Land Use and Zoning Group (Public)

Our Public Land Use and Zoning Practice Group, led by Susan Trevarthen, includes attorneys who are certified planners and Board-Certified experts in the field. We have extensive experience in representing local governments in all aspects of land use, planning and zoning. Using a problem-solving and team approach, we provide advice and counsel to local governments on a range of issues from establishing and amending State-mandated comprehensive plans, small area plans, and land development regulations, to reviewing and approving applications for planned unit developments, plats, site plans and building permits.

We also counsel local governments when they act as developers, either alone or in partnership with a private developer.  We pride ourselves on our creativity, knowledge and persistence in ensuring that our local government clients achieve the results that they desire in developing their communities.

We provide advice to local government staff such as planning directors, city managers, comprehensive planners, and building departments. We draft ordinances and resolutions, and sit with boards, councils and commissions dealing with land development matters, such as Planning and Zoning Boards, Local Planning Agencies and Zoning Boards of Adjustment. We advise these boards, individually and collectively, in their handling of public hearings, with particular attention to the quasi-judicial nature of many of the proceedings.  When it is apparent that a particular regulation or application may result in a denial or a challenge, we work with our litigators and appellate lawyers to lay the groundwork for a successful outcome for the local government.

In addition to the full scope of land use and zoning advice provided in the general administration of government, we also provide comprehensive help to governmental agencies undertaking public development projects, such as police and fire stations, sports arenas and stadiums, commercial parks, industrial parks, marinas and water/sewer treatment facilities. Partnering with the firm’s Real Estate Group and Private Land Use and Zoning Practice Group as needed, we are uniquely qualified in handling such matters, including the most sophisticated large-scale projects and Developments of Regional Impact. We are regarded locally as well as nationally for our knowledge of growth management issues and complex zoning issues, such as "takings," development exactions, impact fees, competitive plans, concurrency, rate of growth controls, urban growth boundaries, and other similar issues facing most governmental agencies.

Not only have we spent years providing advice and counsel to local governments on land use issues, but many of us have actually served as members or chairpersons of local and State planning boards charged with reviewing and evaluating comprehensive plans and land use issues. Our attorneys include those that are board certified in City, County and Local Government Law by The Florida Bar, and others that are members of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). The Group's roster even includes a former planning director for a local government. What these real-world experiences mean is we understand government and its demands and concerns inside and out, and we use these experience to come up with unique and ingenious solutions to vexing local government issues.

Florida's Growth Management Act requires that every local government implement its comprehensive plans through the adoption of land development regulations, including zoning ordinances. Our attorneys have years of experience preparing, interpreting and applying land development regulations, particularly zoning ordinances. We routinely prepare and amend land development regulations and zoning ordinances for local governments. We regularly provide advice to both the elected officials and administrative staff on the application, implementation and interpretation of local land development regulations.  We have extensive experience with the regulation of First Amendment-related land uses, such as signs, religious uses, and adult uses, including defending challenges to such regulations in partnership with our Litigation Division.  In relation to religious land use regulation, our experience also extends to the Federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Our zoning work includes providing general day-to-day advice to planning and zoning officials involved in the permitting of projects, as well as to elected and appointed boards reviewing and acting upon zoning applications, such as rezoning, variances, special exceptions, plats and other development approval applications.  We work with the local government’s planning staff to ensure that the staff report provides an adequate basis for decision-making, includes all relevant factual information, and is focused on the relevant legal and code criteria.  We have attended and provided advice and counsel at hundreds of quasi-judicial zoning hearings and proceedings.