Victory for Sean’s Outpost

Circuit Judge Tom Dannheisser dealt another blow to Escambia County in its long-running effort to close Sean’s Outpost, a homeless shelter on about nine acres east off of Massachuetts Avenue in the Mayfair area. He quashed the Escambia County Board of Adjustment’s decision to deny Sean’s Outpost appeal of the county staff’s judgment when the shelter failed to meet the county’s land development code (LDC).

On April 5, 2016, Sean’s Outpost applied for a development order to continue shelter operations as a “semi-primitive campground site,” which was allowed under the LDC. County staff denied the application but failed to put its reasons in writing as required by the LDC. After numerous discussions with the staff, it was determined the reason for the denial was the failure to include an all-weather road to service portable toilets at the rear of the parcel.

Clark Partington attorney William Dunaway represented Sean’s Outpost in the appeal before the Board of Adjustments (BOA). Though the dirt road had never caused a problem, the shelter agreed to construct an improved driveway apron and build the road requested by staff. Dunaway asked for conditional approval of his client’s application tied to the construction of the road.

A motion to deny the appeal failed on a 3-3 vote, with one board member recusing himself. County staff ruled the Sean’s Outpost’s appeal failed because it did not obtain an affirmative majority vote.

Dunaway appealed to circuit court. He said his client was denied due process because the board failed to take any official action on the appeal by not reaching a majority vote and the denial was not supported by “competent substantial evidence.” He also asserted that an all-weather road was not required by the LDC but, even if it was, his client was willing to construct such a road.

Judge Dannheisser agreed with that county’s determination that a tie vote of the BOA effectively denied the appeal. However, he quashed the BOA denial on the basis that no competent substantial evidence was presented for the county to deny the land use application. He ruled that neither the LDC nor Design Standards Manual required an all-weather roa

In press release on, Michael Kimbrel, the shelter’s co-founder, discussed the ruling.

“We have always felt that we never needed a government permission (permit) to help people in our community, but we did our homework before purchasing the property and knew that it was authorized to use inside of the county’s land development code,” said Kimbrel, the shelter’s co-founder.

“We think the Judge saw that the county was throwing everything they could to try and prevent us from moving forward based upon how unpopular the use is from a political standpoint. We are pleased with the Judge’s decision, and we hope that this is the turning point towards acceptance with the county.”

Attorney Will Dunaway will be my guest on “Pensacola Speaks” on Tuesday,  Oct. 3 at 5:10 p.m.