In Waning Hours Of Session, Environmental Groups Warn Against Growth Management Policy Changes

Feb 27, 2018

Environmental groups and local governments are sounding the alarm about Florida legislative proposals that would change how new development is planned.

The most wide-ranging measure is heading to the House floor.

The bill does number of things, including requiring counties to hold referenda on their rural and urban development boundaries every decade. Controversially, it also prevents the creation of what are called Community Redevelopment Agencies and phases out existing ones over the next 30 years. The agencies use special taxes to redevelop blighted areas.

Northeast Florida is projected to have the state’s second-largest population growth over the next 50 years, according to a study. Jacksonville area development is also expected to be among the most sprawling.

The Florida League of Cities argues the bill steps on local control. Thomas Hawkins with 1000 Friends of Florida said it could unleash city sprawl and hurt the environment after many cities created the growth boundaries to rein in development.

“Urban growth boundaries are a really important tool for communities to determine their character and use local rules to make sure development complies with that character,” he said. “So, it’s not a question of saying yes or no to growth, it’s a question of saying what kind of place do we want to be as we grow and after we grow?”

The proposal is partially a response to reports showing some community redevelopment agency heads improperly awarded funds to friends.

Sponsors say local governments should control redevelopment directly. It also includes a provision allowing for local governments to reinstate a CRA with a supermajority vote.

There are five related bills in the Senate and House that are in various stages of the process, but with less than two weeks left in session, it’s unclear what their chance of passing is.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk