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Karl throws a flag on land-use proposal

County Administrator Fred Karl has called a sudden halt to a final decision on a set of complicated land development regulations on the eve of a County Commission vote today.

Karl said Wednesday that he is concerned the regulations would give too much authority to the Planning Commission and would lead it to seek more employees in a tight budget time. The Planning Commission is an independent board that reviews planning issues for Hillsborough and its three cities.

Karl's announcement, issued in a Tuesday memo, is another in a series of concerns Karl has raised about the Planning Commission's role.

A few weeks ago, Karl said the Planning Commission appeared to be in a "make-work mode," and he recently sent a letter to the mayors of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace asking them to review work the Planning Commission is scheduled to perform to ensure it is needed.

He also said he was upset when a gloomy Planning Commission report on growth was released without county participation and with statistics Karl's staff has questioned.

"I have come to realize that if the Land Development Code is passed in its present form, many of the most significant financial issues to come before the Board of County Commissioners will have to be first submitted to the Planning Commission for their review and comment," Karl said in the memo.

The Land Development Code is a sweeping set of documents that compiles an array of regulations regarding county government. Such things as subdivision regulations, wildlife habitat and well-field protection and historic preservation are included in the code.

But Karl said he realized only recently that the code includes such things as garbage and utility rates and sewage capacity and permit fees. Karl said the Planning Commission could not have the sophisticated financial analysis of such items as utility rates, and "hence, I would anticipate a request for substantial enlargement of the Planning Commission staff to accomplish this purpose."

And that's just what Karl doesn't want in these tight budget times. He has told the Planning Commission and other independent agencies that the county finances to look hard at their budgets because of slower growth and rising expenses.

Robert Hunter, the Planning Commission's director, said Wednesday that he hadn't read Karl's memo and wasn't sure what Karl was worried about.

"Until I have a chance to review it, it's hard to respond," said Hunter, adding that he did believe the commission has the right to review some of the things Karl questioned.