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Bush talks tough on growth

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Bush talks tough on growth

Cities and counties need to pay for it or refuse it, he says

By Joe Newman | Sentinel Staff Writer

Posted March 30, 2005

Admitting the state has failed to keep up with exploding growth during the past 20 years, Gov. Jeb Bush says it's time to take a hard-edged approach toward the way Florida's local governments approve new development.

Under a draft bill his staff released Tuesday, counties and cities will have to show they can pay for the schools and roads needed to accommodate growth, while also showing there's enough water for incoming residents.

Otherwise, the state will reject their requests to allow new subdivisions in outlying areas, Bush said.

"If you're going to continue to grow, if . . . you're going to rezone and add more density, then you pay for it," Bush said. "We're not giving them an option. We're saying 'no.' "

Bush's tough talk on growth -- the strongest stance he has taken during his two terms -- struck a chord with environmentalists and others who want to reform the state's landmark 1985 Growth Management Act.

"I think that's great the governor is out in front with that message," said Charles Pattison, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Florida, a group that fights urban sprawl and supports the protection of natural areas.

But Bush's proposal also set off a flurry of concerns from legislators and special-interest groups who wonder where local governments will find the money to pay for all of their growth needs.

Bush's growth-management bill does not outline any new financing sources for roads, schools and water. Instead, during a Monday meeting with the Orlando Sentinel's editorial board, the governor said untapped local sources, such as gas and sales taxes, amount to about $1.8 billion.

"The sources of money that are available for this are far greater than what people imagine," Bush said.

The chairman of the House Growth Management Committee, Rep. Randy Johnson, R-Celebration, said the state can't expect local governments to bear the entire burden of paying for growth.

"We haven't talked about the hard part yet, and the hard part is who is going to pay for growth?" Johnson said. "Who gets left holding the bag is the big question."

It's likely that for Bush's bill -- sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike Davis, R-Naples -- to move forward, the state will have to help local governments pay for growth.

Otherwise, it may run into opposition from county and city lobbyists, as well as developers who fear they'll be forced to pay even higher impact fees.

There's also the question of how Senate President Tom Lee will respond to Bush's plan.

Lee, a Republican from Brandon, wants the state to concentrate on finding ways to pay for new roads, utilities and schools without any major changes in the state's 1985 growth act, which requires local governments to develop detailed growth plans that must go through a strict series of state and regional reviews.

Bush's proposal is a departure from his past emphasis on giving local and regional entities more control over routine growth-management decisions. Earlier drafts focused on expanding the powers of regional planning councils and shifting the state's growth-management focus to areas in most need of attention, such as the Florida Keys and the Everglades.

Pattison, with 1,000 Friends, said there's a lot to like about Bush's proposal, but answering the financing question will be critical.

"Can local governments really do it?" Pattison said. "How are we going to do it [build roads and schools] faster without identifying money?"

Since 1985, local governments have had to show that they could provide the roads and utilities needed for growth. But that principle, called "concurrency," has its shortcomings.

While it requires new roads and utilities, it doesn't require governments to have a way to pay for those improvements so that they'll be in place at the same time as the new developments.

Additionally, huge chunks of urban areas are exempt from concurrency, and there is also a lag of several years from the time a development is approved and when roads must be built.

"Because of that, we're always behind; we're always creating a larger deficit," Bush said.

And though Bush thinks growth is essential to the state's economy, he says if local governments don't find ways to pay for roads, schools and water, then they will be shutting the door on new developments.

However, that is a choice they should be allowed to make, he said.

"I think communities ought to have the right to say, 'We don't want any more growth,' " Bush said. "Or say, 'We don't want to tax ourselves more, and the consequence is we're not going to grow.' "

Joe Newman can be reached

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Interesting turn of events. I actually agree with him on this one. We'll see if he can pull it off.

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Most of the article looks good, although I wonder if his plan also includes provisions to stifle good urban developments.

"If you're going to continue to grow, if . . . you're going to rezone and add more density, then you pay for it,"

This could be similar to the concerns recently raised on raising school fees on dense multi-family developments. People who are living in areas with "more density" are less likely to need more schools (less families with children live in dense areas), more water (no lawns), more roads, etc... So I'm wondering if he's considering penalize people who are not the cause of the problems as much as he's planning on penalizing the people who are...

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Most of the article looks good, although I wonder if his plan also includes provisions to stifle good urban developments.

"If you're going to continue to grow, if . . . you're going to rezone and add more density, then you pay for it,"

This could be similar to the concerns recently raised on raising school fees on dense multi-family developments.  People who are living in areas with "more density" are less likely to need more schools (less families with children live in dense areas), more water (no lawns), more roads, etc...  So I'm wondering if he's considering penalize people who are not the cause of the problems as much as he's planning on penalizing the people who are...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I think this is the wrong approach to improve urban and suburban development. This is just chipping away at the tip of the iceberg. The developers and land owners should be the ones who are ultimately penalized. One idea would be to require developers to also pay and provide infrastructure of the additional buildings or neighborhoods that they build. For instance, if a company wants to build a new neighborhood on 1,000 acres, they must also pay to widen the primary route that runs by it or also build an access highway to accomodate the additional traffic.

