Hillsborough County to create its own regulation-cutting task force
Hillsborough County will borrow a page from the city of Tampa.
Hillsborough County commissioners voted unanimously to create a task force, led by two of their own, of industry leaders who will look for ways to streamline the county's zoning and permitting rules. A similar body created by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn after he was elected last March has just finished up its work.
Commissioner Sandra Murman said it is high time that the county did something similar. Staff came up with suggestions and the result will be something called the economic prosperity stakeholders committee.
While the county has taken steps to streamline some aspects of development review, "businesses are still feeling strangled by regulation. We need to do more," Murman said. "We've got to change the game."
County administration had initially proposed created a committee of 14 people, with commissioners each appointing one constituent. The rest would have been mainly development industry insiders, plus one environmental group representative. A commission member would serve as the chairman, with Murman asking for and getting the job.
But board discussion led to commissioners adding about six more people to the panel, more industry folks plus another environmental group representative. After Commissioner Les Miller cautioned that the committee needs to reflect the community's racial diversity, board members made him a second commission representative on the board. He will be its vice chairman.
A separate technical advisory panel including such interests as Tampa International Airport, the Port of Tampa and other groups, will also work alongside the committee. With the vote, commissioners agreed to hire the Urban Land Institute for $125,000 to serve as a consultant to the effort. The stakeholder committee will be asked to meet for eight or nine months to come up with recommendations, and was charged with coming up with some easy pickings in two to three months. The committee's meetings will be open to the public.
Panel members are expected to get picked at the commission's March 8 meeting.
Commissioner Mark Sharpe argued that the panel should not simply seek to eliminate regulation just for the sake of it, but should focus on making the process easier to navigate, and other board members echoed those sentiments. Sharpe noted that development took off all but unchecked before the economic downturn and that it is in part because of that that the region has been so hard hit.
"If you're going to make it easier to build more homes that we don't need, is that the answer?" Sharpe said. "We're the result of a Katy-bar-the-door mentality."