When is a deal not a deal? When hundreds of millions of dollars and powerful development interests are at stake. It is bad enough that Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature let developers off the hook in the future for paying for road improvements to handle the traffic their projects generate. Now the developers want to wiggle out of agreements they've made to pay for road projects. It's up to local governments to say no.
In Hillsborough County, there are 46 substantial real estate projects where developers agreed to pay for road improvements. One of them, Lake Hutto in Lithia, calls for the developer to pay for about $72 million in roadway enhancements. The state Department of Committee Affairs insists those agreements are still in force because they were enacted prior to the governor's appeasement of influential special interests. The Florida Chamber of Commerce, one of the strongest advocates of SB 360, has argued the earlier pledges are now null and void.
These agreements could be amended and revised by the Hillsborough County Commission, which had asked Crist to veto the legislation that created this mess. For a group generally viewed as a wholly owned subsidiary of development interests, that was genuinely surprising. But now that a bad bill has become bad law, one doesn't have to wonder too hard whether the commissioners would give their patrons a multimillion-dollar break. After all, that's exactly what the governor and state legislators did.
But since the approvals of these massive real estate projects were predicated on the developers' promise to assume the costs of building roads, it is only fair those commitments continue to be honored.
A deal really is a deal, even for developers who hand out lots of checks for political campaigns. It's up to local government officials to have the spine to hold them to it.