This summer Governor Scott issued an emergency declaration applicable to 24 Florida Counties, due to an outbreak of the Zika virus. Florida Statute 252.363 provides an extension for permits and authorizations when the Governor declares a state of emergency, effective within the area covered by the emergency declaration. With some exceptions, the extension applies to expiration of local-government-issued development orders, building permits, DEP and water management district permits, pursuant to part IV of chapter 373 and to DRI build-out dates.

Executive Order 16-149 was issued on June 23, 2016 in response to the public health threats posed by the Zika virus in certain parts of the state. The emergency declaration applies to the following counties: Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Clay, Collier, Duval, Escambia, Hillsborough, Highlands, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Santa Rosa, Seminole, St. Johns, and Volusia. While Executive Order 16-149 did not include an expiration date, the maximum length of such a state of emergency is 60 days, unless extended. The Governor issued Executive Order 16-193 on August 19, 2016, extending the state of emergency 60 days. On October 18, 2016 the Governor issued Executive Order 16-233, extending the state of emergency for an additional 60 days.

The emergency declaration tolls the period remaining to exercise the rights under a permit or other authorization for the duration of the emergency declaration and extends the deadline for the permit or authorization for an additional 6 months beyond the tolled period. The two executive orders would therefore offer the possibility of extending approvals for up to 118 days and 6 months within the affected counties. The duration of the emergency declarations under Executive Orders 16-149 and 16-193 overlap, however, with other emergency declarations issued by the Governor this year for various storms and other events. Separate extensions can be claimed for overlapping emergency declarations, but overlapping tolling periods cannot be double-counted. Care must therefore be taken in calculating the total amount of time available under the various extensions. For information on other emergency declaration extensions, please see previous Akerman Practice Updates here.

Within 90 days after the termination of the emergency declaration, the holder of the permit or authorization must provide written notice to the issuing authority of the intent to exercise the tolling and extension granted. The notice must identify the specific permit or other authorization qualifying for extension. The new notification deadline is March 17, 2017.
While the Zika virus executive orders meet the statutory criteria to enable this extension of development approvals, they differ in certain respects from those issued for other events. Governmental agencies vary in their approaches to recognizing extension opportunities provided under this statute. Clients are therefore advised not to rely on any extension until it has been acknowledged by the issuing authority.