Posted by: Patricia Salkin | March 1, 2020

Fed. Dist. Court in FL Finds Substance Abuse Treatment Center and Detoxification Facility had Standing to Make an ADA Claim

This post was authored by authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

This case was an appeal from a lower court decision that Lee County violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) when it denied Plaintiffs’ rezoning request to allow a property to be used as a substance abuse treatment center and detoxification facility. The County’s quasi-judicial decision was appealed through Florida’s two-tier certiorari review process to the Circuit Court, and then to the Second District Court of Appeals.

The record reflected that Plaintiffs’ request for a reasonable accommodation was made on June 10, 2016, which was after the Board of County Commissions’ (“BOCC”) zoning decision and after Plaintiffs’ request for first-tier certiorari review to the Circuit Court. Therefore, the specific demand and denial that triggered the claim under the ADA was not made until after the state courts had initiated review of the zoning decision. Thus, there was no opportunity to complain about the County’s denial of the reasonable accommodation request in the state court proceedings. Consequently, the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction to make factual findings or enter a judgment on the merits of the underlying controversy, and could not enter injunctions or award damages.

As to the merits of plaintiffs’ claim, the court found Damascus demonstrated that it had concrete plans to operate the treatment facility and was able and ready to do so. The record indicated that Damascus applied for rezoning, took significant steps and expended money in making its case to the County, and then took its case to the Circuit Court and the Second District Court of Appeals. Damascus’ allegations were therefore sufficient to “fairly trace” its injuries to the County’s actions. Moreover, absent a court order, Damascus would be unable to operate the treatment facility as they wished due to the County’s failure to rezone the property. Accordingly, the court found plaintiffs established their standing to bring this case.

Kimberly Regenesis, LLC v. Lee County, 2020 WL 758099 (2020)

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