State moving to deregulate development
Florida State Legislators (just like some Hillsborough County Commissioners) are working to “streamline” — i.e. deregulate — the development industry. State lawmakers want to make it cheaper & easier for developers to build more subdivisions and strip malls, apparently ignorant of the widely reported fact that Florida has 300,000 vacant homes for sale — a housing glut that is slashing property values for all of us and contributing to the economic crisis. The Times reports:
Florida legislative leaders want to make it easier to get permits to destroy wetlands, tap the water supply and wipe out endangered species habitat, all in the interest of building houses, stores and offices. They say streamlining the permitting process will get the economy moving again.
Affecting several counties & cities, including all the urban & rural areas in Hillsborough County, Senate Bill 360, (euphemistically named the “Community Renewal Act”) would:
- eliminate state review of supersized “Developments of Regional Impact” (DRIs)
- eliminate state review of Comprehensive Plan Amendments
- reduce public hearings for development projects
- lower Level of Service (LOS) standards for roads
- eliminate “Transportation Concurrency” requirements
Transportation Concurrency requires developers to ensure that there is adequate capacity on the roads to accommodate the traffic generated by their developments. If the local roads are already full of traffic, then concurrency requires developers to provide the additional capacity needed for their projects by paying for measures like road-widening or turn lanes and traffic lights. Without concurrency, they wouldn’t pay, so WE would have to pay to bail ourselves out of the traffic-jam-hell their development creates, while they pocket all the profits without any responsibility.
Some argue that eliminating transportation concurrency would reduce sprawl by making it easier for developers to build in the urban area where concurrency requirements are most burdensome because the roads have already reached capacity. Of course, this would allow development to overwhelm those already-full roads with additional traffic, condemning the urban areas to traffic nightmares, which is not an acceptable trade-off even if it could prevent sprawl. However, it cannot prevent sprawl. With or without concurrency, developers will always prefer to build in the rural area because rural land is cheaper, and available in large “clean & green” parcels. The only way to prevent sprawl is for local leaders to stop approving it.
Another bill, Senate Bill 630, would put a moratorium on impact fees — the fees developers pay to partially defray the costs of infrastructure required to support their projects. Even with those fees in place, each new house costs us taxpayers $13,515 for roads, schools and other infrastructure. Without impact fees, our costs would roughly double, while developers would be able to make more money selling cheaper housing, further lowering our home values — enriching developers at our expense.
Meanwhile, developers’ lobbyist Frank Matthews is up to his old tricks, pushing also for the elimination of local environmental protections like our EPC provides. (Sticks readers may remember Matthews’ role in our local battle over wetland regulations.)
Let’s pay attention to which of our elected officials are pushing to shift more of the costs of development from developers to taxpayers, while paving the way for more sprawl that will only destroy more natural resources and worsen our housing glut.
Both bill 360 & 630 were introduced by Sen. Mike Bennett, of Bradenton. These bills are barreling through committees which include all four Hillsborough Senators: Ronda Storms & Arthenia Joyner have both voted “yes” to 360 in committees; Victor Crist, Charlie Justice, and Ronda Storms will soon review 630 in committees. All our lawmakers will eventually weigh in on all this so tell your representatives what you think now. The Lt. Gov. sidestepped Wayne Garcia’s questioning on this topic, so we had better help educate him and our Governor as well.
I’ve drafted a sample letter with contact information you can use to send your thoughts to Tallahassee. You can also ask your county commissioners to lobby the state against deregulation, and let them know we don’t want county growth controls & environmental protections weakened either. 1000 Friends of Florida has posted an informative alert calling on citizens to oppose SB 360.
Unless we can persuade our legislators to work for the public good, we might as well skip these middle-men and pay developers directly. Hey, maybe we could just pay developers NOT to ruin our communities, our economy and our environment.
Instead of passing all this legislation to toss out our development controls, which will end up costing us all a fortune anyway, it might actually be better for each taxpayer to just write a check directly to every Florida developer, bypassing the part where they destroy our natural resources and dump a bunch of cheap housing in our neighborhoods that (if it ever sells) would only clog our roads with too much traffic until we handed over the money to pay for more road lanes.