Local governments sue state, opposing new development law

By Nirvi Shah

Several government agencies have sued the governor and other state officials over a growth management law they believe is unconstitutional and will foster unbridled growth, with local governments powerless to control it.
The Community Renewal Act, which passed easily in the House and Senate, was proposed to spur economic development and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist in June. Those who advocated for the law said it would allow more development, because permitting would go more smoothly and lead to more construction jobs. The law eliminates the state Department of Community Affairs’ authority to oversee projects of regional impact in much of the state.
That kind of oversight, in part, led to the evaporation of a developer’s proposal to buy Briny Breezes in recent years. The state did not warm to the deal because of concerns that proposed waterfront high-rises would overwhelm the surrounding area.
Led by the city of Weston in Broward County, the governing bodies of Key Biscayne, Cutler Bay, Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, Fruitland Park, Miami Gardens, Parkland, Palmetto Bay and Lee County sued Crist, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, and House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, over the new law in early July.
“Despite strong and vocal disapproval from numerous Florida cities and counties,” Weston City Manager John Flint said, “the Legislature passed and the governor signed this bill, essentially dismantling 30 years of growth management and now allowing relatively unrestricted growth without concern for taxpayer issues.” But the lawsuit takes less issue with the substance of the bill than with its constitutionality.
The state Constitution says the Legislature can’t adopt one law that tackles many unrelated subjects. Aside from growth management, the new legislation includes language about security cameras at private businesses and affordable housing.
Another constitutional provision limits “unfunded mandates,” which are new laws that don’t come with a way to pay for their enforcement. If a bill passes each chamber with at least a two-thirds vote, the Legislature can get around this requirement, but that didn’t happen, and there isn’t a source of funds to pay for local governments to revise their growth plans in accordance with the new law.

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