Planning Commission to get developer-friendly?
Our county commissioners are about to appoint two people to the Planning Commission board that makes recommendations on our Comprehensive Plans for growth in our county and its 3 cities. Developers are pushing for 2 of their own to be appointed.
The stakes are high as these new appointees will review a rash of new growth plan amendments which the Tribune cautions against. They will only line developers’ pockets while putting taxpayers on the hook for expensive infrastructure, and sticking us with more traffic-jam-inducing sprawl.
The planning commission is supposed to be independent of political forces so they can impartially review plan amendments like these without considering whose pockets will be lined.
Developers already have some solid supporters on the Planning Commission. While Edward Giunta (a developer himself) and Deven Carty are the most consistently pro-development, there are other board members who side with developers fairly often, including Seth Boots who is one of the two whose terms are expiring. (The other is Giunta, who couldn’t reapply for his county seat since he has moved into Tampa, so the Tampa City Council appointed him to a Tampa seat.) Boots is reapplying for his seat, but apparently, although he is a civil engineer who is certainly not unfriendly to developers, he is not enough of a pro-development extremist to satisfy the demands of the builders’ lobby.
County insiders say a representative of the Tampa Bay Builders Association (TBBA) is bragging that a majority of county commissioners have already committed to appointing TBBA’s 2 chosen candidates. Indeed, commissioner Ken Hagan has been replying to people who write in support of other candidates that,
“several weeks ago, I pledged my support to other applicants.”
Guess which “other applicants.” The two chosen ones are:
1.) Jeffrey Ewing, President of TBBA.
- Teri McGinnis: former President of TBBA
- Joseph Narkiewicz: Executive Vice President and CEO of TBBA
- Dan Bicz: Director of TBBA and CFO of Lexington Homes
2.) Hung Mai, engineer for developer Stephen Dibbs, who spearheaded recent attacks on local wetlands regulations. Last spring, Hung Mai himself spoke out against a Comprehensive Plan amendment that would strengthen wetlands protections with better buffers & setbacks.
- Ralph Hughes: a MAJOR campaign contributor to most county commissioners, he sells concrete and pushes a pro-builder agenda.
- Todd Pressman: represents developers like Stephen Dibbs, in land-use issues including Comprehensive Plan amendments. He has personally spoken out against local wetlands protections.
- Judy James: a land-use attorney who often represents developers seeking Comprehensive Plan amendments, she is a Director of TBBA and their chief lobbyist. (When TBBA gloated over their success in pushing commissioners to eliminate the Livable Communities Element from our Comprehensive Plan without a public hearing, they gave credit for that lobbying effort to Judy James & her husband.)
At the recent EPC wetlands hearing, county commissioner Jim Norman railed against the public perception that most of the commissioners are unduly influenced by developers.
“… so we’re in the pockets of developers. That’s hilarious to me.”
Well, we’re not laughing, so here’s a perfect opportunity for commissioners to prove the TBBA is not pulling their strings. Commissioners need to put people who will speak for the citizens’ interests on the planning board, which already has plenty of strong voices for the builders’ interests.
My favorite of all the applicants is Pam Prysner, who I know well. She is knowledgeable about planning & transportation from a community perspective, and she is unaffiliated with special interests. I have asked the BOCC to appoint her (and so can you!)
I’ve uploaded copies of all the applications (individual links below) so you can see them for yourselves and recommend YOUR choices for this board that plays a critical role in managing growth throughout our county. Or you might just tell them we expect them to choose fairly and wisely, and we’ll remember come election time whether they favor us or developers.
The developers’ favorites: Jeffrey Ewing & Hung Mai
Others with obvious ties to developers:
- Seth Boots (lists a TBBA director and developer as references)
- Miller Dowdy (partner in Metro Area Properties)
- Anne Madden (previously employed by the developer of “Little Harbor,” which is featured in Dee Hood’s YouTube videos, these photos of their destructive practices, and a recent video of the shoreline damage done for their condos in Ruskin. She publicly supported that developer’s hotly contested plan for MORE condos on the Little Manatee River. She now works for a builder of affordable housing and lists a powerful developers’ attorney as a reference.)
- Tuyen Tran (Civil Engineer with King Engineering)
The rest: Herold Lord, Pam Prysner, Julius Ray, Kenisha Roney, Connie Smaldone, Jon Trombetto
Ask your commissioners to appoint someone (or two) you recommend. Or you can simply ask them to choose 2 who are not tied to special interests. I’ve been told the decision will be made on Wednesday, although it does not appear on that agenda.