Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Don't let developer overturn land-use plans

It is common in Florida for developers to push the limits of government regulation to turn a profit. But a recent claim against Hillsborough County's land-use rules is brazen even by the most generous definition of being business-friendly.

Developer Stephen J. Dibbs wants to overturn more than a dozen years of community planning that has allowed a slice of northwest Hillsborough County to retain its rural flavor amid suburban sprawl. Dibbs' federal lawsuit is a disingenuous attempt to maximize the profit potential of his real estate investments under the guise of, among other things, promoting public health and looking out for the interests of a low- and moderate-income population.

The suit, which also asks for remuneration for past land-use disputes between Dibbs and the county, seeks to invalidate the community plan for Keystone and Odessa. That plan limits residential density, targets commercial business location, sets architectural design standards and prohibits walled developments, among other things. The suit characterizes the rules as "a collection of arbitrary and discriminatory mandates created by a small group of activists.'' The contrary view is more common. When first begun in 1998, the rules were hailed widely as a model for community planning and inspired similar, though unsuccessful, efforts in neighboring Pasco County where a citizens group wanted to replicate the Cracker-style architectural standards for Land O'Lakes.

Arguments can be made about the effectiveness of individual components within the plan. Low-density housing on 5-acre lots, for instance, makes central water and sewer service cost-prohibitive and forces much of the area to rely on septic tanks and well water. But to suggest that such a provision threatens public health is a stretch considering there are more than 2.6 million septic sewage systems in Florida serving about a third of the state's population. Likewise, the contention that the land-use rules discourage the less affluent from living there would be more logical if someone was actually considering Odessa-Keystone as a site for affordable housing.

Most notably, the date of the real estate transactions undermines Dibbs' claims. He purchased his property after the plan earned county approval and there isn't a good explanation for what appears to be an absence of due diligence. Granting favored treatment after the fact would be a disservice to the rest of the Odessa-Keystone area, where residents expect the county to preserve the community's rural characteristics.

Comments

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17