Control of growth at issue

Published April 5, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - House Republicans unveiled a plan Tuesday that could limit the state's power to oversee community growth.

Lobbyists for cities, counties and a growth watchdog group cautioned the legislators to slow down before stripping the state Department of Community Affairs of its role reviewing local-level zoning changes.

"We would urge you not to rush into this process," said Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham, who had a day to review the plan.

The plan arose suddenly this week from the House Committee on Economic Expansion and Infrastructure, chaired by Rep. Dean Cannon. R-Winter Park. Rep. Dick Kravitch, R-Jacksonville is vice chair.

The proposal places some oversight in the hands of 11 regional planning councils - a system critics worry would provide more lax regulation.

"The proposals, while provocative and worthy of a lot of thought, are exactly the kinds of issues that should not be dealt with in a hasty manner, beginning halfway through a legislative session," said Pelham, a recent appointee of Gov. Charlie Crist. "If we're not careful, we'll make the situation worse than it is."

Wade Hopping, a lobbyist for developers who support many of the ideas behind the bill, called the concept a "fascinating and complex idea."

But even he suggested that if lawmakers go forward with the process, they contain it to a pilot.

Citing time constraints, Cannon cut the committee discussion short Wednesday, saying Kravitch would meet with interested parties in a publicly noticed meeting on Monday.