Audubon Florida News

Topic: Growth Mgmnt

Audubon and Allies Make Recommendations to Improve Controversial FDOT Project

posted on August 18, 2011 in Growth Mgmnt

In a recent letter, 100 Friends of Florida President Charles Pattison, in conjunction with Audubon of Florida, Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, presented Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Transportation an outline of concerns with the recently renewed Future Corridors Action Plan.

Florida is a one-of-a-kind state with incredible vistas and endangered natural habitats. A thorough evaluation of proposed projects must include some of the following considerations:

  • Consideration of an overall regional and statewide growth vision plan,
  • Costs and economic feasibility of new infrastructure,
  • Environmental impacts of new roadways and construction,
  • A cost/benefit analysis of funding new roadways versus improving existing transportation corridors.

Please click here to read our letter to Governor Scott and FDOT in full.

Workshop on Decimated Growth Management Act Draws Large Crowd

posted on June 22, 2011 in Growth Mgmnt

Department of Community Affairs Secretary Billy Buzzett and Governor Scott’s administration drew a packed house at their first workshop on implementation of the sweeping changes by the Legislature to Florida’s Growth Management Act.  A large number in attendance are expressing concerns about the impact of the legislation on Florida’s natural resources and quality of life.

Representatives of local governments, regional planning councils, and environmental and civic groups directed questions to Buzzett and Tom Beck,  his choice to head the new Division of Community Planningwhich will take over Growth Management functions at the state level in October. October will also see the demise of the Department of Community Affairs, and the creation of a new agency known as the “Department of Economic Opportunity.”

The first workshop in Sarasota on June 21 was attended by Charles Lee, Audubon of Florida’s Director of Advocacy and Brad Cornell, representing the Collier County Audubon Society.  Lee asked Buzzett whether the economic development mission of the “Department of Economic Opportunity” would restrict or “contaminate” the ability of the Division of Community Planning to exercise independent judgment on local government plan amendments that might threaten “important state resources or facilities”.

Under the new act, the Division of Community Planning is still charged with challenging local government plans that threaten such resources, including important natural resources such as key ecosystems, wildlife habitats, the Everglades, water quality, springs and rivers. Buzzett and new Division Director Tom Beck responded with assurances that the intent was that the Division be able to move decisively to protect such resources. Charles Lee also discussed recent cases in which DCA had successfully challenged plan amendments that would have projected development  into the Everglades in Miami-Dade County, and cluttered the Wekiva River Aquatic Preserve with a large marina and housing development.  In both cases, Buzzett and Beck indicated that such proposals could in fact be the subject of a challenge by the Division of Community Planning under the new law.

Audubon believes it is important for its chapters and conservation activists around the state to strongly engage and present comments at the remaining Growth Management Implementation Workshops to raise these and other questions. Please click here for more details on the remaining capabilities of the Division of Community Planning to protect Florida’s environment and resources under the new law.

The remaining workshops to be held are:

June 22, 2011 1:30 pm POLK CITY (between Orlando and Lakeland)
Fantasy of Flight, Orlampa Conference Center
1400 Broadway Boulevard, South East, Polk City, FL
June 27, 2011 1:00 pm GAINESVILLE
Florida Dep. of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, Doyle Conner Building
1911 Southwest 34th Street (State Road 121), Gainesville, FL
June 28, 2011 9:00 am ST. AUGUSTINE
St. Johns County Convention Center, World Golf Village
500 South Legacy Trail, St. Augustine, FL
June 30, 2011  1:00 pm BOCA RATON
6500 Building Auditorium
6500 Congress Avenue, Boca Raton, FL
July 5, 2011 1:00 pm (CST) DeFUNIAK SPRINGS
Walton County Courthouse, County Commission Chambers
571 US 90 East, DeFuniak Springs, FL


DCA to Hold Workshops on Growth Management

posted on June 14, 2011 in Growth Mgmnt,State Government

The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Secretary Billy Buzzett and other spokespersons for Governor Scott’s administration will be holding a series of public meetings in June and early July to inform citizens about changes in Florida’s growth management programs as a result of legislation passed this year. Tom Beck, who will likely become the Director of the Division of Community Planning, will also be present. Mr. Beck will end up in charge of making future decisions on those limited cases where the state may still step in to veto or change local government land use decisions.

We know that this legislation constitutes a dramatic and destructive roll-back of the state role in Growth Management, and in most cases leaves comprehensive land use plan decisions solely in the hands of counties and cities. However, the Legislature did carve out certain circumstances under which the state can continue to intervene in favor of protecting Florida’s environment and natural resources. Please click here to learn more about this feature of the new growth management law.evergladessprawl.jpg

We recommend that Audubon leaders and members, and those concerned with Florida’s ecosystems and natural resources attend these meetings. When at the meetings, members of the public should strongly and persistently press DCA officials to define and make commitments regarding the circumstances under which the Division of Community Planning will challenge local government plan decisions that would harm important state natural resources.

