From the same Legislature that refused this year to put the slightest restraint on new development comes a bill, now on Gov. Charlie Crist's desk, to give a pass to potentially some of the largest real estate projects in Florida. This one richly deserves a veto.
The gift, SB 1706, comes in the form of an exemption to the rigorous Development of Regional Impact. DRI review is reserved for the largest of development projects, ones that can create serious impacts on the environment, traffic congestion, and water and sewer services.
Lawmakers first gave their wink and nod to the University of Miami's planned bioscience center, but word quickly spread. Soon the bill provided exemption to "any development within a county having a population greater than 1.25-million." That adds Palm Beach and Broward counties, with Hillsborough and Orange not far behind.
The bill does limit the exemption to projects that include "an office or laboratory appropriate for the research and development of medical technology, biotechnology, or life science applications." But that definition is so broad as to open the door well beyond UM or Scripps Research Institute centers. Any shopping mall with a storefront lab might qualify.
That's not all. The bill also extends an unwarranted delay on DRI enforcement, allowing developers to further exceed construction deadlines to which they agreed.
The bill itself represents another dose of legislative duplicity. Crist's community affairs secretary, Thomas Pelham, tried this session to persuade lawmakers to pass a "citizen planning bill of rights" that aimed to bring some restraint to the pace at which cities and counties make changes to development blueprints. But that bill died.
As 1,000 Friends of Florida director Charles Pattison, who supported Pelham's effort, now writes: "It is both disingenuous and disrespectful to the interests involved to 'cherry pick' provisions and seek their inclusion in other bills. This destroys the foundation for debate and dialogue needed to reach consensus on such issues."
Pattison is right. This bill belongs in the trash.