FLORIDA TENNIS TOURNAMENT DEPRIVED PUBLIC OF PARK USE WHITE v. METROPOLITAN DADE COUNTY
563 So.2d 117 (Fla.App. 1990)
Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District
May 22, 1990
In this case, plaintiffs Margaret Matheson Randolph and Malcolm Matheson, Jr. (Matheson) were heirs to the Matheson family which had deeded land for Crandon Park to defendant Dade County. Matheson alleged that Dade County's use of a portion of the park for development of the Lipton International Tennis Center violated restrictions in the deed limiting use of the land to public park purposes. The facts of the case were as follows:
In 1940, several members of the Matheson family deeded three tracts of land located on the northern portion of Key Biscayne to Dade County. This land, consisting of 680 acres, came to be known as Crandon Park. In the recorded deeds, the grantors expressly provided:
This conveyance is made upon the express condition that the lands hereby conveyed shall be perpetually used and maintained for public park purposes only; and in case the use of said land for park purposes shall be abandoned, then and in that event the said [grantor], his heirs, grantees or assigns, shall be entitled upon their request to have the said lands reconveyed to them.
Since that time, several amendatory deeds have been issued by the grantors to allow ancillary uses which may have been otherwise violative of the deed restriction. The additional uses permitted were the construction of public roads, public utilities, and 'houses, apartments and facilities for the use of employees engaged in [the] care, maintenance and operation' of Crandon Park. The last amended deed permitted the building of a firehouse on the property. However, the grantors' heirs refused to allow the building a cable satellite dish. The grantors, their heirs, or assigns, have not waived the deed restriction as to any other construction or use. In 1963, a section of the park was utilized as a dump. This use was never approved or sanctioned by the grantors, their heirs, or assigns.
In 1986, the Dade County Board of County Commissioners passed Resolution R-891-86, which authorized the execution of an agreement with Arvida International Championships, Inc., (Arvida), and the International Players Championship, Inc., (IPC), to construct a permanent tennis complex. The construction of the court facilities and infrastructure began in the summer of 1986, and terminated in 1987. Initially, the tennis complex consisted of fifteen tennis courts, service roads, utilities, and landscaping, all located on 28 acres.
The agreement provided that for two weeks each year, subject to a renewal provision, the tennis complex would become the site of the Lipton International Players Championship Tennis Tournament (Lipton tournament). This renowned tournament is only open to world class players who compete for two weeks.
In February 1987, the first Lipton tournament was held before approximately 213,000 people. The county manager considered the Lipton tournament to be such a tremendous success that he recommended, and the County Commission approved in Resolution R-827-87, the construction of "Phase II," a permanent clubhouse/fitness facility. This 15,000-to-33,000-square-foot facility was to house locker rooms, training and exercise equipment, meeting rooms, food and beverage concessions, and a sporting goods store. As a result of "community input," the clubhouse was ultimately reduced to 9,800 square feet. This 'community input" consisted of informal meetings with residents and one public hearing.
During the four Lipton tournaments held thus far on Key Biscayne, temporary seating has been provided. Appellants contend that a 12,000-seat permanent stadium is part of the future development plans. Although Dade County admits that "[a] stadium is a future possibility,' it asserts that "no unified plan of development for a stadium exists, and no approvals or permits for any stadium have been issued.'
In 1989, the clubhouse was completed. The facilities are closed to the public for specified periods of time both before and after the two-week Lipton tournament. Dade County's agreement with the tournament sponsors, Arvida and IPC, gives them control of the tennis complex during what is called the 'Tournament Period.' The 'Tournament Period" is defined in the agreement as the three weeks prior to the beginning of the calendar week in which the qualifying rounds of the Tournaments are to be played and continuing until the date occurring one (1) week after the completion of such Tournaments concerned.
In addition, the contract gives the tournament sponsors 'reasonably necessary" time before the 'Tournament Period' for site preparation. Arvida and IPC are also each afforded 45 days and 30 days, respectively, after the 'Tournament Period" for site dismantling.
