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Growth-Management 2.0: Local Government Whims Sprawl Over State Oversight

| April 25, 2011

Growth management may be moving back to Bunnell and Palm Coast from Tallahassee. (© FlaglerLive)

After just 30 minutes of debate, the House passed a 343-page bill on a largely party-line vote of 86-31 that overhauls the state’s 25-year-old growth management laws last week, giving Florida’s cities and counties far greater control over the approval of new developments.

This bill removes the twice a year limit on local government adoptions of comprehensive-plan amendments, the large-scale blueprints that define how local governments plan for growth. The bill also removes state mandated concurrency requirements for transportation, parks and recreation, and schools. Simply put, concurrency means that when a development is planned, it must ensure that adequate roads, schools and parks will be in place once the development is complete. By removing concurrency, developers are no longer bound by those requirements. The bill gives local governments the power to keep concurrency requirements in place–or to remove them. The requirement that local governments rewrite their comprehensive plan every seven years is also largely scaled back.

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The bill also largely removes the state’s oversight role in numerous instances. Palm Coast, for example, last year approved three major developments, termed “developments of regional impact” (or DRI), and Flagler County approved one. Those DRIs had to go through rigorous review by the state Department of Community Affairs. Those reviews will not only be scaled back; the DRIs that were approved locally last year will have a seven-year extension, exempting them from the DRI review process and allows developers to increase densities, up to a point, without triggering a state review process, though it leaves it within local governments’ powers to maintain certain strictures.

In sum, the new growth-management law, if also approved by the Senate, would remove the state’s evening growth standards from the equation, leaving it to cities and counties to write the rules. Cities and counties with strong growth management rules will not necessarily change much. Cities and counties with weaker rules can take advantage of the laxity and sprawl to no end.

Environmentalists and many House Democrats fear the bill (HB 7129) would encourage sprawl and congestion by reducing state oversight of growth planning decisions. But supporters say the state oversight provided in a 1985 growth management law is no longer needed as cities and counties have a greater ability to police development.

“This bill does a lot to take the burden off of our local governments,” said Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, the bill’s sponsor. He said in tough economic times, the state cannot afford to place “unnecessary and burdensome” requirements on local governments. Under the current law, the state requires developers to help foot the bill for roads, schools and parks and reviews all changes to local comprehensive plans.

Republicans have complained for several years that that has slowed growth in the state.

Under the bill, which still needs Senate approval, it is largely left up to counties and cities whether to require developers to pay for infrastructure improvements and there is no longer a state-mandated review of all changes to comprehensive plans.

Democrats argued that the current law was working just fine. Democratic lawmakers said the state is already struggling with overbuilt communities and vacant homes, a clear sign that the law does not slow development.

“We’ve never had a lot of complaints until the last couple of years when, because of the economy, all of the developments stopped,” said Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West. “Here we are, overreacting to the economy by trying to wipe out state oversight for growth management.”

Saunders also said by requiring state review of development decisions it is a deterrent to corruption. In Palm Beach County, several commissioners have been convicted on public corruption charges involving developer bribes.

There was considerable disagreement between Republicans and Democrats over whether the bill reduced the ability for local residents to challenge development decisions. Democrats say the bill lowers the standard developers must meet to succeed in legal disputes, stacking the odds against the person or organization challenging them.

But Republicans say the bill still allows citizen input, and keeps the same legal standard that the state’s land planning agency, the Department of Community Affairs, already uses.

“This bill protects citizen participation,” said Rep. Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach. He said the measure requires two public meetings on comprehensive plan changes.

As Republicans have targeted growth management regulations as job-killers, Gov. Rick Scott has pushed a legislative proposal to merge the Department of Community Affairs with other state agencies. Under the House bill, DCA would remain but its staff would be reduced. due to less need for oversight.

On Wednesday, House Democrats tried to change the bill and keep more of the components of the 1985 growth management law. But Republicans rejected those amendments along party line votes.

The Senate has been considering a similar bill (SB 1122), which is awaiting a hearing in the Budget Committee.

–FlaglerLive and Lilly Rockwell, News Service of Florida

11 Responses for “Growth-Management 2.0: Local Government Whims Sprawl Over State Oversight”

  1. palmcoaster says:

    As I see it, as this further dumps the responsibility of providing infrastructure for this rich developers in the tax payers already depleted pockets. An the middle class GOP beat, goes on!

  2. Butch says:

    Palmcoaster is right. This will do one of two things. It will shift the burden to the general taxpayer as the developer walks away with the huge profits from all the hidden costs not paid or this will lead to unacceptable congestion of infrastructure and loss of open space. It is unbelievable that Growth Management in Florida is going to be gutted and justified on an economic downturn. It wasn’t growth management that encouraged the overbuilding of homes and the subsequent crash but appararently the logic of what occured doesn’t matter when you have one liner talking points that sound good.

    I am a native floridian, educated in the universities of this state, and have never lived anywhere else but I am so discouraged by the direction that many of our legislators are taking this great state. Other places are really beginning to look more attractive.

