Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida sprawl's free-for-all even worse without the DCA

The Florida Department of Community Affairs is good at telling developers how their plans to build subdivisions out in the country — think of Hickory Hill and the Quarry Preserve — can cause sprawl, clog roads and destroy the environment. But it hardly ever says no.

This frustrates a lot of citizen activists, who think that the agency does nothing but push papers.

And they are dead wrong.

Look closely and you'll find that once DCA gets involved, plans change for the better. Developers agree to pay more for roads and schools, add protection for wildlife habitat and groundwater, rewrite plans to make sure projects that are supposed to function like real cities are designed like real cities.

That was true to some degree even under its weakest leadership. It's even more true under current DCA secretary Tom Pelham.

Yes, it would be nice if the DCA flat turned down a few more requests for changes to local comprehensive plans, though this does happen once in a while.

But anyone who knows much about development in this state knows that without the DCA, it would be even more of a chaotic free-for-all.

And maybe because the state Legislature tried to do so much crazy, irresponsible stuff this year — forcing most women seeking abortions to pay and review ultrasounds of their fetuses, stripping tenure from teachers, allowing leading lawmakers to take in even more special interest money (all of which, by the way, received the votes of our own state Rep. Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill) — we've overlooked an equally wild attack on the DCA.

In the final days of the session, the House of Representatives failed to hear a routine bill to reauthorize the agency.

Legally, this might not mean much. Politically, it's a killer — a vote of no-confidence that is extra significant because it is widely believed to be the work of incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park. (He previously has said he had nothing to do with the lack of reauthorization, and a representative from his office said Thursday this would have no impact.)

Next year, members will have been freshly re-elected and the Hometown Democracy amendment, the threat of which has supposedly forced lawmakers to at least pretend they care about controlling growth, will have been resolved one way or another.

So, expect the Legislature to throw everything it has at the DCA, said spokesman James Miller.

It may eliminate the agency. More likely it will retain the DCA in some form — just make sure it can't do its job. (And these are folks who supposedly hate government waste.)

That might include further cuts to a staff that is already overwhelmed by proposed comp plan changes, such as the one for the Quarry, designed to beat the deadline of the Hometown vote. Or lawmakers might pass obscure measures preventing the DCA from enforcing rules, said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida.

As this battle moves forward, remember that Cannon is the guy who told us it was safe for oil companies to drill as close as 3 miles from Florida's shore.

The DCA, on the other hand, recently put out a 44-page critique of the Quarry, requiring upgrades of everything from transportation plans to habitat protection.

So, who do you think is really looking out for us?

Florida sprawl's free-for-all even worse without the DCA 05/06/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 6, 2010 6:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  2. Late night update: Second wave follows Tropical Storm Harvey

    Hurricanes

    UPDATE: At 11 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  3. Stealth anti-Jack Latvala group tied to Adam Putnam campaign

    Blogs

    Politico reports:

     A longtime political consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam is behind a website calling one of his rivals in the race, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a “liberal.”

  4. Council gives in to pension dispute with St. Pete firefighters

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council was forced to consider its first labor dispute in years Thursday when it gave the firefighters union most of the pension enhancements it has long asked for.

    The firefighters’ union won a pension victory at Thursday’s City Council meeting. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES]
  5. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE

    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.