Noah Standridge

August 1, 2009

Growth Management Legislation

by Noah Standridge

Noah Standridge is the owner of Centrus Planning in Naples and can be reached at

Florida is home to great opportunities and has fostered people of vision to match historical challenges. Leaders have emerged and shaped our state when difficult times arose. Our current economic situation is generating a multitude of proposed solutions that may impact the ability of our state to continue growing its quality of life. Many individuals are involved in the debate, but the discussion has yet to yield a silver bullet.

One such solution are the amendments to Senate Bill 360, the growth management legislation that directs and guides the development of Florida’s communities, recently signed by Governor Crist. It does many things to curb regulation in favor of more local control. For instance it relaxes transportation concurrency laws that will allow development to proceed without being tied to road capacity. Further, local governments can repeal or lower impact fees. This will certainly incentivizes development projects to move forward but may have effects for years to come in the form of a backlog of infrastructure projects.

Government offices across the state are seeing a substantial decrease in staff and revenue. This has affected the timeline of project approvals and entitlements thereby increasing cost to developers. Planning departments have seen workloads drop, but staff resources have dropped even further. Due to requirements of the state and federal government such as Evaluation and Appraisal Reports (EAR) based comprehensive plan amendments, Census, and county commission redistricting, to name a few, plan amendments have been protracted up to a year. This not only adds to clog in the system and inefficient use of resources, but an additional cost for landowners and developers because of timeline increases.

The Department of Community Affairs, flush with volumes of plan amendments from previous years and reduced staff and budget, has slowed the rush on rural development in much of the state. The Rural Lands Stewardship Statute is undergoing a third iteration of rule development, a testament to a challenging public process. An alternative planning tool is sector planning or even large scale plan amendments that Secretary Pelham seems to in favor.  As a planner, I prefer large coordinated planning initiatives, but the coordination of such efforts gets immensely complex and can undermine the goal of the successful design of a long range vision.

Practically speaking, expect delays in future planning amendments, and infrastructure improvements both at the local and state levels.  Be prepared for a public backlash when roads are clogged and you are seeking development approvals.  With politics being what they are, if a project cannot be denied for concurrency reasons then it may be found “incompatible” or “too intrusive” environmentally. 

The relaxing of growth management in Senate Bill 360 may lead to a situation private landowners, developers and government planning agencies dread - the passing of the Hometown Democracy referendum. When this reaches the ballot in 2010 and is subsequently approved, all land designation changes at the comprehensive planning level will need to be passed by popular vote. The effect being that good and not so good changes to our land use patterns will be stalled. Forward momentum will be lost and any progress will be very slow in coming. If any landowners are on the fence deciding whether or not to proceed with a land-use change, it would be a good idea to act before 2010 on moving their vision and projects forward.

Author Bio

Noah Standridge is the founder and president of Centrus Planning. Centrus serves at the point where growth management, environmental protection, and public advocacy meet. Projects include growth management plan amendments, landowner participation in local planning efforts, to participation in state and federal comprehensive planning designs.
Experience includes:
  • Land entitlement through growth management amendments andand zoning change
  • Rural Lands Stewardship designs and evaluation
  • Facilitation of public visioning processes in land planning
  • Landowner assistance with multi-generation planning
  • Growth Management Planning in rural towns
  • Relationships with both local and state planning agencies and environmental organizations