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The Facts About Amendment Four

Published: January 12th, 2009

By: Michael D. Minton

Amendment Four, commonly referred to as the “Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment,” continues to receive significant publicity generated by both proponents promoting the passing of the constitutional amendment as well as opponents. Amendment Four, as many Florida property owners may already be aware, establishes that before a local government may adopt a new comprehensive land use plan, or amend a comprehensive land use plan, the proposed plan or amendment shall be subject to vote of the electors of the local government by referendum. Although there remains some speculation whether sufficient petition signatures have been obtained, Florida citizens should plan to see Amendment Four on the November 2010 General Election Ballot.

Proponents of Amendment Four view it as the essential tool needed to curb local officials’ discretion in approving certain land development activities that require an amendment to the local comprehensive plan. Opponents of Amendment Four believe that requiring a public vote on all amendments to a local government’s comprehensive plan will thwart or devastate Florida’s growth management. According to opponents, adding another layer of approval will cause additional delays, increased cost and unwanted results that are actually detrimental to Florida’s growth management.

It is not clear from the text of Amendment Four exactly what land use approvals will be deemed “amendments” to the comprehensive land use plan that would require public voter approval. What is clear is that proponents and opponents of Amendment Four have different perspectives as to the interpretation of the word “amendment.” Proponents contend that Amendment Four will require public vote on only formal amendments to the comprehensive plan, presumably large and small scale amendments. Opponents contend that Amendment Four applies to all changes to a comprehensive land use plan, which will subject far more approvals to public vote than the proponents contend. Regardless of the two perspectives, Amendment Four will at least initially be subject to the interpretation of local governments faced with making the determination that a public referendum is required for the respective land use approval. It is inevitable that interpretations of the impact of Amendment Four will likely differ among the various local governments, and that the courts may become involved in resolving issues of interpretation.

Property owners who intend to develop their property in the near future and have not already secured the necessary land use entitlements to do so should consider the possible impact of Amendment Four, if it passes. If there is a possibility that the land use approvals required for the intended development could be subject to the requirements of Amendment Four, property owners should engage legal counsel to review the benefits of and the necessary steps for entitling their property prior to the enactment of Amendment Four. Once Amendment Four is approved, it will be immediately effective.

Attached for your reference is information regarding the experience and qualifications of Dean Mead’s Real Estate Development Team. If you are concerned that Amendment Four may impact your intended future property development and would like to discuss your concerns with legal counsel, you can contact one of the following Dean Mead attorneys to discuss the matter further: Michael Minton in Dean Mead’s Fort Pierce office (772-464-7700), Lee Chotas in Dean Mead’s Orlando office (407-841-1200) or Laura Young in Dean Mead’s Viera office (321-259-8900).


Michael D. Minton, Esq.


Elias N. Chotas, Esq.


Laura M. Young, Esq.



Dean Mead’s Real Estate Development Team has extensive experience in all aspects of real property law. We regularly represent owners, developers, investors, lenders, borrowers, landlords, tenants and other real estate professionals in every phase of their work, including acquisitions, financing, permitting, land use and zoning, development, entity formation, partnership and joint venture agreements, like kind exchanges, leasing and tax planning.


NOTE: Dean Mead provides the information in this eNewsletter as a service to professionals and clients. While the information in this eNewsletter deals with legal issues, it does not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions related to the information in this eNewsletter, you are encouraged to consult an attorney who can investigate the particular circumstances of your situation. Due to the rapidly changing nature of the law, Dean Mead is not responsible for informing you of future legal developments. If you would like to be removed from our distribution list, please reply to this email and type REMOVE in the subject line.



Dean Mead’s Real Estate Development Team

Dean Mead’s Real Estate Team has extensive experience in all aspects of real property law. We regularly represent owners, developers, investors, lenders, borrowers, landlords, tenants and other real estate professionals in every phase of their work, including acquisitions, financing, permitting, land use and zoning, development, entity formation, partnership and joint venture agreements, like kind exchanges, leasing and tax planning.


Land Use, Zoning and Permitting

Our Team addresses the land use, zoning and permitting challenges that face our clients throughout the state. We handle obtaining local government approvals, such as comprehensive plan changes, developments of regional impact, rezoning, variances, special exceptions, conditional uses and planned developments in a variety of situations and in a variety of jurisdictions.


We understand the importance of building relationships with local and regional governments and other players in the development process. That is why we are very active in the communities in which we practice. Our attorneys have years of experience working with local governments in drafting and amending local comprehensive plans and zoning codes and serving on regional planning councils and local government blue ribbon commissions as well as water management district governing boards.


