Growth bill passes House panel after ‘constrained’ agriculture language removed

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A wide-ranging House growth management bill was amended Tuesday to remove language requiring construction approval on agricultural land surrounded by development.

But HB 933 still faces opposition from cities, counties and environmental groups who are concerned that it eliminates a state review process for designated “developments of regional impact.”

HB 933 passed the House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee after state Rep. Mike La Rosa, a Republican from St. Cloud, offered an amendment to remove language dealing with “constrained” agricultural parcels.

Palm Beach County officials said this week that the legislation would usurp local authority over two developments there and could require approval for other parcels in the future.

“I urge you to support this good amendment,” Todd Bonlarron, Palm Beach County’s legislative affairs director, told the subcommittee and La Rosa on Tuesday. “We appreciate your willingness to hold true to your word to continue to work with us on these issues in this bill.”

But the bill, which has one more committee stop, still faces opposition from environmental groups along with the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties because it would eliminate review of how traffic from a proposed new development could affect traffic in a neighboring city or county.

David Cruz, assistant general counsel for the Florida League of Cities, said the development of regional impact process, or DRI, provides for those traffic reviews while it is being replaced with the “coordinated state review” process, which does not.

“We feel our cities that are still under the DRI process still see some value under that program,” he said.

Critics of the DRI program say that it duplicates other state permitting programs. The Legislature in 2009 exempted eight of the state’s largest counties and more than 200 cities from DRI review.

La Rosa told the subcommittee on Tuesday that state law punishes those who still are developing in areas with the DRI program.

“I’m happy to have that discussion offline to explain to you why we’ve come to this process of removing DRIs, and why they’re not needed and why there is other oversight that is there,” La Rosa said.

The Florida Bankers Association continued to raise concerns about a bill section that would extend a property loan program from clean energy and wind resistance to ground subsidence and repair. The association is challenging the program, called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, which was approved by the Legislature in 2009.

The bill passed the House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee with several Democrats voting against it, citing concerns raised by opponents. The bill has one more committee stop.

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee. 

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