May 24, 2015

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Government
» Sen Mike Bennett

Sen. Mike Bennett
Mike Bennett’s SB 360 eliminates the DRI review process in dense urban areas. [Photo: AP]

After Mike Bennett's Senate Bill 360 passed the Legislature last spring, just about every stakeholder involved in growth management except for developers pressured Gov. Charlie Crist to veto it. Crist signed the bill into law.

SB 360 eliminates the Developments of Regional Impact (DRI) review process and state oversight of transportation concurrency in dense urban areas.

Bennett says transportation concurrency was unfair because the last developer in the pipeline was stuck with the entire bill for new roads. As a result, developers sought to build farther and farther out, encouraging urban sprawl.

Critics say one problem with the bill is that it too broadly defines dense urban areas. It covers 238 cities and eight counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange, Seminole, Duval, Hillsborough and Pinellas.

About 20 local governments have sued over the new law, arguing that it's so broad it violates Florida's single-subject act and that it constitutes an unfunded mandate. Bennett emphasizes that "nothing in the bill took power away from local governments. It allowed them to fix the problem themselves." The litigation charges that the new law sticks local governments with the transportation-concurrency problem they cannot afford to fix.

"The legislation was well-intentioned and it has some good provisions in it," says Tom Pelham, secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs that oversees Florida's growth-management process. "However, implementation is going to be deeply hindered by the lack of broad-based support." — Cynthia Barnett

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