Examples of some good questions to ask: “If someone proposes a plan amendment to allow a large marina and residential development impacting the Wekiva River Aquatic Preserve, would this be a project that might result in a challenge by the Division of Community Planning?” and “If Miami-Dade County proposes to change its plan to move the urban development boundary out into the Everglades, could this result in a challenge by the Division of Community Planning?  and “How can the public participate in alerting the Division of Community Planning to local plan amendments that threaten important state resources?” Please attend these workshops, be vocal and aggressively ask tough questions!

DCA asks that participants register for these workshops. To register, please send an email to, including your name, organization, and the date of the workshop you plan to attend:


Dates Location
June 21, 2011 1:30 pm SARASOTA
State College of Florida, Center of Information and Technology
7131 Professional Parkway East, Sarasota FL
June 22, 2011 1:30 pm POLK CITY (between Orlando and Lakeland)
Fantasy of Flight, Orlampa Conference Center
1400 Broadway Boulevard, South East, Polk City, FL
June 27, 2011 1:00 pm GAINESVILLE
Florida Dep. of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, Doyle Conner Building
1911 Southwest 34th Street (State Road 121), Gainesville, FL
June 28, 2011 9:00 am ST. AUGUSTINE
St. Johns County Convention Center, World Golf Village
500 South Legacy Trail, St. Augustine, FL
June 30, 2011  1:00 pm BOCA RATON
6500 Building Auditorium
6500 Congress Avenue, Boca Raton, FL
July 5, 2011 1:00 pm (CST) DeFUNIAK SPRINGS
Walton County Courthouse, County Commission Chambers
571 US 90 East, DeFuniak Springs, FL



Audubon of Florida Reacts to Gov. Scott’s Approval of Growth Management Repeal

posted on June 3, 2011 in Growth Mgmnt,Press Releases

Yesterday Governor Rick Scott signed HB 7207, effectively repealing most provisions of Florida’s Growth Management act created by the 1985 Legislature.  Except in rare instances, decisions on land use will now have no check and balance at the state level. Further, the ability of citizens to effectively challenge local government decisions allowing more development will be made much more difficult.

Charles Lee, Audubon’s Director of Advocacy and a 39 year veteran of legislative sessions in Tallahassee commented on Governor Scott’s actions, both during the legislative session, and in his decision to sign the bill.

“Governor Scott ignored the pleas of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Florida citizens and former Governor Bob Graham when he decided to support and approve this bill”, Lee stated.

“But worse, Scott’s actions and decisions leading to the repeal of growth management laws are dishonest, and constitute the utilization of a political tactic known as ‘the big lie’. “

“Governor Scott argued that repeal of Florida’s growth management act was needed because the law was causing the loss of jobs, and repeal was a necessary step toward economic recovery.  That is simply not true. That’s the ‘big lie’.

Lee pointed out that between 2007 and 2011 over 2500 comprehensive plan amendments were approved under Florida’s growth management laws that would allow over 1,000,000 new residential dwellings and over 2.7 billion square feet of commercial, office, and industrial space.

“That is enough new houses to allow another 2.4 million people to move to Florida and enough new retail, office and industrial space to create over 6 million new jobs”, Lee stated.

“Governor Scott has pledged to create 700,000 new jobs in Florida”, Lee added, “There is enough new development already approved under Florida’s growth Management act to provide for more than eight times the number of new jobs Governor Scott wants to create.”  Lee said.  “The growth management act was never standing in the way of new jobs”, Lee pointed out.

“What will be lost due the repeal of growth management laws is the environmental quality, scenic beauty, and attractiveness of our state that appeals to the corporate leaders of ‘Fortune 500’ companies that might want to locate facilities here.”

“In the end”, Lee concluded, “The actions of Governor Scott and misguided legislative leaders will result in fewer good jobs in our state. America’s top corporate leaders don’t want to subject their employees to poor planning, urban sprawl, and a deteriorating quality of life”.

For further information on the results of HB 7207 and related legislation on growth management, go to:


AUDIO: Listen to Audubon’s Charles Lee on WMFE’s “Intersection”

posted on May 19, 2011 in Growth Mgmnt,Media

Audubon’s Charles Lee was a recent guest on Intersection, a show on WMFE Orlando public radio. The 2011 Florida legislative session brought sweeping changes to Florida’s ability to manage growth and development. Click here to listen to Audubon’s take on these impending changes.

NY TIMES: Florida Legislature Votes to Ease Rules on Development

posted on May 11, 2011 in Growth Mgmnt,Media

On the heels of one of the most difficult legislative sessions in Florida’s recent memory, even the New York Times has noted the drastic changes coming to our state’s growth management process and environmental regulation.

The New York Times:

Just before the Republican-led Florida Legislature finished up its session for the year, it gave developers a parting gift: It pushed through measures that would reverse 25 years of growth management law by loosening state oversight of builders and making it harder for people to challenge development…

“It was the worst session for the environment I have seen in 20 years,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. “We saw more bad bills proposed and more bad bills passed than we have ever seen before. Any claim that a bill would increase jobs by decreasing regulation was accepted on its face with no consideration given to the financial consequences or the environmental consequences of the proposal.”

Audubon of Florida sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott asking for a veto of the four most offending bills passed during the 2011 session.


