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Carron Day

Rule 9J-5, Florida Administrative Code – Proposed Amendments

 

Requirements for comprehensive plans in Florida, including Rule 9J-5, Florida Administrative Code, have been amended periodically and we’re in that cycle again.  Many of us planners “of a certain age” and our plans have evolved too.  As young and idealistic planners in Lee County in the 1970’s, our department and the county’s first comprehensive plan and future land use map went down in flames after community leaders came to the public hearings with guns, demanding that county commissioners “get that green off my land”.  The next round faired somewhat better, resulting in the adoption of comprehensive plan text, but no map.  After even more time passed, a third round was adopted with a future land use map.  Preserve and conservation areas were colored brown, not green.  Compared to today, submittal requirements were minimal but the impact of those plans was significant.  For the first time, the county and its residents looked beyond the day to day to twenty years ahead.  Many speakers warned at those early comprehensive plan hearings that the planning department was full of carpetbaggers with no stake in the community.  All these years later, many of us are still here, still planning for Florida’s future.

 

The anticipated changes in Rule 9J-5, Florida Administrative Code this coming year, implement the requirements established by House Bill 697 regarding “... the discouragement of urban sprawl; energy efficient land use patterns accounting for existing and future electric power generation and transmission systems; greenhouse gas reduction strategies; ...".  This bill was passed on May 2, 2008 after Florida’s growth curve had bent down but long before the bottom.  House Bill 697 addressed the potential calamities of global warming, but didn’t anticipate the catastrophes of the state’s economic meltdown.  Now when local governments are strapped financially and planning staff has been cut considerably, these increased requirements, particularly when coupled with the expected residential needs analysis, could prove to be onerous unfunded mandates. 

 

The Department has held two rule development workshops already regarding on potential revisions to Rule 9J-5, Florida Administrative Code. There is no timeframe yet for adoption of the Rule 9J-5 amendments, but DCA has prepared an initial text draft[1].  The state could have responded to House Bill 697 with comprehensive plan language and incentives encouraging reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled, but instead they seem to focus on increasing land use analysis requirements.  The initial draft requires that the following strategies and actions be analyzed: redevelopment of “energy conservation areas” (areas with inefficient land use patterns and transportation systems); compact development; jobs-to-housing balance; mixed-use development in areas planned for urban development; minimum density and intensity standards in those same areas; higher gross densities and gross intensities in those same areas; transit oriented development; centers of concentrated development supported by multi-modal transportation systems; urban design and urban form standards which support the development of safe and attractive places, neighborhoods, and transportation corridors; green infrastructure; restricting the expansion of urban uses into surrounding rural areas without a demonstrated need (this refers to a residential needs analysis which in itself can be onerous); and the removal of regulatory barriers and establishment of incentives to promote energy efficiency and conservation, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

There’s an opportunity for DCA to support House Bill 697 through an alternative approach.  Rule 9J-5, Florida Administrative Code could require, where applicable, that Requirements for Future Land Use Goals, Objectives and Policies address issues included in the list above and let local governments determine which specific studies they need or want.  Submittal requirements for local government comprehensive plans have evolved considerably over the years.  Today’s future requirements for a comprehensive plan amendment are staggering and increasing again.  As a consulting planner, it’s probably against my self-interest to argue against more requirements for a comprehensive plan or plan amendment submittals, but I care more about wasting my time and my clients’ money on worthless exercises.  Over the years my clients have spent enormous amounts of money on required studies that were not even considered.  Increasing submittal requirements may be a vehicle to make approvals more difficult, but a more straight-forward approach is to set higher standards through the Future Land Use Goals, Objectives and Policies. 

 

DCA could revise the draft Requirements for Future Land Use Goals, Objectives and Policies to give guidance to local government on rewarding complete streets, infill, compact and/or mixed use development; encouraging non-residential development where only residential exists today, requiring connectivity and giving priority to reducing vehicle miles traveled.  In a June 2009 presentation, DCA provided policy examples; more of that would be helpful.  Changes to Rule 9J-5, Florida Administrative Code could also support local governments challenged with citizens who equate higher density with other NIMBYs.  The EAR process would be the logical vehicle for implementation of these policies.  In my opinion, the state should provide funding and/or technical assistance to local governments to address these new requirements.

 

In many previous cycles, uncertainty regarding DCA’s priorities has been challenging.  As a consultant, I’ve often relied on my colleagues’ experience with comprehensive plan reviews in other parts of the state to know what to anticipate locally.  The focus on affordable housing was unveiled that way.  Today, having months of notice and a clear focus regarding the implementation of House Bill 697, is a definite improvement.  On its website DCA has requested that ideas and suggestions regarding amendments to Rule 9J-5, Florida Administrative Code to implement the new requirements established by House Bill 697  to robert.pennock@dca.state.fl.us   This request was repeated at the recent workshop in Lakeland.

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Bio

As a planning consultant, Carron Day, AICP has submitted about 300 square miles of future land use map amendments and many significant text amendments in Florida; most have been adopted.  Ms Day is founder and principal of Planning Associates LLC (planning-associates.com), a collaborative land planning firm based in Tampa Florida.  Her planning practice focuses on strategic planning and due diligence reviews, master planning, entitlement including Developments of Regional Impact, and crafting land use, land development and zoning codes.  Under its umbrella, the firm supports two non-profits: CodeGreen USA and Lots2Green. Ms Day earned a Masters in City and Regional Planning from the Illinois Institute of Technology and is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners.  Prior to establishing Planning Associates LLC, she held positions Lee County; the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council; Florida Land Planning, another firm she founded; and other consulting firm.

 

Planning Associates LLC  813-374-9089 or 888-302-PLAN

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