• Key point. Deliberative bodies have the right under parliamentary law to reconsider their actions as often as they deem necessary.
A Florida court ruled that a county zoning board did not act improperly when it voted to approve a land use variance and 5 minutes later reconsidered its action and voted to deny the variance. The board was presented with a request by a landowner for a variance to construct a home on his beachfront property contrary to a local zoning ordinance. The board voted 3 to 2 to grant the variance. It then recessed for 5 minutes. Upon its return to reconsider an unrelated matter one of the board members who had voted in favor of the variance announced that he had suffered a “lapse of consciousness” in casting his vote. He made a motion to reopen the hearing on the previous issue, which the board unanimously passed. Upon reconsideration the board voted to deny the landowner’s variance. The landowner challenged this action in court, claiming that the board’s reconsideration violated parliamentary law and his constitutional rights. A trial court agreed with the landowner, finding the board’s denial of the variance following reconsideration to be “improper, invalid, null and of no force and effect.” The board appealed, and a state appeals court ruled in its favor. It observed:
We first address the propriety of the board’s reopening the public hearing to reconsider its vote within minutes after it approved [the landowner’s] variance. A basic rule of parliamentary law is that “unless some right of a third person intervenes, all deliberative bodies have a right to reconsider their proceedings during their session, as often as they think proper, when not otherwise provided by law, and it is the final result only which is to be regarded as the thing done.”
The court noted that “an essential requirement for reconsideration is that the motion to reconsider be made by one who voted with the majority on the motion to be reconsidered.” The court concluded: “[T]he board’s reconsideration of the grant of the variance clearly satisfied the essential requirements of parliamentary law. First, given the short length of time between the two votes, it would be unreasonable to conclude that the official change of mind was detrimental to any rights the [landowner] may have acquired by virtue of the first vote. Second, the board member who moved to reconsider was part of the initial majority.” The court also rejected the landowner’s claim that his constitutional rights had been violated by the board’s actions. Board of County Commissioners v. Webber, 658 So.2d 1069 (Fla. App. 1995). [ Parliamentary Procedure of Church Business Meetings]
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