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Without financing, growth management rule won't work

Intelligent growth management is essential. Carefully planned growth results in a better place for our families to live and a better place for us to do business. No one, certainly not members of the Builders Association of Greater Tampa (BAGT), disputes these points. In fact, we strongly support them.

However, recently enacted growth- management regulations _ commonly called concurrency _ are neither intelligent nor careful.

Instead, they are a bureaucratic nightmare.

Statewide concurrency requires adequate water, sewer, parks, transportation, stormwater and solid-waste services before an area can be developed. While the state mandates such guidelines, it has not allocated money to help address these problems in such hard-hit areas as Hillsborough County. Just as disconcerting is the fact that the state leaves local governments to work out concurrency's many regulatory details. And in Hillsborough County that spells disaster.

Consider:

No growth: In Hillsborough County, concurrency prohibits most development within a quarter-mile of roads with the poorest service rating or with ratings below county recommendations. Roads are rated from A to F. Because so many F roads intersect, this quarter-mile rule stops nearly all development in the county.

Loss of jobs: The arbitrary quarter- mile figure is stricter than in most major counties. The result? New business and new jobs will flock to less restrictive counties and will damage this area's economy severely.

Loss of tax revenues: If vacant land cannot be developed, its value will drop. As property values drop, property tax revenues dry up as well. When building halts, county revenues from building-impact fees halt.

Property tax increases: How will the county make up this lost money? By increasing current property taxes on developed land, homes and businesses. Other county fees are expected to increase, as well.

Expected recession: A recent newspaper story cited preliminary findings of a study _ conducted by Florida TaxWatch and a Wharton School of Business professor _ that predicts Florida is headed for a recession under concurrency if state transportation financing is not forthcoming.

Drop in personal income: The economic impact of a recession? According to the report: "A construction job loss of 16,400 by 1998 leads to a total job loss of 32,800." And revenues generated by commercial building permits would drop by $222.9-million.

Unnecessary red tape: Why the County Commission is implementing a more restrictive and complex plan than required is a mystery. After all, even legislators contend that concurrency may be changed during the next session. In the recent newspaper story, Sen. Malcolm Beard of Seffner said, "We might have to adjust (concurrency). The time has come for implementation, and it's kind of harsh. I think that's certainly going to become an issue."

Without money to make it work, implementing concurrency in Hillsborough County and elsewhere is nothing short of an economic disaster waiting to happen. Without financing, concurrency cannot accomplish what it was designed to do. Yet the county, and the local news media, have failed to make these issues clear to Hillsborough County voters.

The Builders Association of Greater Tampa urges all residents to consider how concurrency, in its present form, will affect them. Then, make your opinions known _ strongly and loudly _ to the Hillsborough County Board Of Commissioners and state legislators.

Demand that concurrency be financed now!

- Whit Ward is executive vice president of the Builders Association of Greater Tampa.

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