Growth Bill Begins Fla. Senate Journey

By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida
By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida


A Senate committee on Monday passed a growth management package that continues restrictions on the levying of impact fees but gives local governments more control over growth - while restricting state oversight to more regional and statewide issues.

Over the concerns of environmental and smart growth groups, the Senate Community Affairs Committee approved a measure (SB 1122) by Chairman Mike Bennett that wrests from state officials many development decisions such as schools and parks that would instead be handled at the local level.

Bennett, a Bradenton Republican who has been at odds with the Department of Community Affairs over growth related issues, said the measure is intended to streamline and speed up the process by which development can occur by cutting redundant requirements and giving local officials more authority to determine what their communities will look like.

A strike-all amendment offered Monday is similar to a House measure (HB 7129) that is already traveling in that chamber

“It’s time to get the people of the state of Florida some relief from the regulatory process,” Bennett said before the vote Monday.

The bill extends a moratorium on most impact fees until 2013 and would allow local governments to remove parks, public schools, and mass transportation facilities from comprehensive plan concurrency requirements. Local officials would have to vote to remove those provisions and show some proof that such needs are being met.

“We are not taking away the concurrency requirement,” Bennett said. “We’re leaving it up to the local communities to determine if they want to do that.”

The bill would expand the use of a 2007 pilot program that speeds up state approval and reduces the scope of state review to regional issues. So far, the program has been limited to Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Hialeah, Broward and Pinellas counties and the cities within those two counties.

Representatives from 1,000 Friends of Florida expressed concerns over the legislation but pledged to continue working with Bennett and others to address those concerns. Sen. Paula Dockery R-Lakeland, was the only member of the committee to vote against the bill, but she, too, said she’d work with Bennett and others to make changes.

“I hope in the end I’ll be able to support this bill,” Dockery said.

Other members said Bennett was on the right track and urged him not to concede on most fronts.

“Stay the course,” said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. “I think (proposed amendments) would be diluting a good bill that I think will get people back to work. “

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