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Letters to the Editors

Column about growth plans was misleading

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 28, 2002

Editor: Re: On growth, small minds don't see big picture, Editor Greg Hamilton's April 14 column:

The column presents a grossly misleading description of the Florida Department of Community Affairs' regulatory role in reviewing local government comprehensive plans and this administration's enforcement of growth management laws.

Contrary to the statements he made in his editorial, the DCA's authority has remained unchanged since the adoption of the Growth Management Act in 1985.

In Florida, there are two broad steps in the process of moving from planning to implementation of the plan. The first step is the adoption of the comprehensive plan that serves as the overall framework for local government land use decisions. Its purpose is to guide land use decisions in a systematic and rational way. The DCA has the ability to review proposed local comprehensive plans and amendments to them.

The second step is the local implementation of the plan. Once a county's comprehensive plan has been adopted, local government is required to implement the plan through its ordinances. Individual project approvals ranging from rezoning to building permits to development orders (as in the Halls River Retreat site in Citrus County) must be consistent with the comprehensive plan.

Unlike in the comprehensive plan process, the DCA has no authority to review and approve individual development orders. Rather, the law gives citizens the right to challenge local decisions in Circuit Court if they do not believe the order is consistent with the comprehensive plan. Under the law, as adopted in 1985, citizens and local governments are the primary enforcers of the local comprehensive plan once the plan has been determined to be in compliance with the state standards.

The DCA is given the authority to intervene when a case is brought by citizens under section 163.3215, Florida Statutes. However, this authority has rarely been exercised in the 17-year history of the Growth Management Act. This administration, like both Democratic and Republican administrations before it, carefully weighs the facts before jumping in on these local court actions. We have just been made aware of the citizens' lawsuit in Homosassa and have requested more information on that action.

Hamilton's statement that the DCA has said Citrus County does not have to follow its comprehensive plan is totally inaccurate. The DCA has never advised a local government that it does not have to follow its comprehensive plan and never would. The bottom line is the DCA continues to exercise its legislatively authorized responsibilities that have been in place since 1985 and requires local governments to fulfill their responsibilities as well.

The DCA is dedicated to helping communities face the challenges of responsible growth. In addition to fulfilling our statutory responsibilities, we have increased the technical assistance available to local governments to help them deal with the difficult decisions faced by these communities. This department's ever-improving partnership with local governments will improve the quality of local planning in this state.

No unsubstantiated editorial attack on this administration changes those facts.
-- Steven M. Seibert, secretary Florida Department of Community Affairs

Willie Nelson concert wasn't a disappointment

Editor: Re: Nelson fans brave heat wave, by staff writer Jorge Sanchez, April 22 Times:

After a very enjoyable weekend at Rock Crusher Canyon Campground, planned around the Willie Nelson concert (which was the entertaining event we anticipated, even with the heat), I was quite disappointed to read Sanchez's report.

Yes, the day was hot; no doubt, it affected the enthusiasm of the crowd and the performance. But the concert was still great. In fact, one member of our party remarked that when Willie came on stage, the heat was all but forgotten.

This wasn't the first Willie Nelson concert I've attended, and I have to say I didn't find anything disappointing in this event. Mr. Sanchez accurately reported that Willie entertained with a 40-song set of his many hits, but from my seat I saw and heard a lot of folks cheering, whistling, standing and clapping throughout the performance. One man was even waving his hat on a cane. There was a lot more activity than polite applause from the audience, which included a wide range of ages. I disagree that the biggest roar came when Willie walked to the stage.

Commenting about Willie's voice, the band and the audience, Mr. Sanchez sounds like someone who is not familiar with Willie Nelson concerts or what his fans come to hear. As a retired Chamber of Commerce and tourism director who has been responsible for events and as a freelance reporter, I completely understand that different folks see things differently, but I do feel this report could be considered a disservice to the Willie Nelson and family concert folks, as well as the fine staff of Rock Crusher Canyon.
-- Jeanne Nociti, Brooksville

Willie Nelson was great -- but article wasn't

Editor: Re: Nelson fans brave heat wave, by staff writer Jorge Sanchez, April 22 Times:

Sanchez's article on the Willie Nelson concert is so off-base, I hardly know where to start. Everyone in our area thought it was absolutely wonderful. His guitar and smooth, silky voice, along with terrific arrangements, made for a fabulous concert. We were amazed that the 68-year-old Nelson would give us an hour and 56 minutes of basically nonstop music in the 90-degree heat.

I've been to several concerts at Silver Springs during which the performer cut it short due to the heat. Not Willie! He always gives you the full deal, no matter what. For Sanchez to call it a low-energy show is ridiculous. Nelson has a laid-back style that mesmerizes the audience. He doesn't need to jump around like some young "rocker."

Sanchez called Mickey Raphael's harmonica playing "pathetic." Sanchez also wanted more drums and cymbals to improve the beat. Drums, cymbals and harmonicas are merely accompaniment to the genius of Willie's guitar. The only musician Sanchez complimented was Nelson's sister, Bobbi, on the piano, who everyone knows is the weakest link in the band -- if there is one.

Willie's mix of old country, easy-listening favorites, blues and gospel made my Sunday at Rock Crusher a day I won't soon forget. Kudos to Stan Olsen for giving Citrus County an entertainment venue such as the Canyon. We've heard some wonderful music there.
-- Bill Sheets, Crystal River

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