Jan 23, 2011

Rick Scott Wishing to Demolish Environmental Protection

State governments are hurting and trying to cut back everywhere.
Republican or Democrat does not seem to matter(makes one wonder what would happen if the USA government was forced to balance it's budget).
But there is a need for some government regulation mainly because many humans are oft-times greedy and care about no other human or non human save themselves. Some chek must be put on these types by a collective system so that there will be some collective resources left for us all.

This system costs sadly and that is why government must tax to provide it's services. Yeah I know government 101 but sometimes we forget why we're taxed.

Below are selections from an Orlando Sentinel article about Florida Governor Rick Scott contemplating disbanding the Florida state agency that overlooks construction sprawl.
Scott and his people obviously think the demand for housing and strip centers has grown quite a bit in the past few years even though most of what we read speaks of foreclosure and reduced demand due to fewer people in the state of Florida.

A targeted great dcvelopment such as the Medical City in Lake Nona near Orlando is a boon for Florida and for it's people and should be courted by government. Weakening growth laws so that more strip centers can be built when 100's are vacant right now shows stupidity and a "crack-style"management where you get a great short term rush at the expense of long term solidity.

 TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott in his campaign blasted the state agency that is charged with preventing sprawl and protecting open spaces, accusing it of "killing jobs all over the state."

His transition advisors – mostly developers and lobbyists – proposed a radical idea: shutter the state Department of Community Affairs, gut Florida's once-heralded growth-management law and "restructure the company" to better attract jobs.

But Capitol observers and lawmakers are questioning whether any massive changes to the oft-criticized growth-management system can be developed in time for the 60-day legislative session starting in March.

"My general feeling is that the more appropriate thing to do first is to evaluate the mission, and once you understand what our mission is, then it's easier to understand how you'll execute it," said former development executive William "Billy" Buzzett, named by Scott to head the DCA.

"We've been 30 years since we started growth management in this state," he added. "Florida has changed, and is it a time to reevaluate where we're at and where we're going."

This isn't the first time a Republican in the Governor's Mansion has recommended scrapping Florida's growth laws or the agency enforcing them. Former Gov. Jeb Bush tried a decade ago, but ran into problems because cities and counties needed a referee to settle fights over developments.

"There wasn't any public support for it then, and our sense is there isn't now," said Charles Pattison, president of the smart-growth group 1,000 Friends of Florida.

"If we do a bad job of development decisions, where we're going to be right back where we were in the 1970s, with each local government just looking out for its local interests."

Florida's growth laws grew out of decades of clashes between local governments as people flocked to the state and the demand for new housing, shopping and schools exploded. Lawmakers and then-Gov. Bob Graham created the DCA in the mid-1980s and made it responsible for reviewing newly mandated "comprehensive plans" intended to serve as development blueprints for the counties and major cities.

The law required that development plans be consistent with statewide goals of containing sprawl and traffic gridlock, and that they ensure roads and infrastructure were built to handle new strip-malls and subdivisions.

Whether the rules have kept sprawl at bay or done little good depends on which industry or interest group is talking.

But with Republican super-majorities in the Legislature, and local governments and developers starved for new growth, it appears the growth laws could be headed for a fourth re-write in the last seven years.

Lobbyists for cities, counties and big developers want state review of their big-ticket projects to be less costly and time-consuming.

"I think one of the problems we've had is that the DCA, in particular, has expanded its role much more than when it got started," Scott said earlier this month in Port Canaveral. "We're going to look at that to see how many of these [regulations] are needed -- our state's totally different than when that started -- and look at how many of those are job killers and how many of those things just really slow down development …"

The numbers don't bear that out, though.

Although development has ground to a halt during the recession, DCA-approved comprehensive plans would allow for a construction boom statewide if the market recovers.

Earlier this month, outgoing DCA Secretary Tom Pelham released figures that showed the agency over the last four years had signed off on enough new development to last decades -- 2.7 billion square-feet of commercial space and enough housing to accommodate 2.4 million new people.

The problem isn't government regulation; it's a lack of demand, he argued.

"The same basic growth-management system that is under attack now was in place during one of Florida's longest and biggest economic boom periods," Pelham, a noted environmental lawyer, wrote in a newspaper op-ed last month.

"DCA and the growth-management system did not prevent the real estate bubble, they did not cause the bubble to burst, and they will not prevent recovery."

Florida policymakers' forays into the issue have also been a bit schizophrenic.

In 2005, at the height of the boom, Gov. Bush and legislators actually toughened road-building requirements. But then the economy crashed, so lawmakers in 2009 attempted to undo that legislation by gutting the requirement that developers pay to build new roads "concurrently" with development.

But the city of Weston and other local governments sued, arguing that bill was an unfunded mandate and violated a constitutional requirement that new laws stick to a single subject. A circuit court ruled in the cities' favor, and the case is still on appeal.

"We always seem to want to take a charge at it but feel like we chase our tails and end up back where we started," Florida Association of Counties lobbyist John Wayne Smith told lawmakers at a Senate hearing this month.

Views are mixed on whether Scott and lawmakers will produce much more than a re-shuffling of bureaucratic to-do lists.

"I think it's more important that we reform the policy than whether we keep the agency," said House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, who said he's waiting to see what – if anything – Scott's team proposes this spring.

Buzzett, a Panhandle lawyer and former vice president with The St. Joe Co., one of Florida's biggest developers, sat on Scott's task force that recommended DCA be merged along with the Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Affairs into a new "Department of Growth Leadership."

But after taking the job as DCA secretary this month, he says he wants to do a top-to-bottom review of the agency before proposing how to downsize, merge or completely abolish Florida's regulatory scheme.

Meanwhile, Scott has yet to name a DOT secretary, and his DEP choice, environmental lawyer Herschel Vinyard, was just confirmed for the job by the Florida Cabinet this week.

The transition panel also recommended essentially repealing growth-management laws designed to create uniform standards for cities and counties.

But environmental groups have fought back. They contend that the laws could be tweaked to focus more on larger-scale projects and areas along the exurban periphery of cities, where environmental resources are more threatened.

"We really have to be cognizant of maintaining Florida's environmental quality as an asset for attracting people and business," said Nature Conservancy lawyer Janet Bowman.

Senate Community Affairs Chairman Mike Bennett, a Bradenton Republican who sponsored both the 2005 and 2009 reforms, has met with Scott on what his plans might be and said he will likely roll out a growth bill after the session begins in March.

"I do believe you'll see a combination of bringing those agencies together and cutting out some of the bureaucratic review," Bennett said.

And Scott reiterated Friday that with new numbers showing Florida's unemployment rate frozen at 12 percent, policymakers must "make this the most business friendly state in the nation, and get rid of the job-killing regulation."

For his part, Buzzett stopped short of echoing the complaint of his boss that the agency he now leads was "killing jobs."

"I don't know that it is or isn't," he said recently. "This has just been a hard last five years for everybody."

Jason Garcia of the Sentinel staff contributed. Aaron Deslatte can be reached at 850-222-5564 or adeslatte@orlandosentinel.com.

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