Mike Rosen

Working Together is The Key
by Mike Rosen

With the current state of the economy, some developers and builders are working with their local governments to review Land Development Codes to remove unnecessary steps along the path to receive entitlement approval which have become obstacles to our economic growth and prosperity. Building Industry Associations throughout the country are looking for ways to increase work for their members and the industry as a whole.

 In Atlanta, David Ellis, Executive Vice President of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association was positive regarding the relationship with the various local governments in his area, he has seen some impact fees and development fees lowered and have often been asked by government officials “what can we do to get the builders back to work in our community?”  A step in the right direction.

In Lee County, which encompasses Ft. Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero and other areas, two prominent local land use attorneys, Neale Montgomery and Chuck Basinait are aware of conversations and dialogue regarding lowering fees and cited the state legislatures approval of Senate Bill 1752 which grants a two year extension on local and state issued permits but no local changes as yet.

 Southwest Florida particularly Collier County has entered into a new paradigm with the land development industries approval process.  In various meetings with newly appointed County Manager Leo Ochs and Development and Environmental Services Director Nick Casalanguida and members of the Collier Building Industry Association (CBIA), the CBIA was asked to draft amendments to the County’s Land Development Code (LDC) in order to flush out anything that contained in the code that unreasonably inhibited growth and prosperity in the county. Individual meeting with all the County Commissioners took place as well to assure that a majority of the Commission was in favor of this effort.  Past history of working with the LD Code was strenuous at best in relationship to time , rounds of meetings and requested during the process for additional information leading to long lengths of time ( in some cases over a year) to receive what some would say are simple approvals. Well, it looks like that is going to change.

In December of this past year, Leo Ochs met with the CBIA’s new elected President David Aldrich and asked if the organization would look at authoring a group of amendments to reverse the log jam process.  With the economic condition the County as well as the rest of the state is in, swift, comprehensive, fair treatment is going on the menu.  The CBIA re-instated its Developers Council in January of this year with subsequent meeting held each month thereafter.  The development community including all its professional consultants showed up and over 25 un-compensated volunteers stepped forward to form sub-committees to review the various elements of the Code.  Each monthly meeting usually has over 35 industry members attending.  The existing code is so confusing that some say it should be abandon all together, however the group of volunteers has agreed to work with what is there, offer reasonable amendments, that of course will have to be reviewed and approved by County staff and eventually the County Commission.  It is anticipated that the review, re-write and coordinate efforts will take at least 5 more months but will be well worth the wait.

 By working together, the Building Industry Associations and local governments can identify barriers to construction and redevelopment and remove them.  Sometimes a simple change in wording, “shall” to “may”, can provide the incentive for a project to move forward and put people back to work.
-Mike Rosen is with Collier Enterprises