject only to other contrary provisions in the charter.
The appellant relies on another provision in the charter as establishing by inference that the county government violated the charter in enacting the ordinance under review. That provision provides:
We can find nothing in this provision which suggests that the people of Broward County intended to prohibit their county government from enacting an ordinance requiring dedications or fees for expanding parks as a condition of plat approval. Thus, we find appellant's first attack to be ineffective.
VALIDITY OF DEDICATION OR FEE REQUIREMENTS
The more difficult question is whether the ordinance violates the state or federal constitution. As noted before, the appellant has alleged that the ordinance denies due process and equal protection, that it effects a taking without just compensation, and that it exacts illegal taxes.
This court has previously considered the validity of an ordinance which required the dedication of park land or the payments of fees in lieu of dedication. See Admiral Development Corp. v. City of Maitland, 267 So.2d 860 (Fla. 4th DCA 1972). In Admiral Development a real estate developer challenged an ordinance as being beyond the scope of the city's charter authority and unconstitutional. The ordinance required, as a condition of plat approval, that the subdivider dedicate at least five percent of the platted land or pay five percent of the value of the land to be used for park and recreation areas. This court scrutinized the city charter and concluded that the ordinance was beyond the scope of the city government's power under its charter. Secondly, we concluded that the five percent fixed percentage was arbitrary and overbroad. We reasoned that a fixed percentage that relates to the amount of land to be platted, rather than the number of residents that will occupy the land, cannot adequately ensure that the subdivider pays only for the amount of new park lands that the locality will be required to acquire in order to service the new development.
In the present case, as noted above, there is no problem with a lack of power under the charter provisions themselves, that is, assuming the ordinance is not inconsistent with state or federal law. Secondly, the ordinance under review does not suffer the infirmities of a fixed percentage ordinance. The ordinance in the present case exacts land or fees based on the number of people expected to live in the subdivision rather than the amount of land to be platted.
In Admiral Development, we declined to provide a general prescription by which park fee ordinances should be evaluated. Yet we did suggest that the appellee city might look for guidance, in the consideration of any proposed charter amendment or ordinance adoption, to a California case that considered and rejected a due process, equal protection, and taking without just compensation challenge. 267 So.2d at 863 n. 3 (citing Associated Home Builders of Greater East Bay, Inc. v. City of Walnut Creek, 4 Cal.3d 633, 94 Cal.Rptr. 630, 484 P.2d 606 (1971)). Although we believe that the ordinance now under review satisfies the standards established by the California Supreme Court in Walnut Creek, we also believe that our reference to the California case has been superseded to some extent by later Florida decisions. Nonetheless, we think it helpful to note the California court's statements concerning the rationale justifying subdivision exactions for parks:
4 Cal.3d at 644-45, 94 Cal. Rptr. at 639, 484 P.2d at 615; see also Wald Corp. v. Metropolitan Dade County, 338 So.2d 863, 867 (Fla. 3d DCA 1976) (discussed infra), cert. denied, 348 So.2d 955 (Fla. 1977).
The Florida Supreme Court recently announced the legal standards by which Florida courts must evaluate ordinances which exact dedications or fees from real estate developers. See Contractors & Builders Association of Pinellas County v. City of Dunedin, 329 So.2d 314 (Fla. 1976). In City of Dunedin the court rejected the argument that fees exacted from builders for the construction of capital improvements to water and sewage systems constitute illegal taxes. The court held that local governments can impose impact fees which do not exceed a pro rata share of the reasonably anticipated costs of capital expansion reasonably required because of new development so long as the use of the money collected is limited by law to meeting the costs of that capital expansion and so long as the exactions are not inconsistent with a state statute. Thus, the court held that local governments can shift to new residents the reasonable capital costs incurred on their account.
