Second District Court of Appeal Rules on Rivergrass

December 2, 2022

In the Second District Court of Appeal State of Florida Appeal from the Circuit Court of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit in and for Collier County, Florida

Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Plaintiff-Appellant vs. Collier County, Florida and Collier Enterprises Management, Inc. Defendants-Appellees

Below, please find a statement from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida regarding the recent ruling in the Second District Court of Appeal on Rivergrass Village, a proposed development in Collier County.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is pleased to share that the Second District Court of Appeal (DCA) ruling has confirmed our legal right to present evidence at the Circuit Court level against the Rivergrass Village Development Order with regard to traffic impacts and fiscal neutrality. The DCA’s ruling will allow the Conservancy to bring forth these claims against Rivergrass Village, which were incorrectly excluded by the lower court.   In our 2020 legal challenge against Collier County’s approval of Rivergrass Village, the Conservancy asserted our legal right, under Florida’s Community Planning Act (The Act), to bring forth a lawsuit to reverse the Board of County Commissioners’ approval of Rivergrass. 

In their written opinion, the Second DCA stated,

The question we address here is whether the Conservancy’s claims concerning the traffic and fiscal impacts of the Rivergrass Village development could be brought within the ambit of a section 163.3215 action. The circuit court concluded that they couldn’t. The court ruled, “[T]o the extent those provisions [traffic impact and fiscal neutrality] are found within the GMP, they do not relate to use, density, or intensity of use and are thus not within the scope of Section 163.3215(3).” We disagree. As framed in this case, those two issues implicated the “intensity of use” on this property under the GMP and, as such, could appropriately be made the subject of a section 163.3215 challenge.

Therefore, the Second DCA opined,

We are compelled to reverse that aspect of the judgment below and remand for further proceedings.

We thank the 13 civic and environmental organizations who filed an amicus brief in support of our appeal, including: Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club Florida, Strong Towns, League of Women Voters of Collier County, Florida Rights of Nature Network, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Calusa Waterkeeper, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Cypress Cove Landkeepers, Stone Crab Alliance, Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association, and Friends of the Everglades and Tropical Audubon Society represented by the Everglades Law Center. 

Furthermore, we remain grateful to our supporters and members who continue to stand with the Conservancy, as we continue our long and distinguished 59-year history of advocating for sustainable development and finding solutions that balance the needs of our growing community with the preservation of our natural resources.