Because concurrency, natural resources, land use and zoning raise intrinsically local issues, when working with our statewide clients, we coordinate and oversee their legal counsel needs throughout the state to ensure that they receive the most comprehensive and seamless representation possible. In addition, our Team works directly with water management district staffs throughout the State of Florida. We assist clients in establishing (or avoiding through legal devices) development of regional impact status as well as vested entitlements.


Land Use Litigation

Our Team routinely addresses land use and zoning issues, from appearance before quasi-judicial boards through appeals of decisions to the appropriate agencies and courts. We frequently litigate land use issues as they relate to eminent domain cases and inverse condemnation. The concept of “highest and best use” is addressed in most condemnation cases. Factors that are typically litigated by governments claiming less intensive uses include zoning, development codes, concurrency, utilities, neighborhood/political objections, historic preservation, environmental concerns, access requirements, adjacent ownership, comprehensive land use plans, DRC issues, urban services area, transferable development rights, exaction, impact fees, annexation, code violations, among others. Additionally, our Team has worked with development counsel when clients are seeking permits, zoning, comp plan amendments and permitting to provide possible litigation alternatives when governmental administrative procedures become bogged down by inappropriate and inordinate bureaucratic requirements. Team members regularly appear before various governmental boards, at administrative hearings and in circuit courts throughout Florida.

Land Development

Our Team has represented clients in connection with the development of thousands of acres throughout Central Florida, including commercial, residential and mixed-use projects. From small projects to one of the largest Development of Regional Impact developments in the state, Dean Mead has assisted developer clients in every aspect of the development process. Our attorneys have expertise in dealing with the broad range of issues that arise in the development process, including impact fees, concurrency, endangered species, wetlands, infrastructure construction and development permitting. We also have expertise in community development districts and homeowner associations, as well as federal and state regulations applicable to the marketing of residential developments.


Additional Areas of Experience



Our Team represents owners, developers and investors in all aspects of acquisition, development and disposition of real estate, including purchases, sales, ground leases, space leases and entity formation.


Eminent Domain, Property Rights, and Real Property Valuation Disputes

Our Team represents developers, investors, businesses, banks and property owners of all types in matters involving governmental and quasi-governmental acquisition of private property interests and rights. We work with clients that have lost the function or use of property as a result of burdensome governmental regulations and we advise clients regarding the tax free rollovers/ reinvestment of proceeds. This representation includes negotiated resolutions, administrative hearings and litigation. The firm litigates many other real property disputes where the government is a potential party. In addition, we routinely handle due diligence and valuation. We also represent parties in real property valuation disputes.



Our Team addresses complex environmental problems that confront our clients in areas such as hazardous waste disposal and landfill sites, water pollution and hazardous material transportation. Our Team also assists clients with legal issues associated with mold, asbestos or indoor air quality problems.



Our Team has extensive experience in real estate finance and represents financial institutions and borrowers throughout the state. We routinely structure a variety of commercial lending transactions, including corporate loans, real estate development loans, asset-based loans, agribusiness loans, floor plans loans and home builder lines of credit. Members of our Team advise financial institutions, their corporate counsel and borrowers on a daily basis with respect to general lending issues, including those relating to Florida documentary stamp and bankruptcy and creditors’ rights.


Loan Workouts

Members of our Team have extensive experience representing creditors in all phases of distressed commercial real estate loans. We regularly represent institutional creditors in negotiated restructurings; acquisition, valuation, resolution and/or disposition of distressed loans; bankruptcies and foreclosures of distressed investments. Our litigation lawyers work in conjunction with our real estate lawyers to successfully handle out of court workouts, forbearance agreements and restructurings of distressed loans. We provide litigation representation with respect to commercial and residential foreclosures, creditors’ rights in bankruptcy and UCC lien and guaranty enforcement actions.


We work closely with our clients so they understand the workout process and can determine the most effective strategy for achieving their objectives.

In addition, our Team regularly provides advice to clients regarding the tax consequences of real estate loan workouts, foreclosures and deeds in lieu of foreclosure.


Creditors’ Rights, Foreclosures and Bankruptcy

In the event that a workout fails, our Team includes attorneys who focus their practice on bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, including the formulation and confirmation of plans of reorganization, liquidation plans, prepackaged plans, representation of creditor and bondholder committees, cram-down litigation, litigation involving unexpired leases and executory contracts, litigating avoidance actions, debtor-in-possession financing, valuation proceedings, post-petition financing, acquisitions of stock and assets, asset sales, going-out-of-business sales, automatic stay litigation and bankruptcy appeals.


