September 19, 2014

Growth

Annexation Battle

Port St. Lucie has a fight on its hands as it tries to annex 9,500 acres.

Pat Dunnigan | 10/1/2004
Port St. Lucie is a city on the brink. On that much Mayor Bob Minsky and Republican state Sen. Ken Pruitt agree. But where Minsky sees a bright future wrapped in 26,000 new rooftops and a whole bunch of new taxpayers, Pruitt sees a disaster in the making.

The linchpin in both scenarios is 9,500 acres of undeveloped land in unincorporated St. Lucie County. The land is owned by three development companies with plans for thousands of homes plus a retail, office and technology park. The property's rural zoning designation allows no more than one house per five acres.

Under an agreement with the developers, the city will annex the land into Port St. Lucie and rezone it to accommodate a frenzy of development for the city predicted to be south Florida's second-largest within 25 years.

PORT ST. LUCIE
Incorporated: In 1961 by the General Development Corp., which marketed $10-down, $10-a-month land sales to Northern retirees. The company's bankruptcy in the late 1980s left the city with a badly deteriorated infrastructure and thousands of undeveloped home lots.
1990 Population: 55,000
2000 Population: 88,769 (up 61% in 10 years)
Current Population: 120,000 (up 35% in four years)

Sources: Mayor Bob Minsky, Port St Lucie Historical Society, Almanac of Florida PoliticsIn exchange for the more generous zoning, the developers will pay $182 million for road and infrastructure improvements, including an interchange off I-95, plus donate the land for four schools, a 100-acre regional park and various utility sites.

Minsky says the new development will bring in expensive homes, 60,000 residents and much-needed tax revenue to an area that's already within the city's water and utility district. The plan, he says, incorporates all of the key suggestions made in a recent Urban Land Institute study, and the developers' contributions will more than cover the city's costs. "We've been doing due diligence on this to make sure we don't get caught short," Minsky says.

Pruitt says the City Council has been duped."They have bought a bill of goods from a bunch of silver-tongued salesmen with complete disregard for the future impacts these developments are going to have."

Pruitt says the city has the third-highest unemployment rate in the state and still has 35,000 vacant lots already grandfathered in for development.

The contribution by developers Core Communities, Ansca Homes and G.L. Homes of Florida won't begin to cover the costs, Pruitt says. Florida taxpayers will have to pick up the tab for healthcare, social services and maintaining the transportation system, he says. "This is the unbridled growth we've been preaching against for years."

Despite his failure to convince council members, Pruitt, in line to become Senate president in 2007, is not ready to concede. "There will be a major growth management rewrite in the Legislature this year," he vows. "I will do everything in my influence to stop this."

Tags: Southeast, Housing/Construction

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