The handwringing begins. Florida’s newspapers are crying in their beer that the Department of Community Affairs is likely to be dismantled next year by the incoming Rick Scott gang. After vilifying Amendment 4 and parroting the over-builders’ (the source of a very large chunk of their advertising revenue) lies, the newspapers now cry there will be no “watchdog” over bad growth. Well, according to the Orlando Sentinel, DCA approves 90% of the plan changes that show up on its desk. What kind of “growth watchdog” is that when we all know that Florida already has enough growth on the books for over 100 million people?
The truth and fact remains that the real power resides at the local level, where a developer-applicant typically needs only 3 out of 5 votes or 4 out of 7 to change the growth map. The newspapers don’t seem to understand that DCA doesn’t have the power now to simply stop a bad plan change in its tracks. If a plan change violates some aspect of the Growth Management Act, DCA must go to court, just like the rest of us. Drive around Florida and it’s clear that growth hasn’t been well managed over the last 25 years.
Amendment 4 recognized that the real power lies at the local level with city & county commissions, and that too often they can’t be trusted to do the right thing. Even though demand went bust, the politicians keep granting more plan changes. So much for “planning”!
The over-builders spent $20 million to defeat the Amendment 4 reform. Money may not be everything, but in our case money meant everything.
Happy New Year!
Stunting growth oversight….Florida’s leaders place state’s future at risk with their assault on DCA.
12:00 AM EST, December 26, 2010
It’s appalling how Gov.-elect Rick Scott and legislative leaders have vilified the Department of Community Affairs — the state’s invaluable growth management arm — as a prelude to dismantling it.
They rail about how the department’s become an unwieldy, impervious impediment to “good growth” and the jobs that come with it. But the men and women at DCA who review the amendments to local growth plans hatched by developers number all of 58.
They do what they do — checking whether housing communities or industrial parks adhere to local and state rules — because Florida’s lawmakers placed that responsibility squarely on their shoulders. Critics like House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos voted for bills that require local growth plans to address energy efficiency and the stress that developments place on water resources, transportation and schools.
Should DCA employees have ignored them?
The reality is that the DCA approves most amendments that come before it; since 2008, more than 90 percent, creating the potential to build more than 600,000 residential units and 2.3 billion square feet of non-residential space.
Villainous, indeed. If Florida’s government leaders are chafed because DCA rejected a few projects — projects that defy state and local development rules — why aren’t they citing them to discredit DCA? Perhaps because the projects weren’t in the state’s best interests.
For example, DCA rejected plans for the remote 23,000-home Farmton colossus in Volusia and Brevard counties, which didn’t adequately address its impact on roads, utilities, schools, water and protected wildlife. It stiff-armed a developer’s plan to build an oversized marina in an aquatic preserve frequented by manatees on the St. Johns River.
But more appalling than the campaign to assassinate the character of DCA and that of its principled secretary, Tom Pelham, who’s exiting his post in January, is what the enemies of sensible growth management have in store as replacements. Last week, a task force formed by Mr. Scott recommended that a dramatically weakened DCA join — or get swallowed up — by the much larger departments of transportation and environmental protection.
The remnants of the DCA no longer would responsibly manage growth, but morph from watchdog to lapdog. They’d enter what the task force report called a “partnership” with developers interested in, what else, “good growth.” Florida, effectively, would end up with the kind of regulatory integrity that federal overseers offered the offshore drilling industry — none.
The governor-elect’s task force actually calls for eliminating state oversight of local growth plans, including the review of particularly large developments that cross county lines and transportation concurrency, which ensures that developments don’t overwhelm existing roads and interchanges.
Other scenarios for DCA’s future are similarly gloomy. DCA’s growth-management unit could transfer to the Department of Environmental Protection, where a new secretary eager to accommodate developments like Farmton might take charge. A former lobbyist for the Farmton project is said to be a contender for such a post.
Some legislators also still cling to the proposal that moves DCA planners to the Department of State, and has them disappear there.
Legislators also want to repeal laws that check irresponsible growth, beginning with one that requires developers to demonstrate a need for projects that don’t comport with local growth plans.
More sensible alternatives are getting drowned out, like reducing state oversight of minor changes to local growth plans.
Unfortunately, they’re not getting heard in the frenzy to rip apart growth management in Florida.
This message was sent by: Florida Hometown Democracy, P. O. Box 636, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170