2020 Spring Newsletter

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

LLW Working Remotely – Offices Close Temporarily Joining Global Effort to Prevent COVID-19

The health and safety of our employees, families, clients, and community is of the utmost importance to us, which is why we have made the decision to temporarily close all five physical offices to join the global effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We have the technology for all employees to continue to work remotely and securely from home. We remain “virtually” open for business and will continue to provide exceptional seamless service to our clients. We continue to be available by telephone and email. Audio and video conferencing capabilities also remain as alternatives to meet with us. Please contact your attorney directly to schedule.

Again, we greatly appreciate the health care workers, local communities, and governments around the world who are working to contain COVID-19. The continuously evolving situation has created an environment of uncertainty, and Lewis, Longman & Walker is here to serve you and your business needs as we navigate this complex and challenging time together.

We continue to monitor guidance from the President, Governor, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials, and will provide an update as to when we anticipate reopening our physical offices. Until then please stay calm and healthy.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

 

May 8th Deadline to Apply for Emergency Loan for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

On March 9, 2020 the Governor signed Executive Order #20-52 declaring a State of Emergency for the entire State of Florida. The Governor also activated the Emergency Bridge Loan Program for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 on March 16th to provide relief to small businesses (2 to 100 employees.) This program is administered by The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The eligibility and loan process can be found at: https://floridadisasterloan.org/eligibility-and-loan-process/.

The Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Application has a current deadline of May 8, 2020. Generally, loans are limited to $50,000 although special cases may be eligible for loans up to $100,000. Additional information and loan details can be found at: http://www.floridadisasterloan.org/. Questions can also be directed to the Florida Small Business Development Center Network Headquarters, email: Disaster@FloridaSBDC.org and toll-free: (866) 737-7232.

If you have any questions about applying for the Bridge Loan Program, please do not hesitate to contact Robert Angus Williams at rwillliams@llw-law.com, Fred Aschauer at faschauer@llw-law.com, or Natalie Kato at nkato@llw-law.com or at 850.222.5702.

 

Based on COVID-19 Emergency, Governor Temporarily Suspends Certain Sunshine Law Requirements, Paving the Way for Local Government Meetings to Be Held Electronically

On March 20, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order #20-69, which temporarily suspends the Sunshine Law requirement that a quorum of a governmental body be physically present at a public meeting. In doing so, the Governor removed a legal obstacle that has until now prevented local government boards from holding their meetings telephonically or by using other electronic means.

Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law is intended to promote transparency in local government by ensuring that members of the public have full access to all public decision-making proceedings. To achieve this aim, Section 286.011(1), Florida Statutes, provides that all local government board meetings in which official action will be taken must be open to the public at all times. Any formal action taken by a public board at a meeting that does not meet these requirements will be void and have no legal effect.

Although the Sunshine Law does not expressly prohibit local government board members from attending public meetings electronically, the Attorney General has consistently interpreted the above statute to mean that members of a public board must be physically present in order to establish a quorum.  It has further opined that so long as a quorum is physically present, a board member may participate in a public board meeting by telephone or other electronic means only in extraordinary circumstances.

Executive Order #20-69 suspends the requirements that a quorum of a public body must be physically present and meet at a specific public place in order for their actions to be binding.  It allows a local government to use telephonic and videoconference systems to hold meetings, provided certain statutory requirements are met.   Without these restrictions, local government boards will now be able to hold virtual public meetings in order to conduct important public business when necessary.  All other requirements of the Florida Constitution and the Sunshine Law remain in full force and effect.  Executive Order #20-69 will expire upon termination of Florida’s state of emergency due to COVID-19.

If you have any questions or would like assistance in drafting an administrative policy that establishes uniform rules governing electronic attendance and participation at public meetings during the current state of emergency, please contact us.

If you are a local government and have questions, please contact James W. Linn at jlinn@llw-law.com or at 850-222-5702.  If you are a special district and have questions, please contact Terry E. Lewis at tlewis@llw-law.com or at 561-640-0820.

 

Permit and Development Order Extensions Available Due to COVID-19

When Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-52 declaring a State of Emergency for Florida because of COVID-19, he opened the door for tolling and extending certain permits and other government authorizations for the period of the declared emergency, plus an additional six months.  See Section 252.363, Florida Statutes. This tolling and extension can be applied to:

1. The expiration of a development order issued by a local government.

2. The expiration of a building permit.

3. The expiration of a permit issued by the Department of Environmental Protection or a water management district pursuant to Part IV of Chapter 373, Florida Statutes.

4. The buildout date of a Development of Regional Impact, including any extension of a buildout date that was previously granted as specified in Section  380.06(7)(c), Florida Statutes.

