More than half the cities in Florida now qualify under a new state law as “dense urban” land areas which can be exempted from state review for adequate roads to accompany development, according to a list published today by the Florida Department of Community Affairs.
The list includes cities such as Tallahassee, Gainesville, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Fernandina Beach, Key West, Panama City and Destin as well as cities in seven qualifying counties: Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Seminole. Of Florida’s 411 cities, 238 now qualify under the law.
State law had required that roads be planned to accompany for new development. Senate Bill 360, signed by Gov. Charlie Crist on June 1, lifted the requirement in those dense urban land areas. Miami-Dade County was specifically exempted from the law along with portions of Broward County.
Cities and counties qualified for exemptions as dense urban land areas if they averaged more than 1,000 people per square mile. Cities qualified if they were within a county other than Miami-Dade that qualified as a dense urban land area.
The Florida Department of Community Affairs is emphasizing that road requirements contained in local ordinances and land-use plans are not affected by the new law unless those local governments take action to rescind them, department spokesman James Miller said.
“We’re just trying to clear up the confusion that is pretty prevalent around the state,” Miller said.
SB 360 supporters said the previous requirement in state law for transportation “concurrency” encouraged urban sprawl into rural areas with highways rather than redeveloping cities with more traffic congestion. Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton and SB 360 sponsor, said in a newspaper opinion column that the bill provided cities with the planning tools they’ve been asking for.
Crist signed the bill over the objections of environmental groups and the Florida Association of Counties. The association said previous estimates of more than 200 cities that would qualify for the exemption raised planning concerns for the counties surrounding them.
“Are you going to go from a two-lane road in the city to a four-lane road in the county when you cross the (city limits)?” said Cragin Mosteller, the association’s communications director. “We felt that is a complication in what we feel already is a bad bill.”
To view the official list of qualifying cities, click here.