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Walton County challenges order of contempt

Aug 22nd, 2014 | 0

By DOTTY NIST
Walton County has challenged an Aug. 6 judge’s order finding the county in contempt of court for failure to comply with a court order issued three months earlier.
The challenge is in the form of a Motion to Vacate Order of Contempt filed in Walton County Circuit Court by Mark Davis, Walton County attorney, on Aug. 12.
Both court orders were in connection with a lawsuit by Sandestin Investments by which the developer had sought to have the court prohibit the county from refusing to accept or review a building permit application for the Osprey Point development. In response to Sandestin Investments’ complaint, Walton County Circuit Judge Kelvin C. Wells had issued Walton County a May 9 order directing the county to accept and process the building permit application according to county procedures. The county had appealed the order to the First District Court of Appeals, and that appeal is pending.
Following the judge’s order, the building permit application had been accepted by the county but not acted on, and on Aug. 6 the two parties were again in Judge Wells’ court as a result of a Motion for Contempt filed by Sandestin Investments.
Judge Wells agreed with Sandestin Investments’ motion, finding Walton County in contempt of his previous court order. Walton County was ordered to process the building permit application within 10 days, whether approving or denying the application.
At the Aug. 6 hearing, Davis had brought up the Walton County Board of County Commissioners’ (BCC) June 6 compliance hearing on the Sandestin Development of Regional Impact (DRI), at which the BCC had determined that the DRI was not in substantial compliance with its development order requirements. Davis also referenced a section of Florida Statutes that prohibits local governments from issuing approvals or extending services for developments found not to be in substantial compliance.
In the Aug. 12 Motion to Vacate Order of Contempt, the county maintains that “the trial court did not have the authority or power to take any action while the appeal filed by Walton County is pending.” The motion refers to the county’s appeal of Judge Wells’ original May 9 order to the First District Court of Appeals.
The motion cites a rule of Florida Rule of Appellate Procedures stating that local governments are granted an automatic stay of all proceedings when the government files an appeal in a civil case—although a court may, through means of a motion, vacate the stay. In the county’s motion, it is noted that the court did not move to vacate the automatic stay.
The circuit court has not acted on the county’s motion at this time.

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