Judge denies emergency injunction to stop purchase of $11 million bond for golf course, park improvements
A Circuit Court judge denied a motion by four Viera East homeowners and commercial property owners to temporarily restrain the Board of Supervisors of the Viera East Community Development District from purchasing an $11.2 million bond for golf course and park improvements.
The four homeowners — Robert Dale, Paul F. Daley, Steven Colasinski and Trisha Smith — filed the 119-page lawsuit through their attorney, Blake Stewart of Viera, in the Circuit Court of the 18th Judicial District for Brevard County on Aug. 14. The VECDD was electronically served the lawsuit Aug. 16.
On Aug. 30, Circuit Court Judge George T. Paulk denied the homeowners’ motion for a temporary or emergency injunction against the VECDD. Despite the judge’s ruling, a hearing on the permanent injunction lawsuit might be held in four to eight weeks.
In his Aug. 30 ruling, Judge Paulk said the homeowners had several challenges to the appropriateness and methodology used by the VECDD in approving the issuance of bonds for recreation/infrastructure improvements.
“Pursuant to Florida Statutes Chapter 190, the special assessment must be evidenced and certified to the property appraiser not later than Aug. 31,” the judge wrote. “Plaintiff asserts that emergency injunctive relief should be granted pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.610.
“Rule 1.610 has very specific requirements for grant injunctive relief with notice,” the judge continued. “These include that immediate and irreparable injury will result before the adverse party can be heard in opposition and that the movant’s attorney must certify in writing any efforts that have been made to give notice and the reasons why notice should not be required.
“The fact pattern set forth in the complaint and motion is that the deadline is imminent. There are no assertions as to how plaintiffs would be harmed by giving notice and an opportunity to respond to defendant (VECDD). The pleadings do not set forth sufficient grounds for granting ex-parte relief, further, there is no attorney certification submitted consistent with the rule.”
Judge Paulk also noted that Rule 1.610 strictly requires posting of an injunction bond. “The verified motion and complaint simply request that no bond be required ‘as there is no immediate threat or damage to VECDD whatsoever.’ ‘Immediate threat or damage’ is not the correct standard.”
The judge said Rule 1.610(b) requires a bond in the event of costs or damages sustained by a wrongfully enjoined party.
“The court must assume the injunction was wrongly entered and then estimate appropriate costs and damages as a result,” the judge wrote. “This is the appropriate bond amount for granting the injunction. This can include a party’s costs and attorney’s fees in litigating the entire case and setting aside the wrongly entered injunction, along with damages more specific to the party and the type of litigation.
“This type of analysis is a requirement of Rule 1.610 and should be set forth in enough detail to allow the court to make a ruling. The pleadings herein fail to meet that requirement,“ Judge Paulk concluded.
In the lawsuit, the homeowners lists 23 allegations against the VECDD and its adoption of the resolution to purchase the bond.
Among the allegations are:
“There is no logical relationship between the proposed projects and the benefit to the real property, as there are two other golf courses within a five-mile radius of the Viera East Golf Course. Further illustrating the speculative nature of the probability of increased value to the property and lessens the unique benefit to the subject properties.”
“There is no indication within the (2019 Project) Plan that the proposed renovations to the Viera East Clubhouse are necessary to the extent that the expenditure is justified related to the assessments levied against the properties within the district.”
“The proposed tax lacks the necessary elements to qualify as a special assessment without further evidence or indication of the correlation and proportion of the tax to the perceived benefit to the property.”
The lawsuit also claims that the proposed 2019 VECDD project violates Florida Statute 190, by improperly classifying the tax as a special assessment without adequate qualification.
In addition, the suit alleges that the proposed project “fails to illustrate the immediacy and depth required for the repairs and renovations to be funded by the proposed bond issuance.”
Despite a majority of residents that voiced their opposition during a public hearing July 25 in the multi-purpose room of the Faith Lutheran Church, 5550 Faith Drive in Viera, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the 20-year bond that will see more than $11 million put toward improvements at the Viera East Golf Club and golf course.
These enhancements include:
• Clubhouse renovations, including a banquet facility at a cost of $2.9 million.
• A new irrigation system for $2 million.
• Bunker renovations for $1.1 million.
In addition to the $9 million in expenses, homeowners also will pay nearly $5 million more in interest.
In order to pay off the $11 million bond, Viera East homeowners will have to foot the bill. The assessment will take effect after the VECDD’s water management assessment bond is paid off in 2023.
Homeowners in Six Mile Creek, Crane Creek, Cross Creek and some homeowners in the south section of the Indian River Colony Club are not affected by the bond. There are more than 4,200 households in the VECDD. Of that total, 791 houses are on the golf course.
Viera East Golf Club includes the communities of Aberdeen, Addington, Ashton, Blackheath, Brightwood, Canterbury, Collingtree, Durban Park, Oaklefe, Parkstone, Stratford Place, and Woodhall.
Viera East Golf Club is an 18-hole course that opened in 1994, and the club projects 54,000 rounds will be played there for the fiscal year ending in September.
Created in 1991, the VECDD is accountable for the development, operation, and upkeep of infrastructure corresponding to the golfing direction, an 85-lake stormwater gadget, conservation spaces, paved trails and sidewalks, and Woodside Park.
The VECDD is a local government entity authorized by Chapter 190 of the Florida Statutes as amended, and created by ordinance of Brevard County as an alternative method of planning, acquiring, operating and maintaining community-wide improvements in planned communities. A CDD provides the “solution” to Florida’s need to provide valuable community infrastructure generated by growth, ultimately without overburdening other governments and their taxpaying residents.
Community development districts represent a major advancement in Florida’s effort to manage its growth effectively and efficiently. This allows a developer to establish higher construction standards, meanwhile providing a long-term solution to the operation and maintenance of the community’s facilities.
The VECDD is organized similar to other local governments in Florida, in that the legislative body is composed of a five-member board known as the Board of Supervisors. The board establishes the policy of the district in accordance with Florida law.
The district encompasses 2,825 acres east of Interstate 95 from Wickham Highway northward into Rockledge.