Florida Legislature makes it more difficult for residents to challenge comp plan changes; environmentalists call it a “sprawl bill”

Florida sprawl
Aerial view of development in Kissimmee, Florida and suburban sprawl. By Javier Art Photography via iStock for WMNF News.

Amid objections from environmental groups, the Florida House on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill that would lead to people facing additional legal costs if they unsuccessfully challenge changes to comprehensive growth-management plans.

The House voted 87-30 to pass the bill (SB 540), which the Senate approved last month.

It is now ready to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The bill would allow “prevailing” parties to recover legal fees in comprehensive-plan challenges at the state Division of Administrative Hearings.

Opponents argue that the threat of facing hefty legal costs would dissuade environmental groups and other people from challenging comprehensive-plan changes.

Opponents call it the “sprawl bill” because it could lead to the expansion of development.

The group 1000 Friends of Florida on Tuesday immediately urged DeSantis to veto the bill.

“SB 540 would threaten ordinary Floridians with financial ruin for exercising their right to legally challenge amendments that conflict with their communities’ comprehensive plans — their blueprints for sustainable growth,” 1000 Friends of Florida said in an email.

Bill supporters have said local governments hold numerous public hearings before comprehensive-plan changes are approved, giving people an opportunity to have input.

©2023 The News Service of Florida

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