Florida Senate Bill 360 Signed into Law

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SB 360 Signed into Law June 1

Thank you for your calls and emails regarding SB 360. Despite the concentrated efforts of media, local governments, and conservation/advocacy groups, we are disappointed to report that Gov. Crist signed the bill into law late in the afternoon on June 1.

1000 Friends will be assembling a group of colleagues that opposed the bill to identify strategies to promote smart growth within the new parameters of SB 360. We have also spoken with DCA Secretary Tom Pelham and offered to assist in any way we can. DCA is holding its 2009 Growth Management Implementation Workshop on June 25-26 at the Hilton in the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, and will include information on how the agency will implement the provisions of SB 360. Please contact Sheri Coven at sheri.coven@dca.state.fl.us or call (850) 922-1681 to register. The cost is $115.

At the end of this message is a brief overview of SB 360 as well as a copy of 1000 Friends’ veto letter to Gov. Crist. Also attached below are links to recent coverage on SB 360, including two perspectives on the passage of SB360 appearing in the Tallahassee Democrat, one from 1000 Friends President Charles Pattison and one from the Chamber of Commerce.

Following is the editorial lin the Tampa Bay Times which appeared on Monday, June 1, 2009. The original appeared HERE.

Governor Gridlock

Gov. Charlie Crist just made it easier to pave over what’s left of Florida. By signing SB 360 into law Monday, the governor clearly values the voices of developers and big business — and their campaign checks for his U.S. Senate campaign — over the concerns of environmentalists and local governments. Crist set growth management back more than 20 years and left a permanent stain on his legacy.

With a stroke of the pen, the governor removed the most powerful tools to manage growth, require road improvements and prevent overdevelopment. No longer will governments be able to require most developers to pay for the road improvements needed to handle the traffic their projects generate. No longer will enormous developments such as those proposed for the site of the old Bay Area Outlet Mall in mid Pinellas or the controversial SunWest Harbourtowne in northwest Pasco be subjected to a broad study of their effect on neighboring communities. And in another gift, key state and local development permits are now automatically good for another two years.

For developers, Christmas came on the first day of June. Floridians will be paying for it for years.

Once again, this was another botched opportunity for the governor and the Legislature to look further ahead than the next election and the next campaign contribution. There was broad agreement that transportation concurrency is unnecessary in urban settings such as downtown St. Petersburg or Tampa. But this new law goes well beyond any reasonable definition of urban and will end transportation concurrency in small towns and suburbia as well. There also was broad consensus that the Development of Regional Impact process was too cumbersome and needed an overhaul. The simplistic answer in this new law is to essentially abolish the entire DRI review, leaving communities adjacent to giant projects outside their own boundaries with little recourse for coping with the fallout.

In a short news release, the governor’s office does not attempt to justify those failures. It says “incentivizes entrepreneurs” when it should say “free pass to developers.” It notes that the law requires the study of a new mobility fee that developers could pay for transportation. But there is no requirement for a new fee. If the Legislature would not keep transportation concurrency this year, it is naive to suggest, as Crist did, that it would adopt a new mobility fee next year with elections looming.

Signing this bill into law is one of the most serious mistakes Crist has made since taking office in 2007, and it is at odds with the rest of his record. The governor who appointed growth management expert Tom Pelham to head the Department of Community Affairs has just eviscerated growth management. The champion of restoring the Everglades has just endorsed urban sprawl. And the booster of better mass transit and visionary rail systems has just become Governor Gridlock.

Another article by Steve Bousquet of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau appeared in the Tampa Bay Times. Read on for the article below. The original article, which appeared in the Times on Monday, June 1, 2009, can be found HERE.

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist on Monday approved changes to Florida growth laws that supporters say will strengthen the economy and that opponents predict will increase urban sprawl and traffic gridlock.

The bill rewrites Florida’s 25-year-old growth management law, principally by allowing developers in the most urban counties to add more housing developments without expanding roads and by allowing counties and cities to designate new urban areas that also would be exempt from certain road-building requirements.

Sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett, a Bradenton Republican and an electrical contractor, the bill passed both houses of the Legislature by wide margins.

Business groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Association of Realtors hailed Crist’s decision. The chamber said the legislation “updates Florida’s growth laws without compromising environmental or land-use protections.”

In signing the bill (SB 360), Crist, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, acknowledged the divisions it has caused. He has noted that his growth management expert, Tom Pelham, who runs the state Department of Community Affairs, had misgivings about the bill.

