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    Bill would ease rules on marinas

    A Senate committee approves a bill exempting marinas from special state reviews of regional impact.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 25, 2001

    TALLAHASSEE -- A Senate committee on Tuesday voted to relax the rules that dictate how new marinas are developed in Florida.

    Marinas would no longer have to go through the specialized Developments of Regional Impact review, which governs developments that are likely to affect more than one community.

    The change -- which a Senate committee tacked onto a larger bill that will overhaul parts of Florida's growth management system -- was criticized by environmentalists.

    It signals that the Legislature may make even more changes to Florida's growth laws in the harried final weeks of the session, even though Gov. Jeb Bush has tried to take a narrow approach toward revising growth management this year.

    Marina interests and some senators argued that Florida ought to make it easier to build marinas, because boaters help boost the economy.

    "Florida is not about restraining or restricting growth," said state Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville. "Florida is the land of milk and honey that everyone wants to come to, and they should."

    Environmentalists said the change would keep communities from truly gauging the impact a marina might have on a given region, including more traffic on roads and waterways.

    Environmentalists also predicted that the change would open the way for more special-interest amendments on this year's effort to overhaul the state's growth laws. Other industries want to be exempt from state review, too.

    "This amounted to a special deal for special interests," said Charles Lee of Audubon of Florida.

    Today, the House is expected to propose even more changes to the state's growth management laws.

    Bush has tried to keep just two issues on the table: making communities deny developments in areas where schools are overcrowded, and writing a "full cost accounting" formula to determine how much a development will truly cost a community in services.

    Some lawmakers want to make more massive changes, including exempting more developments from regional review, paying farmers not to develop their land, and cutting back on state oversight of local planning decisions.

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