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2001 Opinions

Date:   June 7, 2001
Prepared By:   James A. Robinson
Phone:   (850) 488-7707
Suncom:   278-7707
Opinion No.:   01-10
Staff Contact:   Jon Hamrick
TO: J. Victor Africano, Suwanne County School Board Attorney
FROM: James A. Robinson, General Counsel
SUBJECT: Interpretation of Section 235.193(5) and (8), Florida Statutes
RE: Letter of April 16, 2001

QUESTION PRESENTED: What is the proper interpretation of Section 235.193(5) and (8), Florida Statutes, regarding making renovations and improvements to an existing student agricultural facility?

CONCLUSION: See discussion.

DISCUSSION: I am responding to your letter of April 16, 2001, requesting our interpretation of the above-referenced sections of the Florida School Code. As I understand it, your client, the Suwannee County School Board, seeks to make certain renovations and improvements, including some additions (a barn, pens, etc.) to an existing student agricultural facility. The City of Live Oak has told the School Board that the project needs approval under municipal ordinance.

Section 235.193(5), Florida Statutes, essentially imposes a time deadline on a local government's review of a school board's plan for construction of a new educational facility. Within the 90-day time limit, the local government may determine that the proposed construction is or is not consistent with the local comprehensive plan and local land use regulations (to the extent such regulations are not in conflict with or the subject regulated is not specifically addressed by Chapter 235 or the State Uniform Building Code, unless mutually agreed).
Applying Subsection 235.193(8) to the limited facts set out in your letter, it appears that the existing facility is deemed consistent with the local comprehensive plan. Likewise, the expansion of the existing facility, and the collocation of any new proposed public educational facility, are deemed consistent with the plan. As expressly provided by this subsection, "If a
board submits an application to expand an existing school site, the local governing board may impose reasonable development standards and conditions on the expansion only, and in a manner consistent with s. 235.34(1)." (Emphasis added) Such standards and conditions may not conflict with those established in Chapter 235 or the State Uniform Building Code, unless mutually agreed. (While renovations are not expressly addressed in the subsection, we construe the statute to include renovation, refurbishment, improvement, and activities of that nature, which do not entail "new construction," as that term is hereinafter defined, as being within the class of activities deemed consistent with the local comprehensive plan.)

It is not entirely clear from your letter what will, in fact, constitute new construction as opposed to renovation or some other sort of improvement to the existing structure. A review of pertinent statutory definitions may help clarify the question. The term "educational facilities" is defined by Sec. 235.011(6) to mean,

"…the buildings and equipment, structures, and special educational use areas that are built, installed, or established to serve primarily the educational purposes and secondarily the social and recreational purposes of the community and which may lawfully be used as authorized by the Florida Statutes and approved by boards."

Section 235.011(14), Florida Statutes, defines "new construction" to mean,

"…any construction of a building or unit of a building in which the entire work is new or an entirely new addition connected to an existing building."

(Emphasis added) It appears that the proposed new barn and pens (and any other entirely new building, unit, or addition) constitute "educational facilities" since they primarily serve an educational purpose (the teaching of agriculture). It likewise appears that these structures would constitute "new construction" as defined above and "new educational facilities" within the meaning of Subsection 235.193(8). Thus, assuming our understanding of the facts is correct, it appears that these new educational facilities (the "new barn, pens, and other "new" improvements" referred to in your letter) would also be deemed consistent with the local comprehensive plan, provided, however, that the site of construction is consistent with the comprehensive plan's future land use policies and categories in which public schools are identified as allowable uses, and levels of service adopted by the local government for any facilities affected by the proposed location of these new facilities is maintained. Consistency with the comprehensive plan's future land use policies and categories and levels of service remains to be determined, and we make no opinion on this issue.

I welcome input from the City of Live Oak, and encourage you to share this letter with the City. The nature of "municipal approval" referred to in your letter is unclear, and, as
you can see by reference to the applicable statutes, the City's approval may or may not be required depending on the nature of construction.

I am pleased to work with you and the City toward an amicable resolution of this dispute, and look forward to hearing from you after you've had a chance to consider this letter and confer with the Board and the City.

cc: Jonathon D. Hamrick
Bureau of Educational Facilities

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