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News & Knowledge

Interference with Development Results in Multi Million Dollar Judgement

February 16, 2018

By: Tara L. Tedrow, and Rebecca (Becky) Wilson

Developers often pay more to handle projects that face public opposition, but it isn't often that developers get paid by such opposition groups. On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, a jury in Stuart, Florida found that a well-known environmentalist (the "Defendant") unlawfully interfered with the ongoing negotiations and approval process of a mining project near Lake Okeechobee (the "Project").

At the beginning of the approval process, the developer and the County maintained an agreeable relationship and worked together like "partners" to come to an agreement for approval of the Project. But, according to the evidence adduced during the trial, the partnership between the County and the developer ceased once the Defendant began to communicate over e-mail with Martin County commissioners, coaching them on how to obstruct and delay approval of the Project. The developer argued during the trial that the Defendant used false or misleading information-including the developer's alleged destruction of  thousands of acres of wetlands-as evidence that the County should not approve the Project. Ultimately, when the Project was not approved, the developer claimed a loss of four million dollars against the Defendant. This week, in a decision that has left most shocked, the jury sided with the developer against the Defendant and entered a verdict of $4,400,000.

Though this verdict doesn't signal the end of public opposition or the guaranteed ability to sue those who oppose projects, it does signal judicial willingness to hold accountable those groups responsible for unlawful interference.

If you have questions involving a project of yours that was denied due to unlawful interference by a third party, please contact any member of the firm's Land Use, Zoning, & Environmental Group.


Tara

Tara Tedrow is a shareholder in the firm’s Land Use, Zoning & Environmental Group and serves as chair of the Cannabis & Controlled Substances Group. She brings years of experience handling an array of complex legal matters for multi-billion dollar valued companies and entrepreneurs alike.


With a significant portion of her practice devoted to land use and development, Tara regularly advises clients on entitling projects for commercial, residential, industrial, office and mixed uses. She works with local governments and regulatory agencies to address the needs of her clients related to environmental permitting and compliance, zoning, comprehensive plans, concurrency, site plan approval, variance and waiver requests, due diligence and property rights.

Often sought out for high-profile and high-stakes land development projects, Tara has delivered positive outcomes for clients ranging from large multi-national and U.S.-based companies to high-net worth individuals seeking land use entitlements. With over 15 years of competitive debate experience, she is uniquely suited to handle complex and controversial projects and public hearings that present a myriad of political and legal challenges.

Well-known for providing legal and lobbying representation for a wide range of cannabis clients, Tara and her team work with physicians, lenders, real estate developers, landlords, ancillary service providers, banks, licensed adult use and medical marijuana companies, cultivators, processors, retailers and license applicants, helping them to navigate the ever-changing regulatory landscape of marijuana and hemp regulations. She also assists clients in the national hemp industry in obtaining licensing and approvals for processing, retailing, cultivation and other forms of secondary byproduct monetization. Her deep knowledge of regulatory laws and understanding of operations and logistics for cannabis companies, along with her ability to make connections and build partnerships, bring strategic value to her clients. 

Tara is the only person in the state of Florida to be appointed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to both the inaugural Industrial Hemp Advisory Council created under Senate Bill 1020 and to the state’s Hemp Advisory Committee, which she currently chairs. A prolific presenter and speaker at industry seminars and conferences, she has served as the keynote speaker on industry regulations at over 60 events in the past two years. In the fall of 2018, Tara became the first professor in the state of Florida to teach a law school course on marijuana law and policy at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she continues to teach today.

Prior to joining the firm, Tara worked as a legal extern for the University of Florida General Counsel and Office of the Vice President as well as for the Orlando Juvenile Public Defenders Office. For over a decade, she has also worked professionally as a private speech and debate coach and taught at multiple national debate institutes, including the National Debate Forum at Emerson University, the National Symposium for Debate at Grinnell College and Victory Briefs Institute at UCLA.

Tara is a contributing writer at the Orlando Sentinel and has spoken about various real estate topics on Fox News.


Rebecca

Becky  Wilson is chair of the firm's Land Use, Zoning and Environmental Group. She represents property owners, developers, lenders and other development participants with issues related to zoning, comprehensive plans, concurrency, administrative law, Developments of Regional Impact (DRI’s), procurement issues, due diligence and property rights.


As early as 6th grade, Becky Wilson advocated for the causes she believed in. Her concern about nuclear waste and water contamination in her hometown of Dothan, Alabama – and her thorough research – promoted her to press a state legislator with questions in the school auditorium. Having grown up in the south, Becky got in trouble for questioning authority – yet that life experience served her well.

After clerking for a federal judge in Washington, D.C., Becky landed in Orlando, quickly building a reputation at Lowndes for being thorough, outspoken, and a tireless advocate for clients. She ultimately found her niche in land use, collaborating with architects, transportation engineers and local governments to move her clients’ projects – and Central Florida – forward. Becky became one of the youngest female shareholders at the firm. Today, she is Chair of the Land Use, Zoning and Environmental Group.

Her clients include property owners, developers, lenders and other participants in the development of high-rise, hotels, planned communities, large “power-centers,” mixed-use projects, office buildings and big box commercial projects, projects within historic districts, multi-family developments, senior living, and affordable housing. Becky works closely with the local government entities to address the needs of her clients related to zoning, comprehensive plans, concurrency, administrative lawDevelopments of Regional Impact (DRI’s), procurement issues, due diligence, and property rights.

Undoubtedly, Becky’s diligence, activism and southern charm were responsible in part for her recent appointment as chair of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) of Central Florida District Council, a global multidisciplinary real estate organization with more than 40,000 members dedicated to the responsible use of land, and creating and sustaining thriving communities.

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