    Gov. Scott… get a clue. Republican Legislators… get a clue. Gutting Growth Management is not the solution.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    Where are now complaining, the tea baggers that elected R. Scott Governor and his GOP cronies, that are legislating to increase our taxes by having us further pay more for infrastructure to benefit even more, these rich developers? Why don’t they promote the creation of the promised jobs within the existing small businesses by stopping ,to start with, the Florida governments state and local outsourcing of our taxpayers funded contracts…. over graft? Look at our school, county and some city contracts for hundreds of thousands going outside Florida to; NJ, Alabama, NY, GA and elsewhere or to the very profitable Florida prison system. I challenge our elected ones to get into the records and see how many thousands of jobs are lost in the hands of their buyers always with “the baseless excuse to save in cost”. When actually the real reason is favoritism for graft grabbing. This goes on, from our Federal purchasing to our local government buyers. We have about 9,000 businesses just in Flagler County and most are down to 1/3 of their employees that they used to have in 2007. Meanwhile our tax payers generated contracts are still being outsource preventing rehiring. If each of these businesses will be able to receive steady work that goes elsewhere now and enough to hire one more employee what a great way will be to lower our unemployment and energize our local Florida economy without increasing taxes to further benefit the rich developers. If our unemployed goes back to work then they spend more in cars, food, restaurants, clothing, insurance, home repairs etc etc. Is a no brainer that also our tax revenue improves as well. How do we expect to improve our Federal and local budgets when we have 40 million maybe more unemployed in America, not generating the income and payroll taxes that is the biggest revenue that sustains our country, as the wealthy and corporations just ride in that Superman Cape for free since the past 11 years, more than ever before? Can anyone please do the math of that lack of revenue created by 40 million plus unemployed…. 3 on on going wars (Lybia now), billions in foreign aid to our so called “allies” and policing the world plus billions in stimulus…No wonder we have not enough for education, health care and the services we pay for with our taxes. We have a lack of revenue and too much spending in wars, policing the world, foreign aid, stimulus, and tax exemptions and tax refunds to corporations and the wealthy. America wake up!

  4. dlf says:

    Another good deed by the man,Scott. The down turn in home sales and price of homes can be traced to Obama, Frank and the liberals that were in office for the last two years. It is a shame that the majority of the people who write their liberal crap on these pages forget who helped make all this happen There is plenty of blame to go around. Start sharing it instead of blaming Scott who has only been in office for a short period, not as long as the King Obama. I see the King is going to the launch on Friday, maybe the people he fired will thank him, what laugh this guy is. While he is so close to Cuba maybe he may want to see how the closing of the prison there is going, or check to see if China is drilling for oil off our coast, what joke this guy is

    Great job by our man Scott, keep up the great work! He has just started to get you liberals off the dole and make you go to work for a living. We can thank the King Obama for the housing mess and don’t forget to thank Barney Frank for his help.

  5. Sherrrrry says:

    Well said Palmcoaster and Butch! I suggest you forward your comments to all of our state legislators, and encourage others in the community to do the same. If you have not heard of I suggest you check it out.

  6. Dorothea says:

    dlf, you are the joke. The housing mess comes from the greedy banks that the Republicans deregulated, not from Obama. Obama inherited the mess, so don’t blame him. Scott and his tea brained legislators are leading us further into disaster, not fixing the problem. I get a laugh myself at some of the garbage that you spout. But it’s really not very funny that people like you so blatantly and blindly follow the drumbeat of repeatedly failed Republican fiscal policies. You are a prime example of the naive ideology of the brainwashed, no-nothing tea-bag rank and file.. The only thing that has ever trickled down is found in your toilet.

  7. dlf says:

    Dorothea: I was surprised you did not want to sue me, that is your answer to most problems, but the name tells it all. You still won’t confess that the King has been in office for over two years, he is in charge. What has changed, higher gas prices, higher inflation, higher unemployment, lower home prices, higher tax rates and poor health care. Oh, I forgot he is busy running for reelection ( fat change) closing the prison in Cuba down, staring another war, pulling our troops out of somewhere. He does have a busy schedule, now he is coming to Florida with his family.What is that costing, why are the kids not in school, must be a private school, they sure would not attend a public school in Washington (crime center of the USA). How much time do we need to give to the King before we some some improvement, even just a little improvement would be nice, maybe the King does not have any clothes on? Like I have said we can vote the King out in two years but what do we do with all the numbskulls that voted for him. If he does not get re elected some of you entitlement people will need to get a job and off the dole, oh, I forgot there are no jobs, thank the King again.

  8. Dorothea says:

    dlf, there are no grounds for lawsuits based on an individual’s espousing a total ignorance of the facts. Hatred does its own number on folks like you; it eats them up from the inside.

  9. dlf says:

    Dorothea: don’t forget the truth when you are showering us with your liberal, entitlement , don’t blame the King for the current state of the union BS. The only thing eating me from the inside is the 45% of the people in the US that do not pay tax and want more,my bet is you fit into that class.

  10. Dorothea says:

    dlf, me and my six kids live off welfare. We live in government subsidized housing and buy food with food stamps so generously provided by taxpayers like yourself. What’s the point of working when benevolent people like you are supporting us? Pay taxes? If I had a job I would pay a social security tax, a medicare tax, plus countless other taxes that I pay anyway, like sales taxes, communication taxes and gas taxes. So what’s the point? Me and my six kids would get child support, only they have only been able to find three of their six fathers and those three fathers’ unemployment benefits have run out. I’ve been filling out forms trying to get my kids on disability. I’ve been hoping to get birth control pills from Planned Parenthood, but they tell me that they make all their money from abortions. Didn’t Senator Kyle say that 90% of their income is from abortions? Oops just found out that it is only 3%, so maybe I’ll try again next month, if I’m not pregnant again. At present I’m waiting for a big fat refund check from the IRS so I can buy some more crack. But thanks for your financial help and I apologize for causing you so much distress. Take a Tums and call the doctor in the morning..

  11. dlf says:

    Dorothea: sounds like you have some problems, but not as bad as you being a Obama fan, but you did not list that as one of your problems. Trying to hide the facts with all your other smoke and mirrors, it won’t work the King knows what we are all doing. Keep up the good work he will take care of you ….for the next two years.

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