Florida Supreme Court upholds PACE, preserves home rule

Florida Supreme Court upholds PACE, preserves home rule.  

Ruling on an innovative energy financing solution called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), the Florida Supreme Court this week released opinions resolving several appeals challenging PACE — and reaffirming its constitutionality — in Tallahassee.

The court instructed the Florida Development Finance Corporation to modify their financing documents and to use existing non-ad valorem tax bill collection methods going forward.

Processing four separate PACE-related appeals for Leon County, Clean Energy Coastal Corridor and the Florida Development Finance Corporation, the court dismissed a challenge made by the Florida Bankers Association. It also clarified that the corporation, a state-created entity serving as a funding source for public projects, lacks the power to make assessments.

PACE programs allow property owners in participating cities and counties to add energy efficiency, renewable energy or wind-hardening improvements to their property, financing the upgrades via a voluntary special assessment.

"Questions arise when programs fail to comply with the carefully constructed statute, and the court has now confirmed that the law must be followed," said James C. Dinkins, of Mark G. Lawson, P.A., who argued two of the four cases on behalf of the challengers. 

Dinkins also argued that two of the programs being challenged should be disapproved because they did not comply with the law.

"We are pleased the court's opinions validated our funding and origination platform, and we are looking forward to continued growth of our program," Jonathan Schaefer, program manager for the Florida PACE Funding Agency, said. "We believe the rulings will result in cities and counties, previously hesitant, now proceeding quickly to implement the Agency's PACE Program (EVEST Florida)."

The Florida PACE Funding Agency is a single purpose local government formed collaboratively by Flagler County and the City of Kissimmee, Florida.

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