Governor Crist should veto bad growth bill

Dear Governor,

So, how's it going? I bet this time of year, everybody wants to tell you which bills passed by the Legislature you should approve or veto.

Forgive me for adding to all the noise. Still, you really should veto Senate Bill 360, the so-called "growth management" bill.

I know a lot of people want you to sign it and I know their reasons.

The stated goals are good. Help get Florida moving again. "Fill in" our urban areas with new construction.

But, hiding behind those goals, this bill goes way too far. It guts the Growth Management Act of 1985. It basically repeals that law.

Is that your legacy?

The bill repeals our rules for controlling growth in too many places. In fact, the list is ridiculously broad.

For example, the bill weakens growth rules for any "dense urban area" — anywhere there is a population of 1,000 people per square mile. That's about one person per acre!

You have a letter from the Florida chapter of the American Planning Association on this precise point. It says:

"This is not true urban density. Applying this definition across entire jurisdictions also results in conservation, agricultural and rural areas being treated as 'dense urban land areas.' ''

Every big county and any decent-sized city (something like 245 cities) would be exempt from the rules, or could declare big development within their borders to be exempt.

Along with "dense urban land areas," also exempt would be anything called an "urban service area" or a "community redevelopment area."

Lastly, so would anything labeled a "job creation project" — what a loophole!

SB 360 further says we no longer have to use the rule of "concurrency" for new growth — we no longer have to worry about whether our local roads can handle it. We are just flat throwing that silly rule right out the window.

Instead, the bill says that we will study something called a "mobility fee." Study. Consider. Plan.

You also have a letter from the group 1000 Friends of Florida on this point about roads. It says:

"The resulting congestion, inefficiency and level-of-service failures will have unintended and incalculable consequences for the state transportation system, and Florida's economy."

On top of all that, this bill largely throws out our rules for bigger projects, which are called "Developments of Regional Impact."

The key word there is "regional." Bad decisions made by even a little burg or county can have a major impact on entire regions, even the whole state.

This is not a close call.

You should veto SB 360 and ask for tighter definitions of "dense" areas, reining in the too-broad scope, while praising the Legislature's intentions and asking it to try again in 2010 — when you'll have another chance to sign it.

Like I said, we had more than a half-century of the kind of cheap, destructive, unregulated growth in Florida that this bill seeks to bring back.

You grew up here. You saw it. You are a Floridian.

But you're more than that. When you hold that pen in your hand to sign or veto this bill, you are Florida.

In your heart, you know this bill is wrong.

Governor Crist should veto bad growth bill 05/23/09 [Last modified: Sunday, May 24, 2009 6:23am]

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