Bill would require permit votes again

SB 142 by Sen. Carey Baker, R-Mount Dora, would reverse the Legislature’s elimination last year of a requirement that water-management district boards vote to approve water-use permits.

Last year, SB 2080, co-sponsored by Baker, prohibited homeowners associations from banning “Florida-friendly” landscaping in yards.

The bill was supported by environmental groups until it was amended on the next to last day of the regular session to deal with the water-management districts.

“I just think that there are certain water issues,” Baker said today, “that are so significant that they deserve a vote of the board, and not should be just (relegated) to staff approval.”

Baker said at the time he was surprised by the amendment by bill co-sponsor Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales.

Home-builders supported the bill last year because they said it allowed the districts to focus their time on issues other than permitting.

Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida, said Baker’s bill is needed to restore public participation in the process. Draper said he didn’t know of any bad permits that were approved by districts without a vote since the change was approved last year.

“Just because the world hasn’t come to an end because they made the policy decision doesn’t make it right to exclude the public from these (permitting) decisions,” he said.

(Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)