Florida's Downtowns: The Key to Smart Growth, Urban Revitalization, and Green Space Preservation
Marshall, John T., Fordham Urban Law Journal
"You have got to build what people want to buy," explains Ted Krusen, whose family owns hundreds of acres of open pastureland in Zephyrhills, Florida, a small community north of Tampa. (1) Using 200 acres of agricultural land, the Krusen family will build 800 homes and add nine holes to a golf course. Their decision reflects a pattern of suburban fringe growth that has pushed progressively outward from Florida's center cities over the past thirty years. (2) The State's growth management laws have encouraged development at the outskirts of metropolitan areas by requiring that new development occur only where the infrastructure exists, or where infrastructure adequate to support the proposed development is planned. (3)
This requirement, intended to control growth, actually promotes development on the suburban fringe where infrastructure is generally under-utilized (4) and discourages urban revitalization. (5) The economic justification for suburban fringe development is simple: it is less expensive to build a golf community on rolling cow pasture than to redevelop a city block and upgrade a city's already overused roads, sewers, and water lines. (6)
The suburban development that has accommodated Florida's tremendous demand for new homes and commercial buildings in the past thirty years has come with costs. (7) Florida's cities have paid for a disproportionate share of new roads and sewer systems to connect new communities to surrounding metropolitan areas. (8) Stagnant population growth in city centers has undercut the cultural vitality of cities, imposing a cost not easy to quantify, but still precious to the city's bottom line. (9) "Workaday" cities that are empty at night are perceived as dangerous and fail to attract the residents, shops, and restaurants that could bolster their tax bases. (10)
With most data forecasting Florida's rapid growth to continue for the next twenty-five years, (11) Florida's Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature have paused to evaluate how the state is managing its growth. (12) This article examines Florida's growth management system and its impact on Florida's urban centers. Since Florida's plan for limiting sprawl and promoting urban development will inform other states, the article also evaluates policy recommendations that may be incorporated in Florida's 2002 growth management legislation.
I. THE EXISTING LANDSCAPE-AN OVERVIEW OF FLORIDA'S KEY GROWTH MANAGEMENT LAWS
Over the past thirty years, Florida's growth management laws have pursued two objectives: preservation of the state's natural resources and implementation of top-down comprehensive planning--with state-mandated planning goals passed down from state to region to county to city. Laws aimed at protecting natural resources were a response to decades of unrestricted development in and around the State's most sensitive natural resources, including the Everglades, the Florida Keys, and Miami's Biscayne Bay. (13) To protect these and other resources, the Florida legislature enacted legislation in the late 1960s and early 1970s that controlled development in environmentally sensitive areas. (14)
Florida's Environmental Land and Water Management Act of 1972 is a leading example of these efforts. Twenty-nine years after its enactment, it still informs the large-scale developments impacting environmentally sensitive lands. (15) The 1972 Act called for designation of "areas of critical state concern." (16) By 1979, five major areas of the state had been designated as areas of critical concern, including the Florida Keys, the City of Key West, and Apalachicola Bay in the state's panhandle. (17) The 1972 Act also mandated state review of Developments of Regional Impact ("DRI"), which are developments that affect more than one county. (18)
The second objective of Florida's growth management laws has been comprehensive planning. Beginning with the enactment of the Florida State Comprehensive Planning Act in 1972, (19) and continuing with the enactments of subsequent comprehensive planning laws in 1975, 1985, and 1991, the State aimed to construct "an integrated system of local, regional, and state planning" to inform future development. (20) The central goal of the State's growth management system is to ensure that adequate infrastructure exists to accommodate new development. (21) Florida officials have coined this concept "concurrency." (22) Concurrency bars local governments from approving new development until infrastructure exists to handle the new growth. (23) Concurrency may also have the unintended effect of encouraging fringe development by shifting development from older city-centers--whose infrastructure is necessarily constrained--to previously undeveloped rural areas.
Concurrency imposes steep costs on city-centers because city roads and infrastructure already operate at, or above, capacity. (24) Under the existing concurrency requirement, it is significantly less expensive to build homes, office centers, and commercial space outside the urban core because suburban roads, water lines, and sewers are not taxed to capacity and will not require replacement due to age. (25) As a result, concurrency pushes development toward the urban fringe, often resulting in sprawl. (26)
By preserving Florida's natural resources and ensuring that infrastructure supports new development, Florida's growth management laws have safeguarded nationally significant natural resources and helped develop thriving suburban communities. These are significant accomplishments for a state that has absorbed eight million new residents in the past twenty-five years. (27) Population statistics, however, show that Florida's growth has bypassed many of the state's urban areas. (28) While cities such as Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Miami Beach, and St. Petersburg grew less than two percent from 1990 through 1997, the rest of Florida grew by an average of thirteen percent. (29) The welfare of downtown and near-downtown neighborhoods has been largely unaddressed over the same time period. (30) Developers maintain that they alone cannot resurrect blighted urban neighborhoods, indicating that government involvement is necessary.
II. NEW IDEAS FOR GROWTH MANAGEMENT: THE 2000-2001 GROWTH MANAGEMENT STUDY COMMISSION
On July 3, 2000 Governor Jeb Bush signed Executive Order #2000-196, establishing the Growth Management Study Commission (the "Commission"). (31) Governor Bush asked the Commission to recommend changes to the State's growth management laws and propose goals for how Florida should manage its anticipated rapid growth over the next thirty years. (32) In signing the Order, Governor Bush concluded that the State's growth management regime needed to be overhauled because it fostered a "quality of growth [that did] not [meet the State's] expectations." (33) With Florida's population expected to increase to twenty-three million by the year 2030--a fifty percent jump (34)--the governor decided it was time to formulate a plan that would ensure the growth of "[q]uality communities well into the next century." (35)
The twenty-six member Commission was drawn from the Florida legislature, the governor's cabinet, local government representatives, and the agricultural, development, and environmentalist communities. (36) The Commission had only six months--from August 2000 through February 15, 2001--to develop recommendations for submission to the Florida legislature. (37) In formulating its recommendations, the Commission was directed by the governor to give special consideration to nine growth-related topics and to ensure that recommendations for improvements in each of these areas included state, regional, and local implementation strategies. (38) The role that cities can or should play in a proposed growth management system was not singled-out as a subject for the Commission's determination. (39)
In February 2001, just weeks prior to the 2001 Florida legislative session, the Commission answered Governor Bush's charge with a report entitled A Liveable Florida for Today and Tomorrow. (40) For the report, the commission tied growth management to economic development. (41) Through a thriving state economy, the Commission declared, …
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Publication information: Article title: Florida's Downtowns: The Key to Smart Growth, Urban Revitalization, and Green Space Preservation. Contributors: Marshall, John T. - Author. Journal title: Fordham Urban Law Journal. Volume: 29. Issue: 4 Publication date: April 2002. Page number: 1509+. © 2009 Fordham Urban Law Journal. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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