Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 at 12:10pm

New Growth Bill May Help Lake County Find Common Ground

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State and local no-growth, anti-business fanatics are almost in full cardiac arrest over the passage of HB 7207 in the last Florida legislative session.  They’ve gotten so desperate that they’ve called on liberal Democrat, and former Governor, Bob Graham to ask current Governor Rick Scott to veto the bill.  To hear that crowd talk, this bill will be the end of Florida because the power of determining land use would be put back in the hands of local government instead of the powerful state agency, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA).  In fact, if Governor Scott signs HB 7207, the DCA will basically cease and be reformed as the Division of Community Development within a new agency called the Department of Economic Opportunity.

HB 7207 will replace the Growth Management Laws enacted in 1985, which gave substantial power to the state.  Over the last 25 years, the state, through its bureaucrats, amassed more power yearly until they created a massive, unmanageable web of regulations.  Growth management at the state level became so cumbersome that businesses could no longer do business in Florida, and local communities began decrying the draconian authority of a bunch of god-like bureaucrats in the DCA.

Florida’s no-growth/anti-business people are in such a panic mode because they can’t win at the ballot box, as the failure of Amendment #4 illustrated last year.  The liberal, anti-growth movement gets its power from liberal judicial appointments and career bureaucrats from power-hogging-agencies like the DCA.  Without a centralized authority in Tallahassee, the movement is de-horned.  The real question for all Floridians is:  Who do you trust controlling the future of your county – local leaders or the bureaucrats in Tallahassee?  Our group trusts local leaders because they are directly accountable to the people.

Here are some of the main points of HB 7207, which will change how business is conducted in Florida.

  • The DCA will be morphed into the Division of Community Development (DCD), which is a department in the newly created Department of Economic Opportunity.
  • A community’s local comprehensive land plan could be amended, as needed, instead of only twice a year.  Amendments can go into effect 31 days after the two-hearing process and review period.
  • The DCD will be very limited in its jurisdiction of local comprehensive land plans and their charge is ensuring those plans meet current regional and statewide requirements.  The burden has now been shifted to the new department when there are disputes with local jurisdictions regarding the plan.  The DCD, in most instances, is limited to making comments and not mandating changes.
  • Local commissioners can no longer act to not act, because pushing difficult decisions to the DCA for them to make is over.  Local leaders will be forced to make decisions and they will be held accountable instead of making the DCA the boogeyman.
  • Comprehensive land plan referendums will not be allowed, so local politicians will be forced to make decisions instead of weaseling out of them by asking the people to vote on controversial decisions.
  • Concurrency for schools, transportation, and parks has been eliminated as mandatory.  Local jurisdictions can retain or remove by plan amendment, and the DCA cannot comment.
  • There will be a four-year extension on all DRI timelines/mitigation.
  • Review of amendments by a Local Planning Agency was not mentioned, so local jurisdictions aren’t required to have a Local Planning Agency.
  • There will be a two-year moratorium on new/increased fees.
  • Rural Land Stewardship Areas will allow counties more authority in how they are managed and issuing credits for such projects.  The DCA’s role in the process has been greatly diminished.  There will no longer be a requirement between the county and the DCA.
  • The new, proposed law deletes requirements to address energy efficient land use patterns and greenhouse gas reductions.
  • Under these new rules, the state is restricted in its ability to interpret joint planning agreements.  In addition, it removes the requirements that comprehensive plans be financially feasible.  The all powerful century commission will sunset in two years if Governor Scott signs this bill.
  • This change is the big one for Lake County, and the legal challenge to its current Horizon 2030 Comprehensive Land Plan – the DCA is required to review/reassess all pending cases within 60 days and dismiss those inconsistent with the new law.
  • To view a more detailed list of changes click here.

Unlike the “Chicken Little” mentality of the no-growth movement, local control of land use issues will lead to better control of massive, Wall-Street-backed developments.  Instead of huge, national development interests being able to lawyer their way through the bureaucratic process in Tallahassee, they must get the approval of local county commissioners who will answer to the people for irresponsible growth.  For example, in Lake County you will probably see the current county commission be very slow to approve massive multi-thousand-home developments because of the subprime mortgage lending most of these types of developments created in South Lake County.

If this law is enacted, it will give Lake County an opportunity for all parties to sit around the table to figure out a path for responsible growth. This will ensure economic development, while preserving the county’s precious natural resources.  Common ground can be found by the local no-growth movement and business community in Lake County; however, it must be a collaborative action facilitated by the county commission with local people, and not by outside interests from either side.  The way this community decides to grow shouldn’t be influenced by firms who represent Wall Street interests, nor should it be decided by the Nature Conservancy or 1000 Friends of Florida.  Rather, it should be decided by the people who live, work and have a long-term interest in Lake County.  This is like a family situation – it’s time to keep the in-laws out of the discussion.

No group in Florida has been harder on the no-growth movement than ours, because they’ve acted against the will of the people.  That being said, we do understand there are citizens of good conscience who firmly believe in protecting the area’s natural resources.  Many in our group and in the business community share similar concerns, just maybe not as fervently, but local people can find common ground because they all share one goal – a better Lake County.  Without the outside influence of Tallahassee, Wall Street, and environmental special interest groups, Lake County citizens can come up with a plan that will lead this area to a new day of prosperity and respect for one another.  If enacted, this new law could be a Godsend for Lake County.

The Right Side of the Lake is a publication of Citizens for Better Government, L.L.C., and if you would like to comment on today’s column please go to our website www.lakecountygov.info or www.therightsideofthelake.com.  This newsletter is free to all who would like to subscribe, and we encourage you to send it out to everyone on your mailing list.  If you have information or a topic you would like us to cover please email us directly at lakecountygov@lakecountygov.info.

2 Responses to “New Growth Bill May Help Lake County Find Common Ground”

  1. I have seen three world fairs, a Coleman dog fight, a Wildwood goat roping and two buffalo’s making love! I thought I’d heard and seen everything! While I will admit the Lake commission should always in every case be held accountable for every action. What numbskull walking the streets thanks that anyone can be libelous to a state agency? I for one can’t think of enought rotten truthful things to say about any of them, and since we own and fund them we have that right ~ I told you we need to clean the cobwebs out and get Chattahoochee Home for the insane filled up again! Ritlin and Prozac makes them think government agencies have rights and such! Do these people work in Lake government? I’ll bet they do! And they party together all night too!

  2. The Truth says:

    How, exactly, did DCA PROMOTE irresponsible growth in South Lake County? How, exactly, did DCA interfere the the efforts of the Lake County Commissioners to allow that growth? Your argument is both incorrect and, I believe, libelous toward DCA. The fact is this – NO development reaches DCA until it is first transmitted by the County Commission. Furthermore, even after DCA has requested revisions, amendments, etc., to bring the proposal into compliance with state law, the County Commission still has to adopt the plan. The past County Commissioners are the only parties to blame for any sprawl in South Lake County. They were the gatekeepers – DCA just (tried) to limit the damage. I am normally not this blunt, but you, sir, are a liar.

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