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The let's-make-developers-happy bill

Published April 8, 2007


A House Republican effort to loosen the reins on growth in Florida is so detached from the realities of surging development as to be fairly characterized as a farce. Anyone who would suggest that urban areas need no more state oversight ought to be strapped into a vehicle and dropped on Ulmerton Road in Pinellas County or Interstate 4 through downtown Orlando. Gridlock is not going away on its own.

The bill, pushed by Jacksonville Republican Rep. Dick Kravitz, pretends that building and land-use decisions can be better made by cities and counties and regional councils. The reason lawmakers adopted a growth management law 22 years ago is that city and county commissions were competing to see who could most quickly give the green light to developers. That contest has yet to end.

If Kravitz thinks urban areas have finished their growth spurt, he might want to read the latest U.S. Census report. In the past six years alone, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area grew by 455,869 people. Orlando-Kissimmee added 340,292, and Tampa-St. Petersburg 301,718. Growth is still strangling every part of Florida.

This bill, having just surfaced halfway through the legislative session, is hard to take seriously. Kravitz didn't even bother to consult Tom Pelham, who was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to serve a second tour as secretary of the Department of Community Affairs and is considered one of the state's top legal experts on growth law and land-use regulations.

"This is a very drastic change of direction," Pelham said. "It's not something that should be done quickly or hastily, and it just can't be done in the last half of the session."

Kravitz claims he is responding in part to a push by House Speaker Marco Rubio for "regionalism." But that's a ruse. Lawmakers are not similarly deferring to county commissions on the issue of property taxes or school boards on education reform. This bill is not about regulatory efficiency. It's intended to make builders happy, and Floridians have seen enough of that.

[Last modified April 7, 2007, 23:41:14]

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