Sunday’s Ledger reported how a little-known provision tucked into the county’s growth regulations allowed a developer to gain approval of a subdivision near Eagle Lake the County Commission had previously denied.
This is certainly not an isolated incident and unsurprising given the history of the writing and interpretation of growth management regulations in unincorporated Polk County.
The particular provision governs approval of so-called infill development. County records show the provisions were approved in 2002 and 2003.
That date coincides with the early days of the writing of the county’s development regulations, which was greatly influenced by the development industry.
It gets worse.
Shortly after the County Commission finally voted in 2000 to belatedly approve updated development regulations as required by a 1985 state law, they appointed a so-called “Glitch Committee” made up of members of the development community and their consultants.
The committee’s job was to take yet another look at the development regulations to catch any problems for them they didn’t catch the first time around. This infill development provisions seems to date from that period.
The infill regulations are fairly well-hidden, occupying a few pages in a 136-page section on conditional uses, which may not be an obvious place to look. There were allegations that the developer did not know about this provision, either, until county planners suggested the developer use it.
Add to that is the infill development standards are generic enough to give applicants and planners enough latitude to justify administrative approvals.
That seemingly permissive interpretative atmosphere in Bartow is what the ongoing litigation in this and other recent zoning cases is examining.