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Property rights bill moves forward

The measure would have governments pay landowners depending on their property's zoning.

By JULIE HAUSERMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- Saying it's time to tell "planners and bureaucrats that enough is enough," the grandson of Florida citrus magnate Ben Hill Griffin Jr. won preliminary approval Wednesday for a sweeping new property rights law.

The measure says that landowners can claim a government "taking" and get payment from taxpayers when any Florida government zones their land for less than one house per acre.

"If we take (land), we can pay for it," declared J.D. Alexander, the grandson who grew up in the citrus business and now serves as a Republican representative from Frostproof.

Alexander's bill doesn't address the windfall landowners get when a government action adds value to land, such as when a new road goes in, increasing the value of nearby commercial property.

Many parts of Florida have zoning that ranges from one house per 10 acres to one house per 40 acres. Some of the zoning is designed to allow limited development in environmentally sensitive or rural areas, often to protect underground water supplies or endangered habitats.

The new, restrictive addition to Florida's Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act is enthusiastically backed by the state's cattle, timber and other agricultural interests, who say it will let them borrow money based on the future development potential of their land.

The measure easily passed the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday and now heads to floor of the Republican-led House.

"This bill speaks to an issue that's as American as going to the polls and voting," Alexander said.

The bill is opposed by the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida League of Cities and a host of planning and environmental groups.

"This affects every single local government," said Rebecca O'Hara, lobbyist for the Florida League of Cities.

"It will help guarantee the "ranchette-sprawl' development pattern all over Florida," said Charles Pattison, executive director of 1000 Friends of Florida.

Alexander said Gainesville Republican George Kirkpatrick will help try to push a similar measure in the Senate. Kirkpatrick also won committee approval Wednesday for another bill, an expansion of the "Right to Farm Act," that would prevent local governments from passing any laws to regulate agriculture whatsoever.

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