City-sized projects sprout amid less state oversight

The Fed has been key, but Gov. Scott has done his part to promote large-scale developments

Jun.June 05, 2016 03:15 PM

Governor Rick Scott

The Federal Reserve’s low interest-rate policy has provided plenty of financial fuel for large-scale real estate development across Florida. But the state’s governor has done his part, too.

Five years after Governor Rick Scott began reducing the state’s oversight of property development, several city-sized real estate projects are under way statewide. Minto Communities, for example, has approvals to build as many as 4,500 homes at its Westlake development in western Palm Beach County. Minto wants Westlake to become the county’s 39th city.

Other mega-projects that will add thousands of homes around the state include Babcock Ranch in southeastern Florida, Plum Creek in northern Florida, and Lake Pickett and Deseret Ranch in central Florida

Five years ago, Scott guided the Florida Legislature through a revision of so-called “growth management” standards that had been part of state law since 1985.

Among other changes, the revision narrowed the state’s oversight of development planning by cities and counties mainly to projects that have statewide impact.

A “concurrency” mandate in the old growth management law required suitable roads, parks and schools to support new developments when they are completed.

The revised growth management law reduced concurrency to an optional for choice for cities and counties.

Scott also led state lawmakers in eliminating the state agency charged with growth management, the old Department of Community Affairs, which was folded into the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

Last year, the state stopped using a decades-old process for managing massive real estate project, the so-called Development of Regional Impact process, which dated back to 1972.

The state’s deregulation of development has raised concerns about that excessive building will lead to increased traffic, reduced  water quality and other community problems.

Ryan Smart, president of 1000 Friends of Florida, told the Palm Beach Post, that “the level of scrutiny the state had before 2011 was pretty great,” and with reduced scrutiny comes increased pressure from developers on city and county commissioners. [Palm Beach Post] — Mike Seemuth

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