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Pact clears way for growth plan

Commissioners still must adopt the actual comprehensive plan amendments, which they are scheduled to vote on in September.

County commissioners made nice with the state Tuesday evening, signing an agreement with state planners to end two years of legal limbo for the county's comprehensive plan.

The state Department of Community Affairs in 1997 rejected the county's comprehensive plan, the blueprint for how the county wants to grow, because, among other reasons, it did too little to prevent urban sprawl or protect wetlands.

Chief Assistant County Administrator Bill Munz worked out a compromise with state planners earlier this year. But commissioners scrapped it after developers and environmentalists complained that they were not involved in drawing up the agreement.

Commissioners resurrected the Citizen's Advisory Committee, which met several times to work out a new settlement agreement with the state. In the end, the county was out of the wetlands regulation business _ state planners initially wanted the county to enact even stricter protections than those mandated by the Southwest Water Management District.

"What they really wanted the county to do was duplicate the permitting process," said Georgianne Ratliss, the county's consultant.

Committee members also took out, at the state's urging, provisions that would have added zoning hurdles to anyone trying to sink a wellfield, and provided for the restoration or wetlands damaged by overpumping.

But committee members grumbled about the county's loss of sovereignty under its agreement with Tampa Bay Water, the region's largest water supplier.

"They are not pleased with those deletions," Ratliss said.

Commissioners still must adopt the actual comprehensive plan amendments, which they are scheduled to vote on Sept. 14.

But for Commission Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand, Tuesday's approval of the settlement agreement was a welcome development.

"This would make us in the good graces of the (state)," she said.

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