Some legislators will promote development to fix economy

02/20/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Earlier this week, some state lawmakers announced that they believe a way to kick start Florida’s economy is by streamlining the permitting process for new development.

The St. Petersburg Times reporting this week that some of the groups pushing for looser permitting include such politically powerful groups as the Florida Home Builders Association, the Association of Florida Community Developers, and Associated Industries.

Barney Bishop is president of Associated Industries, based in Tallahassee. His group has produced a booklet called Economic Stimulus Package 2.0,” which calls for having legislators reduce "red tape" to stimulate business activity.

But with a glut of hundreds of thousands of homes sitting on the market right now, and with problems with people getting credit, WMNF asked Barney Bishop how more housing could cure Florida’s ills.

Mariella Smith is an environmental activist in Hillsborough County. She’s busy preparing letters for fellow citizens to write to state legislators to protest these pro development proposals.

Bishop and others are suggesting a temporary suspension of impact fees , as well as easing the challenge to such fees in the future.

The Times reported that Rep. Trudi Williams says she wants to see the state wetlands permitting process cut from 90 days to 45, while legislation from Bradenton’s Mike Bennett would block local governments from collecting impact fees on new development through 2012.

Smith is critical of these plans, as well as another that would eliminate transportation concurrency laws that would theoretically allow for easier development in urban areas. Smith says one problem of that is what is defined as urban in Hillsborough County.

For years, local environmentalists have been critical of the pro-development slant of the Hillsborough County Commission. Smith says with a slightly different composition, she’s hopeful it won’t be so ideological on the issue.

The state legislative session begins a week from Monday.

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