Critics of a wide-ranging House growth management bill say that a section would undermine local development planning by requiring approval of agricultural lands that are nearly surrounded by development.
HB 933, by Rep. Mike La Rosa, a Republican from St. Cloud, is scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee. Another subcommittee on March 25 combined HB 933 with six other House bills dealing with growth management.
The 68-page bill faces opposition from groups including 1000 Friends of Florida, the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties. They particularly objected to a section that would create a definition for a “constrained agricultural parcel” in state growth management law.
Palm Beach County officials say the proposal appears to be intended to aid developers of two parcels — one in the unincorporated county and another in Palm Beach Gardens. But they are not sure what other parcels that the law change might apply to in the future.
“I think it’s certainly a piece of legislation that tries to usurp local government control over a growth management decision,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said.
With Palm Beach County being a home rule county, she added, “I think we should be in charge of growth management decisions and not Tallahassee.”
A “constrained agricultural parcel” would be defined as undeveloped land with at least 75 percent having been used for agriculture for three years and with at least one mile of its boundary adjacent to existing or approved residential commercial or industrial development. The proposed change in land use designation would not constitute urban sprawl under state law and restrictions could be placed on the property that are inconsistent with surrounding land uses.
Rep. Bobby Powell, a Democrat from Riveria Beach, asked La Rosa during the March 25 subcommittee meeting during which the bill was amended whether the law change would create new “constrained parcels” after the former agricultural lands are rezoned.
“I’ll tell you this the way it was written was probably a bit aggressive,” La Rosa responded. “You and I have had that discussion. I’m happy to go back and look at and adjust and do what we have to do.”
The bill passed the House Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee on March 25 by an 8-3 vote with the three Democrats voting against.
Palm Beach County officials say the bill appears to be offered for a G. L. Homes development project, and Avenir, which has submitted a development application in Palm Beach Gardens. Lobbyists for those projects could not be immediately reached for comment.
Neither the HB 1175 nor SB 1244 dealing with constrained agricultural parcels had been heard in committees before the amendments were offered to SB 933. This week, the Florida Association of Counties and 1000 Friends of Florida have issued email alerts asking supporters to oppose the bills.
Groups supporting HB 933 include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Florida Community Developers, Associated Industries of Florida and the James Madison Institute Center for Property Rights.
Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee.