Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.

But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most pressing public need, if it keeps taking steps backward.

That’s just what the Hillsborough County Commission did recently in moving along two proposals that would allow denser development outside its urban service area.

The urban service area is where local governments have committed to provide the kind of infrastructure that people expect in an urban area — water, sewer, stormwater and transportation among them. Take a look at the red lines outlining the area on a map, and you’ll see it encompasses half the county.

So why make it bigger?

With all the angst over transportation hindering quality of life and economic growth in Hillsborough County, how can commissioners justify busting out of these carefully considered boundaries knowing their actions help create the sprawl behind the gridlock?

In one of their recent votes, as reported by Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times, they explained that they felt bad for the landowners, an Illinois couple, because 20 years ago the county changed how many homes could be built on their property.

The proposal also was pushed by the county’s busiest lobbyist, Vin Marchetti, whose clients have contributed generously to incumbent commissioners as they prepare to run for re-election this year.

These votes signal that despite their earnest pledges to the contrary — most earnest right after they failed to deliver a comprehensive transportation plan in 2016 despite two years of effort — commissioners aren’t really serious about finding a way out of this transportation mess.

The ill-advised land use decisions won’t scuttle the county’s goals of directing at least 80 percent of future population growth into the area, of creating a clear distinction between urban and rural lands, and of timing urban growth to coincide with the installation of the infrastructure it will require.

But the commission would be wise to make these their last encroachments on the urban service area.

Some 600,000 people are expected to move into the county by 2045 so the pressure will be great to relax the standards again and again. There are plenty more landowners out there, from Illinois and elsewhere, poised to hire Marchetti and other lobbyists to argue that their right to make the most they can from their piece of Hillsborough County trumps the needs of the broader community as expressed in those carefully considered boundaries.

Enough landowners, in fact, to render useless any exercise in drawing lines around an urban service area other the borders of Hillsborough County itself.

The commission won’t have to wait long to show whether it takes these concerns seriously.

First, it will consider a proposal April 16 for a 260-bed assisted living facility in Valrico. Then, in October, it’s expected to decide on a Marchetti-backed proposal to allow greater development density across some 4,400 acres in eastern Hillsborough County.

Twice in recent months, commissioners have sought and received advice on how to accommodate population growth. Both times, once from consultant Urban Land Institute and once from their own staff, they were urged to rein it in by resisting encroachment.

"Don’t do it," advised one of the consultants, Alan Razak. "You have a precious resource here that you don’t want to squander."

Commissioners are hearing conflicting voices on an issue that may well decide whether they get re-elected.

They soon will have a chance to show the courage and consistency it takes to heed the right ones.

Comments
Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Florida’s clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

Donald Trump’s resounding victory in the 2016 presidential election came at least in part because the New York businessman grasped the disconnect between how millions of Americans and the political establishments of both parties felt about immigratio...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Voters who looked to Donald Trump to make America great might want to look at their wallets. The president escalated his global trade war this week, threatening new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports — everything from seafood, beef and ...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseball’s future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

For the second time in less than 18 months, President Donald Trump has nominated a well-qualified, conservative federal appeals court judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. That does not mean Judge Brett Kavanaugh should get an easy pass through Senate con...
Published: 07/10/18
Updated: 07/11/18