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What is a Development Order?

While the State of Florida has one of the most comprehensive and progressive land-use planning programs in the country, it still has its share of red tape and bureaucracy.  In this article, we will explain one of the first steps in this process; the development order.

Development Order Explained

In Florida, a development order (also known as a development permit) means any order granting, denying, or granting with conditions, an application for a developing permit.  All multiple-family residential, commercial, institutional, infrastructure, industrial development projects, and subdivisions must obtain a development order before beginning any site work activities and the issuance of a building permit.  In other words, a development order is permission granted by a local governmental body to start working on a building project.  Normally, the development order is applied through your county’s development services.

It is important to note that a building permit application package can normally be submitted at any point, however, prior to the issuance of the building permit, the development order must be approved.

Applying for a Development Order

Prior to the submission of an application for development order approval, each applicant is encouraged to schedule an informal meeting with the county’s Community Development staff members to discuss details of the proposed project and to obtain general guidance on the application process.  These meetings help to advance a conceptual plan for development prior to submitting the formal application.  Providing details about your project in advance of these meetings helps the staff to better understand your project goals, resulting in a better exchange between parties during the actual meeting.

The review of a development order application is an administrative process involving various divisions and departments within the county.  Generally speaking, projects must be designed to achieve the following:

Manage impacts on ecological systems.

Evaluate and address traffic impacts.

Provide for adequate streets, potable water and sewerage systems, drainage and overall stormwater management systems, fire protection, landscaping, and site buffering.

Preserve and protect wetlands, protected species, and historical resources.

Compliance with applicable zoning regulations, densities, and intensity of allowable uses.

The Process

Within 30 days after receiving the application for approval of a development order, the municipality must review the application for completeness and issue a letter indicating that all required information is submitted, or they must specify with particularity if there are deficiencies in the application.  If the application is deficient, the applicant has 30 days to address the areas in question by submitting the required additional information.

Within 120 days after the municipality has deemed the application complete, or 180 days for applications that require final action through a quasi-judicial hearing or a public hearing, the municipality must approve, approve with conditions, or deny the application for a development permit or development order. Both parties may agree to a reasonable request for an extension of time, particularly in the event of a force majeure or other extraordinary circumstance. An approval, approval with conditions, or denial of the application for a development permit or development order must include written findings supporting the municipality’s decision.

What if the Development Order is Denied?

If the local governing body denies your development order application, you may appeal the decision.  This can be a confusing process and most appeals must be filed within 30 days, so time becomes critical.  How the appeal process works depends largely on if the local governing body was acting in a quasi-legislative or a quasi-judicial capacity.  If quasi-legislative, the standard of review is fairly debatable and the avenue of appeal is typically a declaratory judgment action in circuit court.  In contrast, if the local governing body was acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, one may petition for writ of certiorari to the circuit court or a complaint for declaratory judgment, also filed in circuit court.

In either case, the applicant must prove their case or the appeal will be denied.

Here to Help!

The development order is a critical step in the development process, yet many mistakes can be made in this stage that can cause delays and expenses to a building project.  The entire process can be confusing, daunting, and frustrating to even seasoned developers.  It is important that you have a professional on your side that can counsel you through this process effectively and efficiently.

I’m Rob Robinson, and I have over 30 years of experience in advising my clients through the real estate developmental process.  I can help you apply for the development order, and if need be, guide you through the appeals process.  Let my experience guide you through this critical first step in real estate development.  Please contact my office before you begin the application process.

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