The Richman Group of Florida Inc., will not be getting $16.5 million from the taxpayers of Pinellas County after the U.S. Supreme Court on March 25 refused to hear their arguments.
The case began more than five years ago when the international apartment development company lost a bid in 2012 to get the city of Safety Harbor to rezone a 35-acre parcel on McMullen-Booth Road. Richman Group wanted to build a luxury, 246-unit apartment complex with 25,000 square feet of office space, court records show.
The Safety Harbor City Council approved the rezoning but the Pinellas County Commission had to give final approval to the zoning change. When more than 300 residents rose up against the development, the commissioners denied the request.
The county’s refusal led the developer to take its case up the judicial ladder.
First, the Richman Group asked a Pinellas County administrative law judge for a ruling. The judge sided with the developer, recommending that the county commission approve the land-use amendment.
When the company brought the judge’s recommendation back to the county, the commission once again refused to amend its land-use plan. That’s when the developer took the county to circuit court, alleging violations of due process and equal-protection guaranteed it under the Constitution.
The company then got the Pinellas County Circuit Court to agree that the county didn’t have a rational basis for rejecting the land-use amendment. That court ordered the commission to pay Richman Group $16.5 million, money the company claimed it lost due to the county’s intransigence.
No money, no dice, the county said again, setting up another legal challenge, this time in the Florida Supreme Court. The state supreme court ruled against the developer, forcing the Richman Group to ask the nine justices in Washington, D.C., for relief.
Last week, the Supreme Court turned the case down, which has the same effect as saying “No.”