Budget woes tied to the collapse of the housing bubble sucked the oxygen from press accounts of the Florida legislature that preoccupied itself with irrelevancies and more monuments to failed economic policies. It is no surprise that the perpetrators in the Legislature used the crisis-- the worst in Florida since the Depression-- to pass two new bills that only compound the difficulty of reviving the economy unless they are vetoed by Gov. Crist.
SB 360 is another attempt by the Growth Machine to hobble "management" of growth in Florida. Year after year, special interests go after the Florida Department of Community Affairs in the idiotic effort by developers to pin blame on land development regulations as the cause of the economic mess they caused themselves. The bill is particularly toxic in an important respect: the conversion of rural lands to sprawl without state review. As Miami-Dade taxpayers know, it was only the state of Florida's opposition to large scale developments outside the Urban Development Boundary that stymied powerful developers who control the county commission.
SB 2080, if signed into law by Governor Crist, will cut the public out of key water decisions before Florida’s Water Management Districts. The legislature wants to turn back time to the days decisions were made behind closed doors, by bureaucrats safely protected by the revolving door between private industry and agencies. SB 2080 circumvents government accountability and Florida’s sunshine law. Under SB 2080, key permitting decisions regarding our water supply would no longer be made by a multi-member board in a public meeting. Instead, the districts’ Executive Directors will decide on requests to withdraw water from our aquifer, rivers, lakes and other sources. The story of water management in Florida for the past decade has been all about pipes and engineering: the more, the better. If SB 2080 passes, regulators and regulated will be indistinguishable.
Email Gov. Crist today email@example.com or call 850-488-4441: there are only a few days left for Gov. Crist to act on these bills. Please do it, now. (click 'read more', for more detail on these bad bills.)
Sierra Club Florida is urging the veto of CS/CS/SB 360, titled “The Community Renewal Act.”
This bill would undermine the ability of the State’s Department of Community Affairs and our regional planning councils to regulate growth throughout Florida. Specifically, the bill would:
1) Create a distorted definition of dense urban land areas - In lines 235 to 242, the bill amends section 163.3164, Florida Statutes, to redefine dense urban land areas as a municipality or county that has an average of at least 1,000 people per square mile of land area or a county which has a population of at least 1 million. The definition is woefully inadequate; 1000 people per square mile is approximately one home per 1.5 acres. This would allow many low-density suburban communities and rural towns to fit into this generous definition of dense urban land areas.
2) Grant easily-obtained exemptions to State transportation concurrency requirements – In lines 472 to 687, the bill amends section 163.3180, Florida Statutes, to provide a transportation concurrency exception to any county or municipality that fits into the new definition of dense urban land areas. For a county or municipality that doesn’t qualify as a dense urban area, the bill would allow it to provide the designation to any land classified in its comprehensive plan as urban infill, part of a community redevelopment area or part of an urban service area. This new policy could encourage so many requests for exceptions that it would lead to a wholesale abandonment of state transportation concurrency requirements.
3) Gut the State’s Development of Regional Impact process – In lines 1145 to 1218, the bill amends section 380.06, Florida Statutes, to exempt from the development of regional impact process any proposed developments in those counties and municipalities that fit into the new definition of dense urban land areas. For a county or municipality that doesn’t quality as a dense urban area, the bill would allow it to provide the designation to any land classified in its comprehensive plan as urban infill, part of a community redevelopment area or part of an urban service area, thereby granting that area, too, an exemption from the DRI process. This would destroy the intent of state law to require regional planning councils to weigh the impacts of proposed development in one county on its neighboring counties.
1000 Friends of Florida estimates that following implementation of SB 360, the entire territory of eight of Florida ’s largest counties and 245 cities throughout Florida would qualify for transportation concurrency exemptions and Development of Regional Impact (DRI) exemptions.
The Putnam County Environmental Coalition writes the following, about SB 2080:
This bill was initially supported by conservationists across the state because it finally raised Florida-friendly landscaping to prominence. Senate Bill 2080 was passed in the final hours of the regular legislative session after damaging amendments were added. PCEC seriously questions whether most legislators were even aware of the last minute additions and their potential for unintended consequences to Florida’s water resources. It is likely that they thought they were voting for a move to make our shared goals of water conservation more likely.
The eleventh hour amendments are a slap in the face to Florida Native Plant Society and other conservation activists who have worked long and hard to get this kind of legislation passed. Now, this previously good bill has been hijacked and used to cover up a very devious plan that sharply reduces opportunities for citizens and local government planners to have input into the permitting process.
What this bill does:
1. Eliminates the checks and balances on District executive directors’ decisions on consumptive use permits, variances and other withdrawals.
2. Suppresses the ability of the public and local governments to express their concerns about consumptive use and environmental resource permitting.
3. Eliminates the basic structure and functions originally and carefully designed over a period of many years in the creation of Florida’s water management districts. The new structure created by SB 2080 will fly in the face of years of legislative restructuring aimed at creating Districts with voting governing boards that promote good water policy.
4. Eliminates the collective diversity, wisdom and local area balance inherent in a voting governing board.
5. Vests virtually unlimited authority in the five individual water management district executive directors in their respective districts to allow water withdrawals. This authority will foster bias, favoritism, and a high potential for abuse and squelching of opposing opinions regardless of validity.
6. Favors development and growth special interests for increased and unnecessary water withdrawals to the detriment of meaningful conservation efforts, local resources development, and comprehensive growth planning.
7. A district water czar with too much power and the potential for serious and unintended consequences will result from this delegation of power to just one person in each of the five water management districts. Each of these government employees would be given the power in their district to approve and fund water projects costing taxpayers in the billions of dollars that involve hundreds of miles of pipelines and treatment plants designed to take water from Florida’s rivers and other sources. This kind of power should not be the sole purview of one individual.
For these reasons, the Putnam County Environmental council strongly urges you to contact Gov. Crist and request that he veto Senate Bill 2080. In our opinion, SB 2080 is a blatant attempt to silence advocates for common sense water resource management in Florida.