With respect to the 1987 tournament, the agreement specifically provided for Arvida to have "Priority Use" of the 'grandstand and stadium court areas from November 1, 1986 through a period ending 45 days after the conclusion of the Tournament.' The agreement defines 'Priority Use" as "[t]he unimpaired right of [Arvida and IPC]...to permit, reasonably restrict and control access to the Site...'
Dade County offered testimony at trial that the public was only excluded from using the facilities for some three to four weeks. However, under the clear wording of the agreement, relative to the 1987 tournament, Arvida had the right to exclude the public from the tennis complex for as long as five months.
During the tournament, the sponsors are given most of Crandon Park's parking spaces to provide parking for the tournament spectators. The agreement provides that the "County will designate adequate parking facilities in the currently existing Crandon Park parking areas for Priority Use in connection with the Tournament."
The contract estimated that the parking needs of the tournament would 'not exceed 4,000 spaces per day.' These 4,000 spaces were not sufficient to satisfy the needs of tournament spectators and other park visitors. At trial, Earl Buchholz, Jr., the tournament operator, testified that tournament spectators parked not only at Crandon Park, but at the Marine Stadium, as well. Correspondingly, Dr. Charles Pezoldt, Deputy Director of Dade County Parks and Recreation Department, testified that during the final Saturday and Sunday of the tournament, the parking lots were temporarily closed to the public.
In 1987 and again in 1988, Dade County attempted to obtain the consent of one of the heirs, Hardy Matheson, for the operation of the Lipton tournament. Hardy Matheson refused to give his consent, and informed the County that the tennis complex and the operation of the Lipton tournament was contrary to the deed restriction.
The trial court denied Matheson's request for an injunction prohibiting development of the Lipton International Tennis Center on Key Biscayne and the holding of the Lipton International Players Championship Tennis Tournament on Key Biscayne. Matheson appealed.
Matheson argued on appeal that "the trial court erred in refusing to declare that the placement of the tennis complex and the holding of the Lipton tournament in Crandon Park violated the Matheson family deed restriction.' Specifically, Matheson contended that "the construction of the tennis complex violates the deed restriction. As previously stated, the deed provides that the 'lands hereby conveyed shall be perpetually used and maintained for public park purposes only'." Dade County responded that "the tennis facility is consistent with the deed restriction limiting use to a public park."
As noted by the appeals court, "[i]n construing restrictive covenants the question is primarily one of intention.'
[T]he fundamental rule is that the intention of the parties as shown by the agreement will be determined by a fair interpretation of the entire text of the covenant. Similarly, the terms of dedications of lands for park purposes where the lands are conveyed by private individuals are to be construed more strictly than is the case where the lands are acquired by the public body by purchase or condemnation.
Matheson argued that "it was the intent of the Matheson family to limit the use of Crandon Park to passive activities such as picnicking, swimming, and the like." The appeals court rejected this argument.
We glean no such intention from the language of the deed. Further, the Florida Supreme Court has adopted a very broad definition for what a "park" encompasses... A park is considered not only as ornamental but also as a place for recreation and amusement. Changes in the concepts of parks have continued and the trend is certainly toward expanding and enlarging the facilities for amusement and recreation found therein. The permissible uses for a public park include: tennis courts, playground and dancing facilities, skating, a swimming pool and bathhouse, horseshoe pitching, walking, horseback riding, athletic sports and other outdoor exercises, golfing and baseball, parking facilities; provided always that a substantial portion of the park area remains in grass, trees, shrubs and flowers, with seats and tables for picnicking, for the use by and enjoyment of the public.
Applying this "broad definition of park" to the facts of the case, the appeals court concluded that "the construction of the tennis complex did not violate the 'public park purposes only' provision of the deed restriction." The appeals court further rejected Matheson's contention that 'turning the tennis complex over to a commercial operator violates the deed restriction." According to the appeals court, Florida courts have consistently ruled that commercial benefit does not defeat a park purpose."
Matheson had also argued that "the operation of the Lipton tournament violates the deed restriction because it deprives the public of the use and enjoyment of Crandon Park, including the use and enjoyment of the tennis facilities." The appeals court agreed.
