Out of Control Policy Blog

Florida to Palm Beach County: Plan, or We'll Do It For You

Here's an example of the kind of onerous situation that can arise under statewide growth management systems, like the ones in place in Florida and Oregon:

    "Palm Beach County legislators served notice Wednesday that growth in western agricultural areas could be taken out of county control unless the commission approves a growth plan of its own.

    In a joint meeting with commissioners, members of the county's legislative delegation said that if the county had approved its so-called 'sector plan,' it wouldn't be faced with another potential fight against an 'agricultural enclave bill.'

    Last year, Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed the bill, saying the rules would encourage urban sprawl and take growth control from local governments. The bill would have allowed farmers to skirt local development restrictions – particularly on land surrounding the proposed Scripps Florida biotech park.

    The controversial 'sector plan,' a detailed proposal to control and manage growth in the west-central part of the county, has been an off-and-on issue for several years. It is up for discussion again by the county commission on Tuesday."

    . . . .

    Farm owners across the state pushed for the legislation last year, arguing that the law would protect them and their property values from layers of government regulations.

    A draft of the legislation would allow development of any unincorporated, undeveloped property of less than 7,500 acres, surrounded on at least 75 percent of its property by developed industrial, commercial or residential land, to match the nearby development. That could be done without changing the local government's comprehensive plan."

Of course, I don't see any reason that farm owners whose properties are surrounded by more intensive land uses shouldn't be allowed to pursue development of their properties. Preserving farmland for farmland's sake doesn't make any sense, particularly when they effectively become infill opportunities vis-a-vis surrounding uses.

But what I object to is the principle, whatever the motivation, that the state government should step in when it disagrees with a local or county government's land use regulation or zoning decisions.

Here's what Sam Staley and Lynne Scarlett had to say about home rule in a 1997 Reason study:

    "Local planning decisions should be protected from regional or state planning decisionmaking. The extent to which local developments have negative impacts on communities and neighbors can best be evaluated at the local level. Decentralized governance allows policy to match citizen tastes. Thus, diversity in local government accommodates diversity among and within communities.

    . . . .

    State and regional planning authorities are less likely to have the knowledge or forecasting ability to more accurately or reliably predict land use trends on the local level. They are also more displaced from community interests and desires. Therefore, intervention from regional or state planning agencies or authorities should occur only when a clear public interest or need is identified, or spillover effects are identified and not addressed in the proposed plan."

For more on the problems associated with statewide growth management, check out this 2001 study by Sam Staley and yours truly.

(Via Planetizen)

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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