In the Wendler vs City of St Augustine legal case, the Supreme Court of the State of Florida has declined “to accept jurisdiction” and denied the appeal of the City of St Augustine in its attempt to have the case dismissed.
The Court went on to say “No motion for rehearing will be entertained by the Court.”
“This is a tremendous victory for Florida property owners claiming protection under the Bert J Harris Act,” Dan Peterson, Executive Director of Coalition for Property Rights. “It can also lay a foundation for other States to pass such legislation.”
From 1998 to 2006 Donna Wendler and her family purchased eight parcels of property (seven with standing structures) near Flagler College and adjacent to Flagler College owned properties.
In 2007, when it became economically untenable to keep the old structures in repair, Wendler put a plan to demolish or relocate the structures in motion with the intention to build a boutique hotel modeled after the Henry Flagler era; matching the architecture of downtown St Augustine.
However, under questionable circumstances, the city denied their request to demolish or relocate the structures. The City took a position in a 2005 amendment to a city ordinance that would prevent Wendler from demolishing their blighted structures.
Since the development plan began in 1998 — 161 similar requests (2002-2012) to demolish or re-locate similar structures were approved; leaving Wendler as the sole owner being denied. The Wendler family sought legal counsel from property rights attorney, Andrew Brigham.
Wendler filed a Bert J. Harris lawsuit against the City claiming the City’s amended regulations placed an inordinate burden on the use of their property. The Bert J Harris Act provides a property owner, who feels his property has been inordinately burdened from use by regulations, may file a law suit against a government entity with damages and reasonable costs and attorney fees incurred from the filing date.
The case was brought before a local Circuit Court Judge in 2012 and it was dismissed, but the Wendlers appealed.
In 2013, after 5 years of legal and bureaucratic entanglements, the 5th District Court of Appeals overturned the Circuit Court ruling, agreeing Wendler had a legitimate case to be heard. The City appealed that decision to the Florida Supreme Court which has agreed with Wendler.
Why is this so important?
First, it means Wendler can finally have their day in court before a jury of their peers.
Second, it means property owners in Florida now have legal precedent on which to rely when bringing a Bert J Harris claim against on overreaching government entity.