Growth management in Florida was once a national model.
Local governments were required to develop detailed plans on how they planned to handle growth, how they planned to map land uses and how they planned to pay for it.
Unfortunately, the landmark 1985 legislation has been weakened and is gradually taking us back to the days when new development was allowed anywhere, any time.
The agency in charge of overseeing growth plans is now powerless to crack down on overly permissive local government planning decisions in rare instances when they actually have something substantive to say, thanks to legislation has whittled away at earlier growth-management regulations. Legislators have also practically eliminated what kinds of megadevelopments that are classified as developments of regional impact. The list goes on.
A time-honored, though sometimes controversial way to make growth pay its way was to impose impact fees so that local officials would have the money to build schools and parks, widen roads and do other work that a growing population needs and often demands.
This year the Florida Legislature is trying to weaken this fiscally responsible approach to growth management via SB 750 and HB 337.
Most of the legislation’s provisions contain provisions that’s actually already required, such as that there has to be some logical connection between the amount of impact fees local governments charge and what it costs to keep up with the demand growth places on public infrastructure and that the money collected has to be properly accounted for.
What is new is a provision that limits how governments can spend the money that introduce some inconsistency into the process.
For instance, they can’t use impact fees to buy land for schools or road-widenings, but they can use impact fees to buy land and vehicles for public safety facilities. The staff analysis doesn’t explain the discrepancy.
In addition, the legislation proposes to limit how much impact fees can increase, regardless of the justification, though the two bills differ in what those limits should be.
The result of these restrictions will be either more congested traffic and crowded classrooms or taxpayer subsidies for developers.
Tell your legislators this is a bad idea.