The ONLY problem that I foresee with this idea is that then the developers will stick it to the people that will get hurt the most: home buyers like you and me.

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This seems like grandstanding to me. As long as builders and developers are wealthy and politically connected it will be difficult to stop them from getting their suburban development agenda ratified.

The only state (to my knowledge) that has had any success reducing sprawl is Oregon and they used an aggressive land use act to do so.

Oregon Land Use Overview

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It's good that another cheerleader is questioning the cost of sprawl, but who knows what, if anything, will get through the legislature. Hopefully, something will emerge that hampers low-density development and encourages dense, compact development. There aren't any simple solutions, but at least the former showstoppers are getting a clue and joining the discussion.

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State's growth plan raises tensions

By Mark Hollis | Tallahassee Bureau

Posted April 7, 2005

TALLAHASSEE -- After weeks of talking tough about putting teeth into Florida's 20-year-old growth-management act, Gov. Jeb Bush, Senate President Tom Lee and other leaders are struggling over the details at the critical midpoint of the legislative session.

The tension has mounted to the point that the ideas could collapse within days. "We have to either run a bill this week or pull the plug on growth management," Lee warned Wednesday.

Bush, a former developer, and Lee, a homebuilder, are convinced that Florida is digging itself into a financial ditch by allowing development that has taken over parts of Central Florida and South Florida and overwhelmed roads, schools and other public services.

Lee and Bush, both Republicans, are pitching a "pay as you go" growth-management system to make cities and counties do a better job of building the transportation networks, classrooms and water systems to accommodate future growth -- as well as to reduce the backlog of past development.

Though the idea has strong backing from an unusual coalition of developers, environmentalists and utility providers, there is still major hesitancy in the Legislature, including some from House Speaker Allan Bense, R-Panama City, about adopting a plan that stops new development in certain circumstances.

Rep. Mike Davis, a Naples Republican who represents portions of western Broward County, is the House sponsor of growth-management legislation that's still being crafted. He said lawmakers and aides to the governor are debating key principles of the bill behind the scenes this week. Their talks, he said, are focusing on ways of paying for schools and roads. One of their top concerns is how to come up with a strategy that won't violate the Republican Party's anti-tax views. It's a concern, Davis admitted, that may not be a big priority to people already suffering under unrestrained growth.

"I guess if you ask the guy [waiting] for the fifth or sixth light change, he'd probably be pretty willing to pay higher taxes," Davis said. "And that's what we're working through. It's a tough one."

State and local planners say the problems are real. Florida, with a population of more than 17 million, is one of the nation's fastest-growing states.

Janet Bowman, the legal director for 1,000 Friends of Florida, an environmental group, and Doug Buck, a lobbyist for Florida's homebuilders, say that while local governments have had to show that they can provide the roads and utilities needed for growth, a principle called "concurrency," the cities and counties haven't had to have a way to pay for those improvements so that they will be in place at the same time as the new developments. As a result, Florida has a $23 billion backlog of services needed to deal with development that's already in place, according to Lee's and Bush's offices.

Linda Kleindienst and Buddy Nevins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel contributed to this report. Mark Hollis can be reached at [email protected] or 850-224-6214.

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The problem, like others have said, is that he doesn't seem to differentiate between good growth and bad growth. There should be ways to encourage infill while at the same time ending sprawl. I don't know that Bush knows the difference. At least he's admitting there's a problem though.

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He know it..that's why he wont stop sprawl for family business.

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Bush was a partner in Codina Group, notorious for sprawling development, including the most recently built Beacon Lakes industrial office park in Doral (west Dade).

I agree with Brickell -- he is not providing a comprehensive way to develop infill -- land with existing infrastructure. Notice that the article only talks about roads -- stop development until more roads are built to keep up with the development (my interpretation)... No mention was made at all of mass transit expansion, and we all know his position on that. A plausible solution would be to assess impact fees not solely on roads and infrastructure, but also on potential new transit projects.

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With Florida and being such a melting pot of yankee urbanites, the question is can

we convince those running from the concrete jungles of the northeast that an

urban lifestyle is far superior to that of life in the burbs. Many of the newcommers

to the state are excited about have 20' between them and their neighbor and

mowing their lawn twice a week at the expence of fighting some traffic to get to

work every day.

There is too much developable space in the southeast that is becomming prime

real estate for sprawling developments. Maybe the state and local governments

should limit the sprawling developments by creating more state forrest lands,

nature preserves, and parks. The states and cities can then offer incentive

packages (as many are now doing) to those building in the downtown cores and

put more pressure to upgrade and expand the current infrastructure.

The state should also make it priority (with the city's help of course) to implement

and expand mass transit systems in every major city in the state. Later on down

the road a statewide High Speed Rail system would be more practical and easier

managed.

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