“I’m trying to be balanced on it and I know that it’s probably one of those bills where nobody’s going to be overly happy on either side of the argument,” Crist told reporters a few hours before he acted. “So hopefully it’s right down the middle, and we’ll be able to stimulate our economy and not do harm to our beautiful state. That’s my desire.”

The new law is designed to make it easier to build new residential housing, even as Florida wallows in a glut of housing caused by the foreclosure crisis.

Crist signed the bill in private with no public ceremony. His press office issued a terse news release that attributed no quotations to Crist endorsing the legislation. The statement said the bill encourages entrepreneurs to develop in designated areas; requires a study of a “mobility fee” to pay for road and transit improvements; and extends for two years development permits that were in danger of expiring.

“We’re pretty disappointed with this outcome,” said Charles Pattison of 1000 Friends of Florida, a leading environmental organization. “We think this is going to lead to (development) approvals that won’t lead to any immediate job creation, and you’re going to have more sprawl.”

All major environmental groups opposed the bill and mobilized their members to flood Crist’s office with phone calls and e-mails urging a veto. Also fighting the bill were eight counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Collier, Lee, Lake and Wakulla.

Times/Herald staff writers Marc Caputo and Shannon Colavecchio contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (950)224-7263.

Summary of Concerns About SB 360

1000 Friends outlined its concerns in a veto letter to Gov. Crist, and will provide a more extensive overview of the bill’s provisions soon. In summary, SB 360 is intended to promote infill development by providing for exemptions from transportation concurrency and Development of Regional Impact (DRI) review in “dense urban land areas.” However, the legislation defines 1000 people/square mile as “dense urban land areas” which includes areas with less than one dwelling unit per acre and automatically qualifies 245 cities and the entire territory of eight of Florida’s largest counties. The bill also allows other counties to establish urban service areas with only cursory DCA and FDOT review and oversight, making those areas also eligible for a complete waiver of transportation concurrency and elimination of DRI review. Additionally, the bill changes the definition of urban service areas, removing schools and recreation areas from the public services required in the definition of a dense urban land area, thus lowering the density for the exemptions, and including more rural lands.

While 1000 Friends concurs with the need to lessen transportation concurrency requirements in truly urban areas, SB 360 also eliminates the requirement in low density areas as well. This leaves taxpayers—not developers–holding the bill for roadway improvements which, if not undertaken, will result in even more congestion, inefficiency and level-of-service failure. As noted, the bill also provides for exemption of Development of Regional Impact (DRI) review in “dense urban land areas.” This means that the requirement to mitigate development impacts to an adjacent local government will no longer be required, resulting in significant intergovernmental conflicts as adjacent communities wrestle to address on their own what are clearly regional issues.

SB 360 does include positive language regarding community land trusts. However, it also includes two problematic provisions regarding affordable housing. The first provision favors existing developers for no valid reason by restricting new affordable housing projects to those developers with a minimum of five prior projects with the state. The second concern is that it allows the inappropriate conversion of RV and mobile home park lots into permanent dwelling units regardless of the potential environmental and infrastructure implications, or whether the unit is sufficient to be considered a permanent dwelling. We believe this is a decision best left to the local government’s discretion and not a mandate from the state.

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DCA Hosting Two Events to Explain Impacts of SB 360

June 12 Virtual Forum with DCA Secretary Tom Pelham on Senate Bill 360

The Florida Department of Community Affairs will host an on-line event on June 12, 10:00 AM – Noon on the subject of Senate Bill 360, which became law on June 1, 2009.

· The program will focus primarily on the provisions of SB 360 relating to transportation concurrency and how these provisions affect local governments.

· The Secretary will present remarks and information about the new law, including DCA’s interpretation and implementation plans.

· The floor will then be opened to questions from statewide participants.

· Questions may be submitted in advance of the event on-line or by email, through June 11. Questions may then be submitted live on-line.

· The event is free to the public and advance registration is encouraged but not required.

· Those who wish to listen in by phone rather than taking part on-line may do so as well. Speaker phones and cell phones are permitted.

Mark your calendars now to be a part of this important event on legislation affecting Florida communities.

June 25-26 DCA Growth Management Implementation Workshop

DCA is holding its 2009 Growth Management Implementation Workshop on June 25-26 at the Hilton in the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, and will include information on how the agency will implement the provisions of SB 360. The cost is $115. For more information regarding the workshop or to register, please visit http://www.dca.state.fl.us and click on the registration tab under the “Spotlight” header. AICP (10 hours), PE (12 hours) and CLE (hours TBD) continuing education credits have been applied for with the respective associations. Approval is expected prior to the workshop.

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