Senate Select Committee On Floridas Economy Eyes Sweeping Growth Control Changes
Written by Ted Carter on February 12, 2009
By Ted Carter
Florida’s Senate is preparing to back a move to kill long-standing Development of Regional Impact rules and to stop requiring that roads and other transportation infrastructure be adequate to accommodate new urban development.
Scrapping the growth-management rules is a key strategy of the Senate Select Committee on Florida’s Economy to jump-start the state’s business growth potential amid a deepening recession. The committee appointed by Senate President Jeff Atwater is to recommend changes to taxes, fees and permits, new economic development approaches and ways to encourage new private-sector construction and development.
Proposals to change course on Development of Regional Impact policies, transportation concurrency rules and development impact fees are likely to draw the most attention. The Republican and Democratic co-chairs say they are braced to defend the panel’s main proposals and see them as an opportunity to help restore life to a development sector that is languishing statewide as foreclosures mount, home prices fall and credit remains frozen.
In these times, said Select Committee Chair Don Gaetz, the state "is out of step and counterproductive" in mandating developers undergo the extensive time and expense required to obtain Development of Regional Impact approval. The state enacted the Development of Regional Impact, or DRI, rules decades ago to ensure that projects of significant size and impact are in harmony with the growth blueprints and the infrastructure of the communities in which they are to rise.
"The economic analysis we have received suggests" impact fees, concurrency rules and DRI requirements "impede economic development," said Sen. Gaetz, a Niceville Republican and longtime Miami businessman.
Added Select Committee Co-Chair Jeremy Ring, a Margate Democrat: "We’re not turning back the clock. We’re creating a more streamlined process."
A key product of the panel is the Community Renewal Act, designed to help small- and mid-size commercial projects that are good finance candidates and shovel-ready but are held up by concurrency requirements relating to availability of roads and other infrastructure.
The act also allows cities and counties to suspend or reduce development impact fees on an "immediate basis." Local governments must now undergo state review before altering impact fee policies, said Sen. Gaetz.
He called the proposals the "most significant reforms in the comprehensive planning process since the mid-1980s" and added: "I think we have to be light on our feet with regulations."
The Florida Department of Community Affairs, the state’s primary municipal planning agency, backs elimination of the DRI rules, Sen. Gaetz said. That should strongly sway Gov. Charlie Crist to support the reforms, he said.
Expect support as well from the Builders Association of South Florida, said Ashley Bosch, its president. He said a number of local development projects had been viable in the recent past but are no longer after awaiting a lengthy local and state Development of Regional Impact review.
"We’re going to be definitely backing it," Mr. Bosch said. "We’re for anything that stimulates the housing and building industries."