Hey, Senator Hutson! Just say NO, please

St Augustine attorney Jane West, Policy & Planning Director for 1,000 Friends of Florida, asked the Historic City News editorial review board to evaluate several pieces of what she described as “very damaging bills” that are moving forward quickly in the current session of the Florida legislature.

At issue are the following Senate Bills — SB-750, SB-1274, SB-1876 and SB-1146.

  • SB-750 on impact fees will make it virtually impossible for local governments to require that new development pays its own way, meaning that existing residents will shoulder even more of the costs associated with new development through raised taxes, declining services, or both.  The companion House Bill, HB-337 has passed.  SB-750, sponsored by Senator Joe Gruters, and HB-337 sponsored by Representative Nick DiCeglie, limit the ability of local governments to raise impact fees.  Impact fees are charges imposed on new developments to pay for the cost of capital facilities made necessary by the growth that the new development brings to an area.  By limiting the ability to raise impact fees, the quality of life for many Floridians will be undercut by increased traffic congestion, fewer libraries, public safety facilities, corrections facilities, parks, and general government resources.

  • SB-1274 on small-scale amendments will reduce oversight of proposed development projects by increasing five-fold the size of development that can skip a thorough state review for environmental and quality of life impacts. SB-1274, sponsored by Senator Keith Perry, seeks to increase the acreage threshold for small scale comprehensive plan amendments. The companion House Bill, HB-487 has passed.  Currently, a plan amendment that proposes a change in a land use designation on a local government’s Future Land Use Map can avoid any input from other state agencies like DEO, FDOT and the water management districts if the property is 10 acres or less or 20 acres or less in rural areas. These are known as small scale plan amendments and they receive expedited review with only one public hearing. This bill seeks to increase the qualifying acreage for expedited review and lack of oversight by five times to 50 acres and 100 acres in rural areas.

  • SB-1876 on “property rights” will have a chilling effect on the ability of local governments to enforce their comprehensive plans and land development regulations and protect natural resources by expanding the definition of “government action”.  SB-1876 sponsored by Senator Ben Albritton, and HB- 421, sponsored by Representative Kaylee Tuck, seeks to expand the Bert Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act by redefining what constitutes “government action”.  The companion House Bill, HB-421 has passed. The broadened definition changes the trigger for the application of the Act from when a property owner seeks a permit application to the date of adoption of any ordinance, resolution, regulation, rule or policy.  This change will result in a chilling effect on the ability of local governments to properly enforce their comprehensive plans, land development regulations, and overall ability to protect natural resources.

  • SB-1146 including building design was amended to include the provisions of SB-284 which seeks to remove local government authority to regulate building design in many areas. Provisions that would have made this bill less damaging have been removed.  SB-1146, sponsored by Senator Jason Brodeur, was amended to include damaging provisions from SB-284 which would restrict local government design review and authority for residential building. As amended, SB-1146 would take away the authority of local governments to work with citizens to protect certain neighborhoods and districts important to the community’s character. It would undermine local economic development efforts that capitalize on the unique character of distinctive areas in the community. Additionally, it would remove the ability of neighborhoods and local governments to promote neighborhood reinvestment through maintaining neighborhood character.

West cautioned that action could be taken up by the legislature any time.  She hopes that Historic City News subscribers will agree with her findings on these bills, and urged readers to contact Senator Travis Hutson, or your appropriate Florida Senator as soon as possible and urge them to VOTE NO on these bills.  “We sincerely appreciate your speedy action on this,” West concluded.