Growth law retreat hammers taxpayers
May 1, 2009
There are many better names for the rollback in state growth rules just passed in the Florida House under the happy title "Community Renewal Act."
To most residents of most urban areas, renewal doesn't mean adding more strip shopping centers and houses to areas with overcrowded schools and inadequate roads.
Lawmakers are using the economic slowdown as an excuse to pave the way for future growth whose costs will be passed on to taxpayers who are calling for more tax relief.
Subsidizing high-value growth in cities and blighted areas is often justified, but the House wants to give developers a free ride almost anywhere. That's unfair to both taxpayers and to the developers who have already paid growth fees or helped build roads and schools.
Tom Pelham, head of the Department of Community Affairs, warns that the House bill would "open up the state's major rural areas to unchecked development, and eliminate transportation concurrency and the DRI (development of regional impact) review process in major portions of the state, without providing any alternative means of addressing transportation and other extra-jurisdictional impacts."
Terms like "transportation concurrency" may sound like gobbledygook, but it is the failure to plan for the traffic from new development that has given this area daily traffic jams and has allowed the construction of thousands of new houses in areas where roads can't be widened enough to get all the commuters to and from work. More precisely, it's the failure to pay for the planned improvements that is the problem.
Perhaps more taxpayers would be more worried about the mistake the Legislature is poised to make if the bill had a more accurate and ominous name. We can think of many:
The Spend More Time in Your Car Act.
The Kill More Bicyclists and Pedestrians Act.
The Every Field Should Be a Subdivision Act.
The Tom Pelham Bypass Act.
The Ignore the Drought Act.
The Gravel Yards Are As Good As Grass Act.
The Let's Trust Local Governments To Worry About Regional Problems Act.
The Classrooms Aren't As Crowded As They Could Be Act.
The Cheaper Here than Mississippi Act.
The Soak Taxpayers before They Know It Act
For years neighborhood activists, professors, economists, far-sighted politicians, and concerned citizens have warned that Florida was damaging its appeal by paying too little attention to basics such as schools, roads, transit, water, public safety, and environmental protection.
Much progress has been made in each area, in fits and starts. That's why it's a shame to see a bill like this one push the state backwards for no good reason.
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