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South Florida Water Management Extends Lease: Did They Break the Law?

5:34 PM, Nov 19, 2018

The South Florida Water Management District extended its lease with a sugar company last week. The land is designated for the construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

The Extended lease allows the sugar company to continue farming until construction starts.

South Florida Water Management Extends Lease: Did They Break the Law?

This didn’t sit too well with some people because the lease was added to the agenda 12 hours before the board approved it That move did not break any laws.

There’s two laws that are important -- The Florida Sunshine Law and a Florida Statute [373. 03093.]

The difference between the two is the Florida Sunshine Law requires “reasonable notice of meetings." Environmental Lawyer, Kate English, broke it down for us.

“The Florida Sunshine law is also a statute, essentially every document, note, writing, recording, any of those things are public records in the state of Florida,” English said.

But as for the Florida Statute --

"It’s specifically intended, when leases expire, to allow everyone who might reasonably be able to manage the property, to have access and be aware that the property is available lease.”

The Florida Sunshine law does not require including items added to the agenda.

“In this instance, this is a properly noticed meeting, the agenda can be modified. They can even walk on a new issue,” English said.

The Florida Statute regulating Water Management Districts says the district needs to publish a “Notice of Intention to Lease” For three constructive weeks, at least 30 days before the board approves it.

So it’s unclear if a law was broken. In Kate opinion, everything South Florida Water Management did was legal.

Construction began for this reservoir on Wednesday.