The Importance of Participating in Local Land-Use Decisions in Florida

By Zachary W. Lombardo, Florida Local Government Law attorney

A significant part of how your community, county or city develops is determined by decisions made by local government planning commissions or boards and their governing boards or councils. In many counties and cities, these have the ability to recommend or grant significant deviations and variances from many requirements of land use and zoning codes. Because Florida real estate is unique and can vary significantly, this ability to grant deviations and variances is important, but it is equally important for the surrounding property owners and stakeholders to participate in this process. This is because, at its core, zoning regulates growth and development to generally protect the health, safety and welfare of the public and the expectations of surrounding property owners and stakeholders.

Public Meetings and Records

Local governments in Florida hold their meetings publicly, which means you have an opportunity to participate. Further, local governments in Florida have expansive public records laws, which means most, if not all, of the material that the local governments review in making these decisions, is also available for your review.

Development and redevelopment projects often involve neighborhood information meetings and notices of public hearings before planning commissions, committees or boards. If you have a concern or an opinion about the direction development should go, it is important to participate and make your concerns and opinions known to the decisions makers. Growth and development are essential to the economic vibrancy of southwest Florida, and while objecting to growth and development outright may seem counter to this vibrancy, participating in the process is not. And, of course, every rule has an exception, and in some cases, growth and development may be totally objectionable for a number of reasons, including but not limited to, environmental reasons.

In fact, I would argue that participating in the process is a part of the vibrancy of the local economy in SWFL. Participation before a local planning body provides the opportunity to have the concerns of the community and neighborhood heard and considered. Through open discussion and public involvement in these hearings, applicants and objectors can produce creative solutions to harmoniously redevelop or to newly developed parts of the community while protecting existing development and environmental resources.

Development and redevelopment impact everything from traffic to stormwater (drainage) to environmental protection to Florida property values. More than anything, it is paramount that as a member of your community, you keep yourself aware of what the local planning bodies, commissions and councils are reviewing and when you have something to add, or a concern, you participate.

Talk to Our Florida Land Use & Zoning Lawyers

Should you have any questions about Florida Local Government Law or Land Use & Zoning, please feel free to contact any of the attorneys at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo listed below:

Zachary W. Lombardo is a Naples native and an associate attorney at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. His Juris Doctorate is from the Florida State University College of Law. He focuses his land use, zoning, business, contract drafting, and litigation practice in the Southwest Florida community.

Lenore T. Brakefield is a Naples native and partner at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. Her Juris Doctorate is from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Lenore focuses her law practice on civil and commercial litigation and is experienced in construction litigation matters, as well as local government law, code enforcement violations, community association law, real estate law and transactional matters. Additionally, Lenore is a Certified Financial Litigator by The American Academy for Certified Financial Litigators.

Anthony P. Pires, Jr. is a partner at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. and a Board Certified Specialist by The Florida Bar in City, County & Local Government Law. He represents numerous public and governmental entities, special districts, concerned citizens and private sector clients throughout Collier and Lee Counties in Local Government Law, Land Use and Zoning Law, and Government Relations.

About the Firm

For over 50 years, Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P. A. has assisted individuals, families, businesses, associations, local governments and municipalities with an array of legal services including Litigation, Estate Planning, Real Estate Law, Business Law, Family Law, Community Association Law, Land Use & Zoning, and Local Government Law. The law firm has two offices in Southwest Florida in Naples and Marco Island, having served clients since 1971 when attorney Arthur V. Woodward founded the first law firm on Marco Island. To learn more about WPL, call 239-649-6555 or visit

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