Land Use and Zoning (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. 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.

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.

Examples of our work include:

Land Development Codes

  • Advised municipal clients on the development of and/or drafted the first land development codes following incorporation in Villages of Islamorada and Key Biscayne, Cities of Aventura and Weston, and Towns of Cutler Bay and Miami Lakes.
  • Revised land development codes.
  • Part of consulting team that rewrote the City of Dania Beach Land Development Code, to incorporate several annexation areas and implement form-based principles.
  • Currently working for a major city on a form-based code rewrite.

Impact Fees

  • Reviewed and advised on the implementation and updating of impact fee ordinances in all of our client municipalities, including an affordable housing linkage fee in the City of Coconut Creek and Village of Islamorada, a transit impact fee for the City of Aventura, and police, public works and parks fees for the City of Homestead.

Comprehensive Plans

Comprehensive Plan Amendments

  • Advised the City of Sunrise, and participated in the comprehensive plan amendment process for Tao residential high-rise development, Metropica Transit-Oriented Development and Westerra Local Activity Center.
  • Advised the City of Coconut Creek on the Regional Activity Center for the MainStreet development.
  • Advised various municipal clients on the development of the first comprehensive plans or plan amendments following incorporation in the Villages of Islamorada and Key Biscayne, the Cities of Aventura, Marathon and Weston and the Towns of Cutler Bay and Miami Lakes.
  • Advised all municipal clients on Evaluation and Appraisal Reports and related plan amendments, and other plan amendments necessary to implement new state mandates including school concurrency, water supply planning and greenhouse gas reduction.

Small Area Plans

  • Advised the City of Sunrise in the development and implementation of the Western Sunrise Area plan and land development regulations from 1995 to the present.
  • Advised the City of Homestead on the adoption of neighborhood plans for redeveloping areas of the City.
  • Advised the City of Dania Beach on issues related to a small area plan.

Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs)

  • Advised and participated in the DRI review process for the creation or amendment of DRIs for Sawgrass Mills, the Broward County Civic Arena (the BankAtlantic Center), Amerifirst/Metropica/Tao, Sawgrass International Corporate Park and Harrison Park/Westerra for the City of Sunrise.
  • Advised and participated in DRI review process for implementation and amendment of the Villages of Homestead for the City of Homestead.
  • Developed new zoning districts, comprehensive plan amendments, development agreements and other associated approvals for these projects in Homestead and Sunrise.
  • Advised on implementation of the DRI development order for the original area of the City of Weston.

Land Development Regulations

Regulation of First Amendment-protected land uses


  • Updated and revised regulations of signs for City of Sunrise after challenge, and resulting regulations were upheld by the Eleventh Circuit.
  • Updated and revised regulation of signs for City of Miramar and, working with our Litigation Division successfully defended the sign regulations in the Southern District of Florida.
  • Working with our litigators, successfully defended the City of Boca Raton’s sign regulations in the Southern District of Florida.
  • Updated and revised regulations of signs for Cities of Dania Beach, Aventura, Homestead, Weston and Pasco County, without challenge. 
  • Part of consultant team revising City of Coconut Creek sign code.
  • Revised sign code for Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea and Cooper City.
  • Advised Village of Islamorada, cities of Dania Beach, Weston and Fort Myers on billboards on interstate highways.

Sexually-Oriented Businesses

  • Updated and revised regulations concerning sexually-oriented businesses in City of Dania Beach. Also, assisted the City and its insurer in successfully enforcing the amortization requirement against three existing, nonconforming locations.
  • Updated and revised regulations of sexually oriented businesses in the City of Hallandale Beach, and worked with our litigators to defend two challenges related to the prior regulations.
  • Updated and revised regulations concerning of sexually-oriented businesses for Villages of Wellington and Islamorada, and the Cities of Miramar, Sunrise, and Boca Raton, without challenge.
  • Updated regulations of sexually oriented businesses and defended litigation for Village of Islamorada.

Places of Worship and Assembly

  • Updated and revised regulations of places of public assembly, and working with our litigators and the Town's insurer, defended the Town of Surfside from challenge to the application of those regulations.
  • Updated and revised regulations of places of public assembly and drafted administrative relief procedures for Cities of Cooper City, Sunrise, Miramar, Dania Beach, and Weston, without challenge.


  • Drafted and advised on the implementation of targeted moratoria for various purposes in the Cities of Homestead, Hollywood and Hallandale Beach and Town of Cutler Bay, without challenge.

Zoning and Supplemental Regulations

  • Developed Planned Unit Development regulations for the Cities of Homestead and Sunrise.
  • Developed commercial design guidelines and special zoning districts for neighborhood plans in the City of Homestead.
  • Developed specialty business zoning districts and regulations for hotels in the Cities of Dania Beach, Sunrise and Miramar.
  • Advised on Joint Land Use Study, developed updated aircraft compatibility regulations and developed vested rights process for City of Homestead in relation to Air Reserve Base.
  • Advised on changes to and implementation of regulations of agricultural uses in the City of Parkland, represented the City staff in related code enforcement matters and worked with City's insurer to defend a challenge to the application of its regulations to an agricultural use.
  • Developed quasi-judicial hearing procedures for the Firm's municipalities.
  • Worked with Village staff to develop and defend regulations of vacation rental properties and formula retail development in the Village of Islamorada, and drafted vacation rental regulations for Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.
  • Drafted noise regulations for City of Sunrise and Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.