In addition, we have handled complex foreclosure actions on all types of properties, including shopping centers, hotels, office buildings, apartment complexes, restaurants, assisted living facilities, nursing homes and agricultural properties. Our attorneys regularly appear in both state and federal courts on a variety of creditor/debtor issues. We also assist our clients in post-judgment execution, including the domestication and enforcement of judgments of other states and foreign countries and prosecuting fraudulent transfer claims.


Landlord/Tenant Litigation

Our Team represents commercial landlords in Florida in all forms of lease and tenant related disputes, including evictions, suits for damages (including accelerated rent and distress writs [i.e. enforcement of landlord’s liens for rent]), disposal of tenant property and suits involving non-monetary lease violations, defaults, lease interpretations and lease commissions. Our Team also handles lease/tenant buildout and construction disputes.



Our Team has extensive experience with both landlords and tenants, as well as developers and lenders, in commercial leasing transactions, including office, retail and industrial leases. Our clients include a number of regional and national landlords and we assist them in the preparation of lease forms, the drafting and negotiation of leases and the resolution of lease disputes, including bankruptcy issues. We also work closely with the Corporate Team to structure leases in connection with the purchase and sale of a business or other mergers and acquisitions.


Our Team has extensive experience with real estate disputes ranging from simple appeals of local government decisions to complex litigation to obtain or defend land use approvals and protect private property rights at the local, regional and state levels.


Litigation in these areas arise within a variety of contexts related to the acquisition and development of real estate, such as disputes arising from a contract to sell or purchase property, disputes related to closing on the sale or purchase of real property, disputes arising from the extent of ownership of property (such as title, boundaries and rights conferred by ownership), disputes with governmental agencies charged with overseeing development approvals and permits required for development of property, defense against opposition to such approvals made by third parties such as neighboring property owners and environmental groups, and defense of enforcement actions filed by regulatory agencies that oversee use and development of real estate within Florida.



Our Team provides a broad array of tax services in connection with real estate transactions, including the structuring of tax-free or like kind exchanges (forward, reverse and build-to-suit exchanges), planning to preserve long-term capital gains in connection with dispositions of real estate, the structuring of joint venture arrangements and other entity agreements for the acquisition and/or development of real properties and rollover of condemnation proceeds. Team member Charlie Egerton is recognized as a national expert in the areas of like-kind exchanges and taxation of real estate development.


We have extensive experience negotiating and drafting RESPA Affiliated Business Arrangements for developers so that they may share in the income generated by the title policies and mortgage loans originating from their developments.


Our Team also has extensive experience in the areas of Florida documentary stamp taxes

incurred in connection with conveying and mortgaging real estate as well as structures used to minimize exposure to such transactional costs.


Community Development

Our Team has extensive experience with the creation and establishment of communities, including establishment of property owners associations and drafting of covenants and restrictions. We draw on our extensive development experience and work closely with clients to develop restrictions that both comply with regulations and establish the desired community character.


Title Insurance

Dean Mead is an authorized agent for the following title companies:

Attorneys Title Insurance Fund, Inc. Chicago Title Insurance Company Lawyers Title Insurance Corporation (LandAmerica) pany (LandAmerica) Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Commpany First American Title Insurance Co Stewart Title Guaranty Company Old Republic National Title Insurance Comp Fidelity National Title Insurance

Team Members

Elias N. Chotas is Board Certified in Real Estate Law by The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization. He represents buyers and sellers, borrowers, lenders and developers in a wide variety of commercial and industrial real estate transactions. Mr. Chotas assists clients with complex environmental, land use and zoning law related issues before local, regional and state governments.

Michael D. Minton focuses his practice in the areas of tax law and agricultural/resource management law. He frequently assists clients in developing tax strategies to meet their business objectives while adapting to changes in the real estate market and agribusiness industry. Mr. Minton has represented large land owners in negotiations with the South Florida Water Management District related to the sale of property in connection with the Indian River Lagoon Project. He currently serves as president of the firm.

Laura Minton Young practices in the areas of commercial real estate including purchases and sales, leasing, development, commercial lending transactions, title insurance, zoning and land use.

R. Mason Blake is chair of Dean Mead’s Real Estate Development Industry Team. He represents clients in a variety of complex real estate and business matters, specializing in the development of large, mixed use communities. He has more than 25 years experience in commercial real estate, business, environmental and land use law.