We are persuaded by this argument and rule that the holding of the Lipton tournament violates the deed restriction because it virtually bars the public use of Crandon Park during the tournament, and does bar public use of the tennis complex, for extended periods of time.
The appeals court found this particular argument persuasive because "[c]ourts have unfailingly guarded against encroachments on public parkland where such parkland is under the protection of a deed restriction or restrictive covenant." Accordingly, under the circumstances of this case, the appeals court ruled that "the holding of the Lipton tournament violates the deed restriction." In so doing, the appeals court noted that "a distinction must be made between 'park purposes' and 'public purposes'."
Assuming arguendo [i.e., merely for the sake of argument] that the Lipton tournament is an economic success which brings innumerable benefits to Dade County and its citizens, such an undeniable public purpose is not consistent with a deed restriction mandating the narrower "public park purposes only." In addition, the word "only" in the deed restriction at issue further buttresses our ruling that the operation of the Lipton tournament, as presently constituted, violates the restriction...
Dade County contends that the tennis complex is consistent with the "public park purposes" restriction provided for in the deed. In support, Dade County argues that the complex is open to the public when the tournament is not being held, the site of the tennis complex utilizes less than 5 percent of Crandon Park, and that a valid park purpose is served by "spectating." Dade County also points to the benefits derived by Dade County from having the Lipton tournament in Dade County...
Here, the public, in fact, is deprived from using these tennis facilities for a period of three to four weeks during the Tournament Period. Further, under the contract as to the 1987 tournament, Arvida had the right to exclude the public for as long as five months... Here, the operation of the Lipton tournament, for all practical purposes, does amount to the virtual ouster of the public from the park for periods of time during the two-week tournament.
The contract gives the sponsors "Priority Use" of the parking areas of Crandon Park during the tournament. The contract estimated that the tournament needs "would not exceed 4,000 spaces per day." The amount of parking spaces was not adequate to meet the needs of tournament spectators and other park visitors as the testimony was uncontroverted that people were turned away from parking lots at the park. There was also uncontroverted testimony that some people found it necessary to park at the Marine Stadium.
We recognize that many legitimate park events, such as softball or golf tournaments, might fill up lots and make it difficult for latecomers to find a parking space at a certain area within the park. This, however, is not simply a case of a filled parking lot within a certain area of the park. The testimony demonstrates that the tournament apparently takes up all the available public parking spaces at Crandon Park for periods of time during the tournament. This is a public park parking nightmare.
We also recognize that the agreement between the tournament sponsors and the County required the County to provide shuttle services, if necessary, to transport tournament spectators. The parties' agreement, however, provides only for the County's shuttle transportation of spectators from the parking facilities in "Crandon Park parking areas."
Here, the result in effect, is to make the park inaccessible to, and unusable by the public for periods of time.
The appeals court also rejected Dade County's argument that "the use of the property as a tennis complex is better than its previous use as a dump."
While we agree that a tennis complex in a public park, is better than a dump in a public park, we note that the County's previous use of the site as a dump, was also in violation of the deed restriction. Dade County, in fact, conceded before the trial court that the dump was inconsistent with a public park purpose. We do not congratulate Dade County for shifting from one impermissible use to another.
The appeals court, therefore, declared "Dade County to be in violation of the deed restriction' and ordered the trial court to issue an injunction prohibiting "Dade County from permitting the Lipton tournament to proceed as it is presently held."
Our ruling does not prevent Dade County from using the tennis complex for tennis tournaments. It merely seeks to insure that in holding such tournaments, public access to the rest of Crandon Park is not infringed; and use of the tennis complex is not denied to the public for unreasonable periods of time...
It is undisputed that the Lipton tournament and the tennis complex in which it is held serve a public purpose, that it brings tourism to Dade County, and attracts international and national media coverage, thereby enhancing Dade County's image. Dade County may wish to continue its sponsorship of the Lipton tournament at the tennis complex. It just cannot continue to do so by violating the deed restriction.