Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Politics

Hillsborough looking for ways to simplify its development rules

TAMPA — Hillsborough County will borrow a page from Tampa.

County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to create a task force to look for ways to streamline the county's zoning and permitting rules. Two commissioners also will sit on the committee.

A similar body created by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn after he was elected in March has just finished its work, presenting findings Tuesday.

With the vote, commissioners also agreed to hire the Urban Land Institute for $125,000 to assist the effort.

Commissioner Sandra Murman said it is high time the county tackled overly burdensome regulation. Staffers 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, and offers a raft of incentives, "Businesses are still feeling strangled by regulation," Murman said.

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. Other board members agreed.

Sharpe noted that development took off all but unchecked before the economic downturn. Excessive home construction is a key contributor to the slow turnaround, he said.

"If you're going to make it easier to build more homes that we don't need, is that the answer?" Sharpe said.

County administration initially proposed creating a committee of 14. Each commissioner would appoint a constituent, with the rest consisting largely of development industry insiders and one environmental group representative recommended by county staff. A commissioner would serve as chairman, with Murman asking for and getting the job.

Board discussion led to commissioners adding about six more people to the panel — more industry representatives and another environmentalist representative. After Commissioner Les Miller cautioned that the committee needs to reflect the community's racial diversity, commissioners made him the board vice chairman.

A separate technical advisory panel including such interests as Tampa International Airport, the Port of Tampa and other groups, will work alongside the committee. 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.

Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or [email protected]

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