Florida agency moves forward with sprawl, climate change rules

The Florida Department of Community Affairs last week continued moving ahead with two important proposed rule changes, but the question is whether DCA will adopt them before a change in administrations.

With Gov. Charlie Crist seeking a U.S. Senate seat, voters will have to choose among Republican Rick Scott, Democrat Alex Sink and several other candidates. The winner will control the statewide planning agency whose future was left in question this year when the Legislature didn’t reauthorize DCA as part of its sunset review.

The department held a workshop in Tampa last week on a proposed rule revision that allows the department to determine whether population growth justifies local growth plan changes. DCA says some counties have approved far more residential development than is needed based on future population projections. A Senate committee review in 2008 said the department needed to adopt a rule to use when requiring a population needs analysis for proposed land-use changes.

Also in 2008, the Legislature adopted HB 697, which changed growth management law to include reviews of energy conservation and transportation strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for proposed new developments. A third version of the draft rule was posted to the DCA web site last week.

1000 Friends of Florida President Charles Pattison said he’d like to see the rule changes adopted as soon as possible regardless of whether they happen before a change in administrations. “It should have been done a year ago,” he said. “I’m sorry it’s taken this much time.”

A department spokesman said there is no timetable for development of either rule and it is unknown whether they will be adopted by January when a new governor would take over.

Environmentalist Denise Layne of Lutz said the real question is whether there even will be a Department of Community Affairs to implement the rule if Scott is elected because of his stance against regulations on businesses.

“You can guarantee [DCA Secretary Tom] Pelham will be gone,” said Layne, executive director of the Coalition 4 Responsible Growth. “And anyone that brings some reasonableness or guidance in the right direction — they will be gone.”

While Sink says on her website that she supports DCA reauthorization, Scott does not say on his website where he stands on growth management other than saying, “We must be good stewards of our natural resources.” A Scott campaign spokesman did not return a phone call and e-mails requesting comment.

(Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting brucebritchie@gmail.com.)