By Robert W. Ganger
Readers of The Coastal Star
may be unaware that a bill is percolating through the Florida Legislature that would “streamline” the state’s Growth Management Act — the rulebook by which the Department of Community Affairs has guided growth and development in our state since 1985.
Who is backing the bill?
The bill’s major legislative sponsor is a developer/contractor. In fairness, he and his professional colleagues may view the Growth Management Act as overburdened by red tape. On the surface, streamlining a regulatory process developed in the 1980s may seem to be prudent and overdue, and local mayors will certainly appreciate less interference from Tallahassee in local decision-making. Proponents of the amendment package claim that it will accelerate the process of getting approval for major development projects, and in so doing, help to create jobs.
Opponents point out that our economy and our environment have been victimized for years by the very overdevelopment that the Growth Management Act is supposed to regulate. Making the act weaker does not seem to be a good strategy. Building more condos along our coastline is a dubious approach to job creation, given our hopelessly overbuilt status.
Why should we be concerned?
There are several elements in the draft amendment that are troubling. As it now stands, the public has ample opportunity for input when a municipality seeks a material change in its Comprehensive Plan, such as eliminating green space or increasing population density in residential or mixed-use zoning. The proposed amendment could cut time for public comment in half, and might eliminate entirely a key report required of DCA for objections, recommendations and comments. This ORC Report is a critical step between proposal and implementation of major changes in the character of a given community.
The proposed amendment also creates a waiver from transportation concurrency requirements for certain projects, particularly those that create jobs. Simplified, this says that a developer need not be concerned by the added traffic burden resulting from his project. For those of us living on the barrier island, doubling or tripling traffic on two-lane State Road A1A constitutes a major safety and quality-of-life issue.
What can we do?
Language in the proposed amendment is still being crafted, and it is not clear whether or how a major coastal community development, such as the rebuilding of Briny Breezes, might be impacted by a change in the Growth Management Act. Several major public interest groups have already commenced campaigns in opposition to the Growth Plan Amendments.
To stay abreast of the situation, we suggest visiting the Florida Coalition for Preservation Web site, www.preservationfla.org
, for further details and actions available to us as citizens.
Robert W. Ganger is president of the Florida Coalition for Preservation, a grass roots organization championing responsible development in Florida’s coastal communities.