If you have questions about securing an extension or whether an extension can be applied to your project, please contact Kathryn Rossmell at krossmell@llw-law.com or by calling 561-640-0820. More information from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation can be found here.

 

2020 Retirement Legislation Session Recap

All retirement legislation that passed this year concerned the Florida Retirement System.   The FRS bills that passed, and all the other retirement legislation we have been tracking this year, are summarized here.

 

DEP Permits for Sailfish Marina Upheld

A neighbor does not have a superior right to depend on his neighbor’s sovereign submerged land lease in order to accommodate very large boats at his dock.  That was the ruling of an Administrative Law Judge and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) late 2018. On March 12, 2020, the Fourth District Court of Appeal agreed and affirmed the DEP’s decision to grant the Sailfish Marina’s permit to rebuild the northernmost dock in its 93-slip marina.

The Buccaneer Condominium challenged the Sailfish Marina’s permit, arguing that the new dock would prevent the Buccaneer from mooring large boats in excess of 60 feet long at their dock.  Administrative Law Judge Gary Early ruled in 2018 that the Sailfish Marina held a sovereign submerged land lease entitling it to the superior right to use that leased area for the docking of boats and installation of docks and pilings.  Judge Early rejected the Buccaneer’s claimed “right” to depend on the neighboring Sailfish Marina’s riparian area and submerged land lease in order to increase the size of boats that could dock at the Buccaneer.  According to the DEP, the Sailfish Marina’s submerged lands lease will have no negative impact on navigation on appropriate sized boats using the Buccaneer’s dock or the adjacent Lake Worth Navigation Channel. Judge Early’s 63 page Order was adopted by the Department in a Final Order on December 14, 2018.  Now, after an appeal of this Final Order by the Buccaneer, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has affirmed DEP’s Final Order effectively rejecting the Buccaneer’s challenge.

Click here for the Recommended Order

Click here for the Final Order

Click here for the 4th DCA PCA Opinion

For more information, contact Andrew Baumann at abaumann@llw-law.com or at 561-640-0820.

 

Information about the SECURE Act (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement)

In December 2019, the U.S. Congress enacted and President Trump signed into law the “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement” (SECURE) Act.  The SECURE Act includes a number of federal tax law changes to promote retirement savings.  The most significant change affecting all retirement plans, including local government plans, is an increase in the age for required minimum distributions, from 70 ½ to 72.  There are several other provisions of the SECURE Act that impact governmental retirement plans.  These are summarized here.

 

Get It In Writing… They Said: Contracting For Non-Lawyers

We’ve all heard it.  If you want something from someone… “get it writing”.  The simple idea is that if you get it in writing, then you have proof of their responsibility in case the other party breaches the contract.  However, this idea of having a contract to memorialize an agreement between parties has seemingly morphed into a misunderstanding of exactly what the parties to a contract are bargaining for.  People believe that if they have a contract, then the other party actually cannot breach the contract at all,  as if breaching the contract is akin to committing a crime.  Or, if the other party does breach the contract, that a lawsuit to recover damages will be simple and straightforward.  After all, the agreement is in writing.  Unfortunately, neither of those beliefs is necessarily true.  Please do not mistake me, having a contract is essential to good business practice.  But it is equally important to understand the purpose of a contract.  Click here to view the full article.

 

LLW News

LLW’s Jacksonville office was listed in the Jacksonville Business Journal’s “Northeast Florida Law Firms” list for 2020.  The list ranks law firms by total attorneys in the Jacksonville area. Other statistics found on the list include local employment, local AV-rated attorneys, companywide employment, and year founded locally. https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/subscriber-only/2020/02/14/northeast-florida-law-firms.html

LLW attorney Telsula Morgan was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County.  The Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the community by promoting and achieving literacy. In Palm Beach County, 1 in 7 adults lacks basic literacy skills. Through extensive outreach and collaboration with a network of community partners, the Literacy Coalition strives to ensure that individuals who need to improve their literacy skills receive the help they need. For more information, visit www.literacypbc.org.