Vicki L. Berman represents buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants, borrowers and lenders, investors and developers in a wide variety of commercial and residential real estate transactions. She has principal responsibility for one of the firm’s largest clients, a REIT, which is currently the largest office landlord in Orlando. In addition to office leasing, Ms. Berman has significant experience in retail leasing as well. She is also on the team which represents the firm’s largest client, a major Florida landowner, and has handled several significant transactions for the purchase and sale of real estate, including several 1031 transactions.

Stephen J. Bozarth is Board Certified in Real Estate Law by The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization. He represents clients in the areas of commercial real estate development, sales and purchases, leasing (landlord and tenant), secured and unsecured lending, zoning, land use law, commercial loan transactions, title insurance and like-kind exchange transactions.

Albert D. Capouano represents clients in the areas of real estate tax planning, mergers and acquisitions, general tax planning and family business and estate planning.

Dennis G. Corrick practices in the area of zoning, land use and commercial real estate transactions, and the drafting of business contracts for transactions and business relationships. He has worked on projects including the state’s first statutory Rural Lands Stewardship program, Florida Power & Light’s application to construct wind turbine generators in St. Lucie County, and the sale of lands to the South Florida Water Management District for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program.

Christopher R. D’Amico represents businesses and business owners in all types of business and tax matters, including choice of entity, mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations, and other general business matters. In addition, he represents title and mortgage companies with respect to the formation and operation of “affiliated business arrangements.”

W. Lee Dobbins practices in the areas of zoning, land use and commercial real estate transactions. He represents land owners in the acquisition and development of land including drafting and negotiating real estate contracts and leases, due diligence, financing, title issues, closings and obtaining zoning, land use and site plan approvals from local municipalities. Mr. Dobbins also has experience in resolving utility issues, traffic concurrency and school concurrency. He recently obtained approvals for an annexation and planned unit developments in western Port St. Lucie, and a 645 acre aggregates mine in western St. Lucie County .

Charles H. Egerton is Board Certified in Tax Law by The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization. His practice emphasizes tax planning for real estate transactions including tax free exchanges, planning to preserve long term capital gains in dispositions of real estate, and tax structuring of joint ventures for the acquisition and development of real properties; negotiating and drafting partnership and limited liability company agreements; mergers, sales and acquisitions of businesses; and the handling of federal tax controversies at the audit, trial and appeals levels.

Stanley A. Gravenmier focuses his practice on commercial loan transactions, real estate sales, and financing and leasing. In addition, he has extensive experience in the areas of Florida documentary stamp taxes and intangible taxes incurred in connection with conveying and mortgaging real estate.

A. Felipe Guerrero represents clients in the areas of commercial litigation, real estate litigation and landlord tenant matters. He is fluent in Spanish.

Daryl J. Krauza focuses his practice in the areas of construction law and litigation, real estate litigation, quiet title actions, creditor’s rights and commercial litigation. As a former Assistant State Attorney, Mr. Krauza has extensive courtroom experience and has tried in excess of 100 jury trials.

Gregory K. Lawrence represents clients in the areas of loan workout transactions, commercial real estate transactions, secured and unsecured lending transactions and Florida documentary stamp taxes.

Mark R. Leavitt has litigated on behalf of clients with real property and development issues for 20 years. A partial list of these types of cases includes eminent domain, inverse condemnation, property rights, zoning and land use, contractual disputes, professional malpractice, property tax disputes, code violations, valuation issues and business dissolutions. This representation includes negotiated resolutions, administrative hearings, political negotiations, arbitration and trials. His clients include large national and international corporations, businesses, professionals, builders, homeowners, investors, developers, banks, utilities and more. Mr. Leavitt has litigated matters in over a dozen different states.

Steven C. Lee is Board Certified in Tax Law by The Florida Bar Board of Specialization. He represents businesses and business owners in connection with all types of business matters, including choice of entity on formation, acquisition, disposition and reorganization of businesses, tax planning for the acquisition of real estate, including tax-free exchanges, and other general business matters including employment and non-compete agreements.

Stephen R. Looney is Board Certified in Tax Law by The Florida Bar Board of Specialization. He represents clients in a variety of business and tax matters, including entity formation (S and C corporations, partnerships, and LLCs), acquisitions, dispositions, redemptions, liquidations, reorganizations, tax planning for the acquisition and disposition of real estate, tax-free exchanges of real estate, involuntary conversions of real estate and tax controversies.

Kimberly B. Rezanka focuses her practice in the areas of land use litigation, zoning and land development, construction litigation, civil litigation and consumer law.

Jonathan D. Wallace assists clients with real estate sales, purchases and leases, commercial lending transactions, Florida documentary stamp tax issues and title insurance.