Add growth management to a busy legislative session


A 2015 Legislative Session that already was busy with water bills and Amendment 1 funding just got a huge growth management bill in the House.

A House subcommittee on Wednesday passed a sweeping committee substitute for HB 933 despite objections from cities, counties and environmental groups.

“We’ve got a lot to consider,” Rep. Mike La Rosa, a Republican from St. Cloud who is sponsor of the bill, said after public testimony and debate. “I give you my promise we will continue to work on this.”

The committee substitute for HB 933 has backing from groups including Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Florida Community Developers and the Florida Home Builders Association.

HB 933 includes eliminating the “development of regional impact” (DRI) state review program, presuming that “constrained” agricultural lands proposed for development are not prohibited “urban sprawl” and requiring a private property rights section in local comprehensive land use plans.

The committee substitute combines perhaps eight House growth management bills, merging controversial proposals with others for which compromises have been hammered out in the Senate.

Groups opposing the bill included Florida Association of Counties, the Florida League of Cities, 1000 Friends of Florida and Sierra Club Florida. Representatives of Palm Beach County and Alachua County also said they were opposed.

The Legislature in 2011 passed sweeping growth management law changes that sharply reduced state oversight of local development decisions.

Eric Poole, representing the Florida Association of Counties, reminded the subcommittee that the stated goal of the House in 2011 was to protect home rule for local governments and reform growth management for decades to come.

“Unfortunately we think this bill does the opposite — it doesn’t do that,” Poole told the subcommittee. “It removes home rule authority in a number of areas.”

The House Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee crammed public testimony and debate into a 40-minute hearing on Tuesday before passing the bill on an 8-3 vote.

Rep. Ray Pilon, a Republican from Sarasota, said he would vote for HB 933 with the understanding that the bill would change before it gets to the House floor. The bill has two more committee stops.

“I’m going to support the bill today,” he said. “But I know and you know those sitting out there that this probably won’t be the bill we see on the floor. If it is (the same bill), I will have a lot of problems with it.”

After the meeting, La Rosa said some of the bills had been filed for several months allowing groups to be aware of them and comment.

“If we need to peel off one or two or three or four (issues), and push them off to the side, we will,” La Rosa said. “But I think best way to start is having them all together. “

David Cruz of the Florida League of Cities said his group is concerned about eliminating the DRI program and requiring approval for “constrained” agricultural parcels. He said combining the bills was “troubling” and made the individual issues difficult to address.

“I think the surprise,” Cruz said, “was consolidating them into one bill and giving new life into bills that had little to no outlook of passing without this happening.”

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee. 

Bruce Ritchie


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