LLW sponsored the Environmental and Land Use Law Section of the Florida Bar networking event on March 12th in Delray Beach. http://eluls.org/

LLW attorneys attended the Love of Literacy Luncheon on March 12th in West Palm Beach. Proceeds from the event supported the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County.  https://www.literacypbc.org/event/love-of-literacy-luncheon/

LLW attorney Steve Walker attended the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) Land & Water Trust Concert & Silent Eco Auction on February 29th in Bonita Springs. CREW’s mission is to preserve and protect the 60,000 acre watershed located in Southwest Florida that is critical to maintaining the local water supply.  https://crewtrust.org/save-the-date-crew-concert-silent-eco-auction/

LLW attorneys attended the Holland Scholarship Luncheon on February 28th in West Palm Beach, hosted by the F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. Bar Association. LLW was a proud sponsor.  https://cunninghambar.org/event-3674932

LLW sponsored the Propeller Club of Port Manatee Membership Meeting on February 27th at the Bradenton Yacht Club. The event featured guest speaker Carlos Buqueras, Executive Director of Port Manatee.  https://manatee.propellerclub.us/home

Rob Shear, Senior Vice President of New Markets at Petros Pace Finance and Erin Deady, esq., gave a presentation to LLW on February 11th on the topic of Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE).  C-PACE is a financing structure in which building owners borrow money for energy efficiency, renewable energy, or other projects and make repayments via an assessment on their property tax bill. The financing arrangement then remains with the property even if it is sold, facilitating long-term investments in building performance.

LLW attorney Frederick L. Aschauer, Jr. attended a networking reception hosted jointly by the Florida Association of Environmental Professionals, Florida Bar ELULS, and the Florida Brownfields Association on February 11th in Tallahassee. http://eluls.org/

LLW attorney Robert Angus Williams attended the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame Annual Banquet on February 11th in Tampa.  http://floridaaghalloffame.org/annual-banquet-and-ceremony/

LLW attorneys Janice Rustin and Glenn Thomas gave a presentation at the FPELRA Annual Training Conference on February 11th in Orlando. LLW was a proud sponsor. https://fpelra.org/

LLW attorney Frederick L. Aschauer, Jr. attended the National Conference on Beach Preservation Technology February 5-7th in Sarasota.  LLW was a proud sponsor.  https://www.fsbpa.com/tech-conference.html

LLW attorney Frederick L. Aschauer, Jr. attended the Florida Ports Council Spring Board Meeting and Legislative Forum February 5th in Tallahassee and had the honor of introducing the Luncheon Speaker, Dr. Julia Nesheiwat, Chief Resilience Officer, State of Florida. LLW was a proud sponsor. https://flaports.org/event/florida-ports-council-spring-board-meeting-and-legislative-forum/

LLW sponsored the 31st Annual Chipola Quail Calcutta January 30-31st in Blountstown, hosted by Sen. Bill Montford, Sen. George Gainer, Rep. Brad Drake and Rep. Jason Shoaf. Proceeds from the event support the Chipola College Foundation.  http://www.chipola.edu/calcutta/

LLW attorney Robert Williams attended the 4-H Day at the Capitol event on January 28th in Tallahassee. LLW was a proud sponsor. http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/give/2020/01/28/4-h-day-at-the-capitol-legislative-alumni-friends-reception/

LLW was a proud sponsor of the Florida Association of Special Districts 2020 Legislative Forum held in Tallahassee January 27-31st.  http://www.cvent.com/events/2020-fasd-legislative-forum/agenda-cede55e3e3684b2db9ccb28ba3792af0.aspx?fqp=true

LLW hosted a webinar with Cardno and Madison Street Strategies titled “Leveraging Community Based Redevelopment Opportunities in Florida Opportunity Zones and Brownfields Areas” on January 23rd at our LLW offices.  Participants also had the ability to join the webinar remotely from their desktop computers.  Click here for more information.

LLW sponsored Leadership Florida’s Northeast Region Welcome Reception for Cornerstone Class 38 on January 22nd in Jacksonville. LLW attorney Tara Duhy is a member of Cornerstone Class 38.  https://www.leadershipflorida.org/events/northeast-regions-welcome-reception-for-cornerstone-class-38

LLW attorneys participated in the Place of Hope Fun Shoot on January 17th in Palm City. Place of Hope is a nonprofit dedicated to providing stable and loving family environments for children and youth.  https://www.placeofhope.com/clayshoot/

LLW attorney Tara Duhy participated in a Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) panel discussion on January 14th in West Palm Beach, which focused on women leaders in planning and land use.  http://crewpbtc.org/#

LLW was a proud sponsor of the Paralegal Association of Florida Palm Beach County Chapter Holiday event on December 11th in West Palm Beach.  http://palmbeach.pafinc.org/

LLW attorneys Frederick L. Aschauer, Jr. and Seth Behn participated in the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Growth & Infrastructure Summit on December 5th in Hollywood.  https://www.flchamber.com/event_post/florida-growth-and-infrastructure-summit/

LLW attorneys Bob Diffenderfer and Kathryn Rossmell attended the ACI-NA/ACC Airport Planning & NEPA Workshop December 4-6th in Washington, D.C.  LLW was a proud sponsor.  https://airportscouncil.org/conference/2019-aci-na-acc-airport-planning-nepa-workshop/