Areas of Critical State Concern

  • Advised Village of Islamorada on building permit allocation system negotiated with state regarding approvals for plan amendments, development orders and development regulations, and defended challenges related to these efforts.

Contested Quasi-Judicial Hearings

  • Represented municipal staff or governing bodies for contested quasi-judicial hearing in cities including Parkland, Weston, Hallandale Beach, Miramar, Deerfield Beach, Sunrise and North Bay Village. 

Petitions For Certiorari And Consistency Challenges

  • Advised our municipalities and defended challenges including projects such as the proposed SuperTarget and WalMart stores in the City of Miramar, the redevelopment of the Sonesta Beach Resort in the Village of Key Biscayne, the redevelopment of the Boca Beach Club at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, and various development decisions for the Village of Islamorada.

Some of our specific areas of practice include:

  • Land Use Planning
  • Comprehensive Plans
  • Evaluation and Appraisal Reports
  • Small Area Plans and District Plans
  • Water Supply Planning
  • Land Development Planning
  • Historic Preservation Regulations and Standards
  • Rate of Growth Ordinances
  • Zoning in Progress and Moratoria
  • Areas of Critical State Concern
  • Platting
  • Variances and Special Exceptions
  • Site Plans
  • Regulation of Large Scale Commercial Uses and "Big Box" Development
  • Transit-Oriented Development Regulations
  • Design Guidelines for Commercial Development
  • Development Procedures
  • Notice and Hearing Requirements
  • Land Use Plan Amendments
  • Rezoning
  • Development Agreements
  • Regulations of First Amendment Land Uses
  • Adult Use Regulations
  • Sign Regulations
  • Regulations of Places of Public Assembly, Including Religious Uses
  • Exactions and Impact Assessments
  • Impact Fees
  • Linkage Fees
  • Transportation and Transit Concurrency Regulations
  • School Concurrency Agreements and Regulations
  • Proportionate Share Mitigation Agreements
  • Affordable/Workforce Housing Regulations and Programs
  • Large Scale Developments
  • Developments of Regional Impact
  • Planned Unit Developments
  • Joint Land Use Studies for Military Bases
  • Watershed Planning
  • Public-Private Development Ventures
  • Litigation
  • Bert J. Harris Act Claims (Chapter 70, Florida Statutes) for Compensation
  • Part II Dispute Resolution Proceedings Before a Special Master
  • Petitions for Certiorari Related to Quasi-Judicial Decisions
  • Variances
  • Special Exceptions
  • Special Use Permits
  • Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) Claims
  • 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims Arising Out of Land Use Approvals
  • Procedural and Substantive Due Process
  • Equal Protection
  • Regulatory Takings/Inverse Condemnation
  • First Amendment Retaliation
  • Comprehensive Plan Consistency Challenges
  • School Facilities Planning
  • School Collocation and Joint Use Agreements
  • School Concurrency Agreements and Regulations

Reported Group Cases

  • Restigouche v. Town of Jupiter, 845 F. Supp. 1540 (S.D. Fla. 1993), aff’d, 59 F.3d 1208 (11th Cir. 1995)
  • Schumacher v. Town of Jupiter, 643 So. 2d 8 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994)
  • Section 28 Partnership, Ltd. v. Martin County, 676 So. 2d 532 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996).
  • Woodrow Kantner, Trustee, Carolyn Weaver & YMCA v. Martin County, 929 F. Supp. 1482 (S.D. Fla. 1993).
  • Town of Jupiter v. Michele Alexander, 747 So. 2d 395 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998).
  • MediaNet of South Florida, Inc. v. City of Miramar, Case No. 03cv61689 (S.D. Fla. 2002)
  • Florida Outdoor Advertising, LLC v. City of Boca Raton, 266 F. Supp. 2d 1376 (S.D. Fla. 2003)
  • Renaissance Charter School, Inc. v. Department of Community Affairs and School Board of Miami-Dade County, Case No. 1D09-2065 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010)
  • Seay Outdoor Advertising, Inc. v. City of Mary Esther, Florida, 397 F.3d 943 (11th Cir. 2005) (amicus brief for Citizens for a Scenic Florida)
  • City Of Weston, Florida; Village Of Key Biscayne, Florida; Town Of Cutler Bay, Florida; Lee County, Florida; City Of Deerfield Beach, Florida; City Of Miami Gardens, Florida; City Of Fruitland Park, Florida, City Of Parkland, Florida, City Of Homestead, Florida; Cooper City, Florida; City Of Pompano Beach, Florida; City Of North Miami, Florida; Village Of Palmetto Bay, Florida; City Of Coral Gables, Florida; City Of Pembroke Pines, Florida; Broward County, Florida; Levy County, Florida; St. Lucie County, Florida; Islamorada, Village Of Islands, Florida; And Town Of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Florida, v. The Honorable Charlie Crist, Governor Of The State Of Florida; The Honorable Kurt S. Browning, Secretary Of State, State Of Florida; The Honorable Jeff Atwater, President Of The Senate, State Of Florida; The Honorable Larry Cretul, Speaker Of The House, State Of Florida, Case No. 2009 CA 2639 (2nd Judicial Circuit, Fla. 2010)
  • Outdoor Media Group, Inc., and Chance Outdoor, LLC, v. City Of Beaumont, California, Case No. No. 10-56081 (9th Cir. 2011) (amicus brief for Citizens for a Scenic Florida)