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One last plea for sanity

Dear Gov. Crist: Please don't put the interests of developers above those of your friends and neighbors in Tampa Bay. Veto SB 360. It would create more traffic jams, promote urban sprawl and pit communities against each other. It lets developers avoid paying for road projects to handle traffic they create. It kills regional studies of large developments. The laws are not perfect now, but look at the local examples below of how they can work. You love your home. You support growth management. You care about the environment. Don't stain your legacy by signing SB 360 into law. Veto it. Environmentalists hate it. So do local governments. This bill would set Florida back decades. It won't save Florida. It could ruin what's left.

Hillsborough

Developers of Lake Hutto, a planned 3,200-home community in eastern Hillsborough, pledged to pay for $72 million in road improvements in the growing Lithia area. Among them: $30 million to widen 4.5 miles of Fishhawk Boulevard, $23 million to widen 3.2 miles of Bell Shoals Road and $18 million to widen nearly 2 miles of Lithia-Pinecrest Road. Under SB 360, they could pay nothing.

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Developers pledged to pay $49 million, or nearly half, toward widening U.S. 301 between Gibsonton Drive and SR 674 in southeastern Hillsborough. Officials said the pledge, combined with state and county money, enabled the road work to accelerate in the fast-growing area. Under SB 360, they could have paid nothing.

Pasco

Developers of the stalled Cypress Creek Town Center mall in Wesley Chapel already have financed the $27 million widening of State Roads 54 and 56 to ease traffic flow between U.S. 41 and the mall's planned location at the Interstate 75 interchange. Without concurrency requirements, the now six-lane highways could have remained four-lane bottlenecks in an area known for clogged roads. Instead, the Richard E. Jacobs Groups helped curb traffic congestion long before the mall's opening. Under SB 360, they could have paid nothing.

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Developers of the controversial SunWest Harbourtowne near environmentally sensitive land in northwest Pasco want to build 2,500 homes, a hotel, golf course and commercial center amid the unspoiled beauty and wildlife of Aripeka. The project is a Development of Regional Impact. Under SB 360, it could avoid the review that would include studies of water and air quality, wildlife habitat, wetlands, archaeological preservation and energy conservation.

Pinellas

An almost billion-dollar project proposed in north St. Petersburg on the now-closed Pinellas landfill known as Toytown calls for up to 1,500 multifamily housing units, offices, hotels and 1.5-million square feet of retail. The project could create massive traffic jams on already heavily used Interstate 275, Roosevelt Boulevard and Ulmerton Road. However, Toytown is part of an existing Development of Regional Impact which, along with St. Petersburg ordinances, would require the developer to pay transportation impact fees to cover the cost of improving the road network. Under SB 360, the developer could pay for far less.

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On the site of the former Bay Area Outlet Mall in mid-Pinellas, developer Boulder Venture South proposed the Largo Towne Center, a collection of apartments, shops, restaurants and a public plaza for outdoor events. The DRI process required the developer to do a lengthy traffic study, and when that study determined the project would worsen traffic on U.S. 19 and Roosevelt Boulevard, the developer was given a choice: pay millions of dollars or build a bus transfer facility. Boulder Venture chose the transfer hub, which will have restrooms, an information kiosk, shelters and bus parking. Under SB 360, the developer could avoid the DRI review and contribute far less.

One last plea for sanity 05/28/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 28, 2009 7:44pm]
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