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Growth Management Still Alive in Florida, but Different

June 10, 2011 | WMFE - City planners, developers, and the general public are still trying to figure out what growth in Florida will look like after Governor Rick Scott approved sweeping changes last week. They undo much of the oversight capabilities of the state that have been in place for the last 25 years.


Secretary Billy Buzzett of Florida’s major growth management agency, The Department of Community Affairs, joined a panel discussion put on by the Urban Land Institute yesterday in Orlando.  In his remarks Buzzett generally praised the new law called the Community Planning Act, but did say “The new law is going to allow a lot more flexibility to local government than it did before so there’s going to be less state mandates which does allow more tailor made competitions between local governments, so I would expect to see some of that and I think that’s good not bad.”


The new law eliminates a top level review that the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) used to conduct to ensure that local changes to growth plans were aligned with regional and state goals.  The coordinating role that DCA played will now be undertaken solely by individual state agencies under narrow criteria in conjunction with DCA’s replacement, The Department of Economic Opportunity.  Under the new structure, for example, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will look at the impacts of air and water pollution or how wetlands are impacted by a proposed land use change; the Department of State would look at how state historic and archeological resources are affected ... but there will be no over-arching review that considers the big picture of how the proposal would affect growth patterns in the state.


Secretary Buzzett also noted that there will be changes in Florida concurrency regulations.  These rules required developers to supply appropriate infrastructure relating to roads, utilities, and schools when building a project that was expected to stretch current resources.  The new law repeals concurrency requirements for transportation, schools and parks, but maintains potable water, solid waste, and sewer regulations. 


The question on many planners' minds is how   these new regulations will impact communities of varying sizes and staffs.  Orlando, for example, isn’t going to feel much change.  The city has been operating under a pilot program that allowed amendments to comprehensive growth plans to be made without state approval.  Orlando City Planner Kevin Tyjeski says the new law won’t make too much of a difference until 2014 when Orlando will join the recently passed growth process after its pilot program sunsets. The impact could be bigger though for communities without as much planning experience.


Secretary Buzzett had inserted language into the   draft law that would have allowed communities to opt for a DCA style review, but that option was removed by lawmakers.


The regulations go into effect on July 1st.



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