Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Panel calls for creation of Hillsborough economic development areas to spark recovery

TAMPA — A leader of the group tasked with suggesting ways to streamline development review in Hillsborough County says the plan would actually promote growth management, too.

The centerpiece of the plan, presented to county commissioners Thursday, calls for the creation of a series of economic development areas where new construction would be promoted with rule and fee waivers.

Most of the zones likely would be located in central Hillsborough or near major road networks, encouraging intensive construction there instead of in far-flung reaches of the county.

Compared with current rules, "What we're moving toward could be far more effective at preventing sprawl," said Bob Abberger, senior managing director with real estate firm Trammell Crow Co. "This is not, 'Let's expand the urban service boundary and pave over the county.' This is the opposite of that."

Abberger was presenting the work of the Economic Prosperity Stakeholder Committee, a 21-member panel consisting largely of development interests. The group was formed 9 months ago at the behest of commissioners Sandy Murman and Les Miller to study ways that the county's growth rules were impeding economic recovery.

The group's report is general in nature, suggesting that county staff look for ways to weed out redundancy and make the construction review process more customer friendly.

It calls, for instance, for staff to develop guidelines for when a manager can waive certain rules and to make changes to the county's comprehensive plan — or growth guidebook — to encourage economic development. But it offers little in the way of specifics, tasking commissioners with fleshing out the meat in workshops during the next year.

The most pointed recommendation calls for designation of economic development areas where growth would be promoted, with land approved for construction for certain types of targeted businesses like those involved with the biosciences or manufacturing. The specific geographical areas are not delineated, though the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission has made some suggestions.

If those suggestions take root, areas targeted for industry could include parts of the West Shore business district and swaths of land along the Interstate 75 corridor, particularly near where it intersects with Interstate 4. The areas around the University of South Florida and East Tampa also are included.

In those areas, the group recommends that approvals for development be secured in advance of a prospective business locating in them. Businesses that build in them would enjoy waivers from things like transportation impact fees and rules requiring infrastructure to be in place before construction begins.

In most of the areas, road networks are largely in place already to accommodate additional traffic. If the plan is successful, that should encourage investment in those areas rather than in more distant locations, Abberger said.

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