Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Growth Management Back in Local Control; Developers Say It Will Create Jobs; Foes Say It Hurts Growth Planning

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Growth Management Back in Local Control; Developers Say It Will Create Jobs; Foes Say It Hurts Growth Planning

Article excerpt

Byline: Kevin Turner

The responsibility for managing growth is once again in the hands of local government.

The Florida Legislature's sweeping change to the state's 1985 Growth Management Act in the 2011 session was signed by Gov. Rick Scott last Thursday. It weakens the centralized system that gave a state agency, the Department of Community Affairs, the power to halt developments deemed incompatible with the growth plans of local governments.

Over the past 25 years, a developer had to account for the impact of a project on streets, schools, parks, water, garbage, drainage and sewer systems before building. If the development pushed any of those areas over capacity, the developer had to pay for improvements, a concept known as "concurrency."

Now if local governments choose to hobble or toss out the systems that regulate the impact of development on a city's infrastructure, there will be long-term consequences, growth planning advocates say.

"We won't notice bad things for several years. I call it 'death by a thousand cuts,' " said Brian Teeple, executive director of the Northeast Florida Regional Council.

Charles Pattison, president of 1000 Friends of Florida, a nonprofit organization that champions growth management, said the new law could result in a patchwork of different standards across Florida.

"The issue is going to be competing jurisdictions when one [city] does and one doesn't," he said. "The one that doesn't will be open for business, regardless of the impact. How that affects the road system is a question."

Pattison said he takes issue with the political characterization of DCA as a job-killer, a label he says never was supported by evidence. He said the department has approved most development it's considered. The department will cease to exist after Oct. 1.

Developers complain that the old system made building too expensive. In January, the Jacksonville City Council voted to lower "fair share" payments required from developers. Retail developer Toney Sleiman said he favors a moratorium of "fair share" payments altogether - at least until the economy improves.

"I think to create jobs, you need a total moratorium," Sleiman said. I know of two or three projects I could do, but not if there's fair share. They're just sitting there. They're dirt."

Sleiman's company isn't averse to making payments under other circumstances, however. The developer on May 18 gave Nassau County a $674,000 check for intersection improvements at Florida A1A and Chester Road, near a new Sleiman retail project. The money wasn't for concurrency or fair share, said Sleiman Enterprises director of development Michael Herzberg.

"This is an actual project that benefits our project as well as the traveling public," he said. "We could have done far, far less."

Planning Director Walter Fufidio said there's room to fix a system that gave first-come, first-served traffic impact development rights to some and penalized others. …

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