One of our sister courts has also addressed the question of whether subdivision exactions are permissible under Florida law. See Wald Corp. v. Metropolitan Dade County, 338 So.2d 863 (Fla. 3d DCA 1976), cert. denied, 348 So.2d 955 (Fla. 1977). The Wald case concerned a county ordinance that required subdividers, as a condition of plat approval, to dedicate drainage canal rights-of-way and maintenance easements. The apparent purpose of the ordinance was to protect the subdivision from periodic flooding and to protect up-and-downstream owners from the effects of the subdivision's rainwater runoff. The court, recognizing that subdividing is a profit making enterprise, held that a county can impose dedication or impact fee requirements in order to forestall the potential adverse effects of the development and to enable the county to provide adequate public facilities for the new residents. After surveying constitutional tests used by courts in other states to evaluate subdivision exactions, the court enunciated a "rational nexus" or "reasonable connection" test.
From City of Dunedin, Wald, and Admiral Development, we discern the general legal principle that reasonable dedication or impact fee requirements are permissible so long as they offset needs sufficiently attributable to the subdivision and so long as the funds collected are sufficiently earmarked for the substantial benefit of the subdivision residents.
In the present case, Broward County offered evidence that it has adopted and implemented a county park program with a standard of three acres of developed county level parkland per one thousand residents. The evidence also shows that this standard is not unreasonably high; in fact, it could be argued that it is low. In addition, the record shows that the county is meeting the needs of the current population through various methods including a $73 million bond issue, but that the growth generated by new subdivisions will require the county to acquire and develop new land in order to maintain its standard of three acres per one thousand residents. The county also offered evidence to show that the fees collected under the ordinance were less than the amount it would have to pay in order to maintain its standard of parkland and yet accommodate the subdivision residents even after they were credited for the future ad valorem taxes they would pay towards retiring the outstanding park bonds. Thus, Broward County demonstrated a reasonable connection between the need for additional park facilities and the growth in population that will be generated by the subdivision and, in addition, that the fees were an equitable pro rata share of the cost of reasonable capital expansion required because of new development. Although the developer attempted to refute this showing, the trial court resolved the conflicts in the evidence in a permissible manner and the judgment is supported by competent substantial evidence.
Broward County also demonstrated a reasonable connection, or a rational nexus, between the expenditures of the funds collected under the ordinance and the benefits accruing to the subdivision. The ordinance requires the funds collected to be "expended within a reasonable period of time, for the purpose of acquiring and developing land necessary to meet the need for county level parks created by the development in order to provide a system of county level parks which will be available to and substantially benefit the residents of the platted area."
PRIOR CASE LAW
The appellant has asserted that the Broward ordinance violates our holding in Broward County v. Janis Development Corp., 311 So.2d 371 (Fla. 4th DCA 1975).
Even if we assume that Janis Development has not been limited in prospective application by the more recent opinion of the Florida Supreme Court in City of Dunedin, the present ordinance would not violate Janis Development. In the case now before us, the source of power to require dedications or fees is not the county's power to require platting, but rather the county's power to regulate the adverse effects of subdivision development. In this case, the evidence shows that the money collected will not exceed the amount the county will spend in alleviating the adverse effects attributable to the regulated development. In addition, the present ordinance sufficiently earmarks the future use of the money for capital facilities to serve the new subdivision. Thus, in the present case, the ordinance is valid as a regulatory measure and is not, as in Janis, invalid and by default a tax.
In addition to relying on Florida cases, the parties have cited authorities from other states. Although these authorities disagree on the proper test which should be used to evaluate the validity of park dedication or fee ordinances, they overwhelmingly recognize that government has a legitimate interest in and can use its police power to ensure, the adequate provision of parks, open space, and recreational areas.
Berg Development Co. v. City of Missouri City, 603 S.W.2d 273, 275 (Tex.Civ.App.
To summarize, we hold (1) that the ordinance does not violate the provisions of the Broward County Charter and (2) that subdivision exactions for county level parks are permissible so long as (a) the exactions are shown to offset, but not exceed, reasonable needs sufficiently attributable to the new subdivision residents and (b) the funds collected are adequately earmarked for the acquisition of capital assets that will sufficiently benefit those new residents. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is AFFIRMED.
DOWNEY and BERANEK, JJ., concur.
We note that the ordinance has, since this suit commenced, been amended again and renumbered. See § 5-198(h), Broward County Code (1981 supp. # 15).