Seaside Town Council wins appeal on issue of standing to sue

By TRISH DAY 

A lengthy legal battle between Seaside Town Council, Inc. (STC) and Seaside Community Development Corp. (SCDC) culminated in a ruling by the Florida First District Court of Appeal on Dec. 29, 2021, in Case No. 1D19-755. 

The appeals court found that the Appellant, Seaside Town Council (STC) does have the legal right to pursue its claims for declarative and injunctive relief against SCDC on behalf of nine neighborhood associations.

A little history: SCDC was the developer of Seaside, and in the 1980’s, they recorded declarations for the nine neighborhood associations.

In 1991, the members of the nine neighborhood associations amended their declarations to form Seaside Town Council and directed that STC would assume management of association business.

The STC was formed to enforce building codes, set design standards and enforce compliance regarding allowable building types and sizes. They would also maintain sole discretion regarding payments of assessments, collection of delinquent assessments and the like.

The SCDC has long argued that the STC does not have legal authority to do these things. This recent ruling states that they do.

The opinion of the majority stated: “In 1991, the neighborhood associations each agreed that STC was to ‘[a]ssume management of the administration and operations of the Association.’ 

‘Management’ is synonymous with ‘control, direction, governance, government, guidance, [and] handling,’ among other words. Management, Meriam-Webster Online Dictionary, https://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/  management# synonyms (last visited Dec. 3, 2021).  ‘Administration’ is defined, among other things, as ‘the performance of executive duties.’ Administration, Meriam- Webster Online Dictionary, https://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/administration (last visited Dec. 3, 2021). 

“As mentioned, the operations of the neighborhood associations included the ‘right to enforce, by any proceeding at law or in equity, all restrictions, conditions, [and] covenants.’”  

The nine associations who are members of STC voted in 2011 to have STC file this lawsuit on their behalf to protect the associations’ real property and legal rights under their respective Declarations of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions and to assign STC the right to otherwise prosecute this lawsuit on their behalf. 

The court found that based on the will of the nine neighborhood associations within Seaside and in accordance with Florida Statutes, the STC has the legal right to “pursue claims for declaratory and injunctive relief” against SCDC.