Sunday, July 19, 2009

We Are Not Alone!

In Orange County as well as Broward County and Deerfield Beach People are Fuming:

From the

Lessons on growth for wannabe county mayors

Jane HealyFeet to the Fire

July 19, 2009

While Orange County commissioners line up to be the next county mayor, it's becoming even clearer that voters are angry about how their elected officials have mismanaged growth.

Here are the best ways for those candidates to deal with that concern.

Success strategy No. 1:

Reject get-rich-quick developers.

The most interesting number in a new opinion poll is that a whopping 71 percent of Orange County voters appear to support a constitutional amendment that gives citizens veto power over major, unplanned projects.

Even given the 5 percent margin of error in the poll — commissioned by the Orlando Regional Realtor Association — that number is huge. Remember the amendment — dubbed Hometown Democracy — needs the approval of only 60 percent of voters.

And there's no reason to believe that voters throughout Florida are any less upset with politicians on this issue than in Orange.Hmm.

Sounds like an opportunity here for Orange commissioners Bill Segal, Linda Stewart and Mildred Fernandez, who are eyeing the mayor's post when it comes open in 2010. That's because three developers are rushing to get approval for their unplanned mega-projects before voters have a chance to weigh in on Amendment 4 in 2010.

That might tell you something right there — they know they can't really sell their developments to voters because, well, they don't make any sense.

Is there anyone out there who can say with a straight face that Orange County isn't overbuilt? Not only does it have a sky-high foreclosure rate, home values have dropped sharply across the board. The last thing the county needs is thousands and thousands of new homes flooding the market.Yet barreling through the system are proposals for Camino Reale, Innovation Way East and the Rybolt property.

All are located in the sensitive east Orange County rural area, meaning they need commission approval for all their proposed homes. And no wonder they are hankering for this. When a developer turns rural land into urban land, the cash register goes crazy.

All of a sudden they are allowed to put four times as many homes on their land.The projects are expected to come before the commission this fall for an initial vote. If the commission doesn't give them that OK, then they can't move forward.

Current Mayor Rich Crotty has said he isn't interested in giving these developments any sort of go-ahead. So what about Segal, Stewart and Fernandez? If they line up with Crotty — creating a majority — Orange County residents won't have to worry about more major subdivisions despoiling the rural area. It will be a critical test for these candidates.

Success strategy No. 2:

Take the lead on coming up with local development fees.

A new state law on managing growth has been met with mass confusion. Some local governments, for instance, believe it means they can no longer make developers inside the urban areas pay for needed roads when they build their projects, as the state has required for 20 years. Some on the state level disagree, and the law is in court. (Deerfield Beach is one of the cities bring the suit against that law)

What isn't in dispute is whether counties like Orange can use their home-rule power to come up with local transportation fees to make up for potential losses.Establishing such a fee would be complex and time-consuming. In fact, in approving the law, the Legislature ordered the creation of a group that would come up with plans for a statewide "mobility fee" to replace the current system.

But there's no guarantee the Legislature is actually going to approve such a fee. It likely won't be next year because that's an election year, and the development industry is rich with campaign contributions.

That's why such a fee is needed locally.What better challenge for a mayoral candidate than to show that he or she has the smarts to take the lead on such a fee — and the backbone to stand up to powerful campaign contributors who won't like it?

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