Urgent!: Danger of Damaging Florida’s Urban Growth Managment

As a member of 1000 Friends of Florida, I am publishing this for your urgent consideration.
Thank you.
Stephen McGaughey


Protect Citizens’ Rights!
Please Call Now to Oppose HB 7129

Your calls are needed to oppose the damaging HB 7129, which was released by the House a few days ago. This bill undermines Florida’s landmark growth management system, essentially returning this state to the “anything goes” era of the 1960s and 1970s. Among other things, this damaging legislation undercuts the rights of citizens to appeal inappropriate local government planning decisions, weakens the ability of local governments to charge developers for the costs of new roads and schools meaning that taxpayers will further subsidize new development, allows large-scale development without any certainty that conservation lands will be preserved, and seriously curtails state review of local plan amendments.

1000 Friends of Florida and the Sierra Club do not support this bill, and The Nature Conservancy has strong concerns. Please contact your Representative now! Tell him/her that growth management is essential to protect the state’s drinking water and quality of life. Ask them to stand up for Florida’s citizens and oppose HB 7129.

Find your Florida Representative. Once you’re on that page, click on the “Find your Representative” icon and enter your address.

Please also share this alert with your friends and associates. We need as many calls as possible!

Among other things, this problematic legislation:

Curtails citizen rights to participate in the local planning process–It includes a number of provisions making citizen legal challenges of inappropriate local plan amendments virtually impossible. It applies the very difficult “fairly debatable” legal test to all citizen challenges, making successful appeals unlikely. It repeals Rule 9J-5 and the associated years of legal challenges that have bolstered the rights and ability of citizens to file successful legal challenges. It prohibits DCA from intervening in any third party challenges to plan amendments, and restricts appeals of detailed special area plans (DSAPS) associated with sector plans to court challenges only. It also requires DCA to review all of its pending judicial proceedings within 60 days to justify either their continuation under the changes made in this bill or have them dismissed. Finally, it prohibits local governments from adopting any process similar to the recent Amendment 4/Hometown Democracy amendment.

Will result in citizens subsidizing new development, even that which is unneeded and financially infeasible—The proposed legislation eliminates the requirement that plans and plan amendments be “financially feasible,” and weakens the requirement that developers show the “need” for new development to justify making amendments to the local comprehensive plan. This is particularly egregious in an era when irresponsible overbuilding has had devastating results for so many Floridians. It weakens concurrency requirements that new development pay for associated roads, schools and other costs, which will result in citizens underwriting many of the costs of new development.

Undermines state review of plan amendments—Early growth management efforts in Florida failed because there was no oversight of local government planning decisions. The 1985 Growth Management Act established state review over local comprehensive plans, but this legislation undermines state review. Among other things, this legislation inserts a nearly impossible to overcome “balancing” provision that says that any plan amendment that “on balance” promotes parts of Chapter 163 and/or local comprehensive plan policies can be approved even when adverse impacts are documented to state resources. It adopts an “alternative state review” (ASR) process for all plan amendments, which means that DCA will not comment on most plan amendments, and will have only 30 days to present comments on those it chooses to review. It also limits the ability of DCA and other state agencies to comment on amendments to local comprehensive plans. DCA comments will only be required for amendments within areas of critical state concern, sector plans, new plans for newly incorporated areas, EAR based amendments, and rural land stewardship areas.

Allows large-scale development without any certainty that conservation lands will be protected — The legislation revises large scale sector and rural land stewardship plans without any certainty as to when conservation easements will be recorded

Has devastating results for Florida — The effect of these changes is to minimize state review and comment, emphasize and give deference to local decisions, and make it practically impossible for citizens and third parties to successfully challenge plan amendments. This is a return to the 1970s when development interests were unchecked, public resources were being exploited, and growth controls were minimal. We have seen the results of that approach, and we continue to pay for the many mistakes made with that system. 1000 Friends fears that we are about to repeat this sad part of our great state’s history.


About Stephen E. McGaughey
Resident of the City of Coral Gables

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