Volusia County v. Aberdeen at Ormond Beach, L.P. Supreme Court of Florida, 2000.

Facts: Defendant owns a mobile home park for residents aged 55-and-older. Deed restrictions prevent persons under age 18 from permanently residing in any unit on the property. In 1992, Volusia County enacted and ordinance requiring Impact Fees for new dwelling units within the county. After court challenges, the ordinance was replaced in 1997 with a new methodology. The Impact Fees are intended for school construction and charged per dwelling unit based on the average “student generation rate.” Aberdeen has paid the fees under protest ($87k up to this point) but filed suit contending the fees are unconstitutional as applied to Aberdeen due to the deed restrictions. The County claimed that the new methodology has already been decided as constitutional by the courts and granting exceptions to Aberdeen would make the fee into a “user fee,” which is unconstitutional for education funding.

Procedure: Trial Court denied the County’s motion and granted Aberdeen’s motion for summary judgment. The County appealed.

Issue: I. Does the impact fee here meet Florida’s earlier “dual rational nexus” test, demonstrating reasonable connection between 1) “need for additional capital facilities… generated by the subdivision” and 2) “benefits accruing to the subdivision”? (If it does not, it is not a fee but a tax.)

Holding: The Trial Court decision is affirmed; the Impact Fees are unconstitutional as applied to Aberdeen.

Rationale: Aberdeen’s development does not actually increase the need for new capital school facilities, even though it affects the “formula” used. Aberdeen also does not accrue benefit from such facilities, even though the buildings may be put to other community uses from time to time.
Regarding the County’s counterclaim, St. Johns County v. Northeast Florida Builders Ass’n also looked at these fees and found that households without children were not exempt since children might “come and go” from these households. As education funding cannot constitutionally be a user fee, this would be unconstitutional. However, the Fla. Supreme Court said in that case exempting facilities with land use restrictions that prevented minors would not be subject to this logic.

Note: The court did not discuss the idea that successful school districts elevate property values for the entire community.