Constitutionality of the Impact Fee Ordinance in Florida

In St. Johns County v. Northeast Florida Builders Assn, Inc., 583 So. 2d 635 (Fla. 1991), the plaintiffs attacked the impact fee ordinance as unconstitutional on its face. See St. Johns County, 583 So. 2d at 637. The ordinance allocated the cost of new schools to each new unit of residential development. See id. In addition, the ordinance permitted households to adjust the fee in individual cases. See id. at 640. The Court rejected the argument that dwelling units without children did not have an impact on the school system, noting that occupants would change and children would "come and go." Id. at 638. The Court likewise rejected the argument that the "benefits" prong of the dual rational nexus test requires that "every new unit of development benefit from the impact fee in the sense that there must be a child residing in that unit who will attend public school." Id. at 639. However, the Court ultimately found that the ordinance was defective because fee funds could be spent within municipalities whose residents were not subject to the fee. See id. The St. Johns County plaintiffs also attacked the ordinance on the ground that it violated the state constitutional guarantee of a uniform system of free public schools. See id. The Court opined that the adjustment provision for individual households would turn into a user fee paid primarily by families with children in school. See id. at 640. Thus, the Court invalidated the alternative provision, but noted that exemptions for adult housing where land use restrictions prohibited minors from residing were permissible. See id. at 640 n.6.