Published: March 31, 2011

Growth management do-over passes


Legislation that dramatically scaled back growth management in Florida but was blocked by the courts will go back into law with the expected signature of Gov. Rick Scott.

The state Senate on Wednesday passed and sent to Scott a bill that ends mandatory road, school and park funding by the builders of residential projects, a concept known as "concurrency" that has been part of state law since 1985.

Two years ago, lawmakers eliminated the concurrency requirement, redefined what is considered an urban setting and made other changes such as exempting many developments from thorough state review. It turned over the adoption of land use and transportation strategies to local governments.

But a Leon County judge declared the sweeping legislation unconstitutional, saying it violated a single-subject requirement and that pushing oversight from the state to local governments constituted an unfunded mandate.

The Legislature has since split portions of the 2009 law into separate bills to address the single-subject issue.

And this year, the growth-management portion passed by two-thirds majorities in both chambers, which allows the Legislature to pass local government mandates.

The bill passed 30-7 in the Senate with no debate.

Wednesday's move came as committees in both the Senate and House are considering an even more dramatic state exit from growth management.

Senate Bill 1122 and its companion, House Bill 7129, would make it easier and faster for local governments to amend their comprehensive plans, the documents required of all counties and municipalities to guide future growth and development.

The bills would make it more difficult for citizens to challenge developments.

They would also remove state specifications and requirements in comprehensive plans, extend a moratorium on increased or new impact fees for two years, and prohibit local governments from having referenda for comprehensive plan amendments or a supermajority vote by local governments on such amendments.

Senate bill sponsor Mike Bennett, a Republican from Bradenton, said the legislation provides relief from a burdensome regulatory process - an oft-stated concern of the governor.

But David Cullen of Sierra Club Florida called the measure "a developer's Christmas wish list."

With passage of the legalization, "it will be a race to the bottom, and the next generation is going to pay for it," Cullen said. "The next generation is going to leave Florida, because it is not going to be a good place to live."

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