Proposed growth management changes draw criticism

03/25/09 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

There are a number of proposals floating through the Florida Legislature this session that environmentalists say would gut laws designed to slow growth in the state.

Today in Tallahassee, the House Council on Economic Development and Community Affairs Policy voted unanimously in support of a bill that would revise growth management laws.

Tom Pelham, secretary for the Florida Department of Community Affairs, objected to a part of the bill that he said would reduce citizens attempts to challenge Plan Amendments. The bill is sponsored by Republican Dorothy Hukill from Daytona Beach Shores.

Plant City Republican Rich Glorisoso questioned Pelham on his comment that there have been only being two successful challenges to Plan Amendments.

Pelham said the current standard that would apply for a citizen challenge is what is known as the Preponderance of Evidence Rule. He said changing that to a Fairly Debatable Standard makes it virtually impossible for citizens to prevail.

Two years ago when the Legislature adopted the alternate state Review Process, it greatly consolidated the process, but made it more difficult for citizens to participate effectively, he said.

Environmental activist Denise Layne with the Coalition for Responsible Growth called the intention of the bill good, but said it would create problems in Hillsborough County.

Janet Bowman is with the Nature Conservancy. She said she was concerned the bill would make it easier to build new cities in rural areas.

Katie Sorenson, a commissioner with Miami-Dade County, said the transportaion/concurrency exemption area would thwart what her board has been trying to accomplish.

Nevertheless, the bill was unanimously approved by the House Committee, including St. Petersburg area Democrat Janet Long. Long said she wanted to work on amending it further before she could support it later on in the process.

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