The Texas-Florida Connection
Hold Your Horses, Gov. Rick Scott
Can Florida emulate Texas in creating jobs? Here's a comparison.
Growth and Development Regulations
Houston is the largest metro area in the nation with no zoning.
Texas' metro areas share "an unparalleled openness to growth and development," according to a Brookings Institution analysis of growth regulation in all 50 states. Planning is weak. Texas counties are not allowed to adopt zoning — or even binding comprehensive plans. The largest cities can zone unincorporated land up to five miles out. Houston is notorious for being the largest metro area in the nation with no zoning at all. Among the cities with zoning, "it is relatively easy to find someone in city government to help a project," says Hillwood's Michael K. Berry. Land-development review and securing roads and infrastructure also tend to be speedy, he says.
Scott has already tried to mimic the Texas approach by reorganizing the state's Department of Community Affairs, the agency many viewed as the chief custodian of the state's strong growth management laws. Scott saw the old DCA as a roadblock to business growth. "It's not that you don't get the permit," he says. "It's that it takes forever, and you don't know the whole process. If you're going to put your dollars at risk, you're going to eliminate as many variables as you can. If something costs you a lot to get there, you're going to say 'I'll go someplace else.'"
It remains to be seen whether Florida's already congested metro areas will choose to become even more like their Texas counterparts. Well-established costs of sprawl are much in evidence in the Lone Star State — most obviously, a lack of green space and traffic. The nation's Urban Mobility Report cites Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth as two of the top 10 worst congested metros in the U.S. Florida's most congested city, Miami, is No. 11.
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