Audubon Calls on Governor Scott to Veto Four Bills

Audubon sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott today, urging him to veto four bills from the 2011 Florida legislative session. You can read our letter by clicking here.

Let your voice be heard – send a letter to Governor Rick Scott asking him to veto these bad environmental bills.

Write to:
Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001


The bills:

SB 2142 limits ad valorem tax collections by the state’s five water management districts and has the effect of rolling back the districts’ budgets by as much as 30%. The limit on the South Florida Water Management District is likely to reduce the effort towards cleaning up polluted water in the Everglades and the Lake Okeechobee watershed and will undermine the long-term efforts to carryout projects that restore fresh water flows through the Everglades.

CS/CS/CS/HB 993 requires cumbersome review of state rules. Many of the rules subject to the bill are those used to protect Florida’s environmental resources. Regulated interests will push hard to limit new and existing rules and the public will be largely left out of the process. The bill also has a separate subject changing the burden of proof for citizens and other affected parties challenging agency permits and other decisions. Taken together, the two subjects of this bill disenfranchise the public from acting to protect Florida’s environment.

CS/CS/HB 421 was introduced on behalf of two major landowners who were caught destroying wetlands and altering surface water flows. The bill retroactively allows water to be impeded or diverted for agricultural activities regardless of harm to natural resources or downstream landowners. It also allows developers to escape mitigation when converting agricultural land to development.

HB 7207 was amended to pick up a controversial rewrite of growth management legislation. The bill makes it easier for developers to amend local land use plans, eliminates the important 9J-5 rule, diminishes need as a condition of new growth, and removes the ability of communities to hold referenda on comprehensive planning issues.


Audubon’s Charles Lee Speaks Up for the Department of Community Affairs

posted on February 24, 2011 in Growth Mgmnt

In Governor Rick Scott’s recent budget recommendations, his intent to dismantle the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) was clear – later calling the agency that helps communities properly manage growth a “job killer.”  Audubon of Florida’s Director of Advocacy Charles Lee spoke up for the need of a strong DCA in The Tampa Tribune:

“If we are going to be talking about cases where paving over the Everglades is at issue, we think it’s absolutely essential there be a traffic cop at the state level that will blow the whistle and be able to step in and say no,” said Charles Lee, a lobbyist for Audubon of Florida.

Audubon is eager to engage with proposals to change growth management law. Our objective remains for a strong state-level review of development projects that can harm our vital ecosystems, such as the Everglades, Wekiva River System, Green Swamp and many more “special places”.

Please check back to this blog for continuing coverage of the changes to Florida’s growth management rules as the state budget makes its way through the legislative process.


Playing Games with DCA

posted on April 23, 2010 in Growth Mgmnt,Online Advocacy

DCAlogo3x4The Florida House of Representatives leadership is holding the state’s lead planning agency hostage in the waning days of the session. By refusing to act on bills reenacting the Department of Community Affairs for another 10 years under the state’s sunset review process, the House is trying to stack the deck in favor of the building industry. And taxpayers and residents lose when developers are allowed to build without regard for the public costs of their projects.

The House’s stance is a slap to the public and DCA Secretary Tom Pelham and his employees, who are the last defense against the irresponsible growth that crowds schools, damages the environment and ruins natural resources. Legislation fully reauthorizing the DCA for another 10 years – as recommended by the state’s Joint Sunset Committee and the House’s own Government Accountability Act Council – was approved 38-0 Thursday by the Senate. But in the full House, reenactment legislation isn’t moving. This inaction speaks loudly about the grip of the development lobby and the ridiculous belief of many lawmakers that eliminating development controls will boost the economy.

The economic downturn exposed Florida’s dependence on nonstop subdivision construction as an unsustainable Ponzi scheme. But the House leadership is in denial. Some observers wonder whether the inaction is a stalling tactic to be used during budget negotiations with the Senate or if this sets the slate for the department to be eliminated next year, when Rep. Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican, takes over as speaker. He has consistently sought to dismantle sensible growth laws. The only good news in this sorry episode is that the DCA won’t die this session if the House members continue to ignore it. It will roll over for at least one more year. But next year, it will be in limbo again, making it more vulnerable to the political muscle of the development industry.

As we’ve stressed before, Florida needs this agency, whose chief responsibility is to ensure that communities don’t violate their own comprehensive land use plans whenever a developer proposes a sprawling project. To eliminate its review authority would doom the state to the same kind of scattershot development that has proved so costly to taxpayers. Though growth has slowed to a crawl in many areas, communities haven’t let that stop them from continuing to revise their plans, the road maps for growth. DCA’s expertise is needed to review these amendments and ensure they are appropriate.

The House’s inaction could backfire. It reinforces the claims of Amendment 4 proponents that state and local officials can’t be trusted to protect citizens from reckless development projects. The Hometown Democracy proposal would mandate that amendments to a comprehensive land use plan go before voters if first approved by local governments, a cumbersome requirement that could shut down growth. The best way for lawmakers to counter such arguments is to affirm the stature of Florida’s essential growth regulator. But Cannon and company appear intent on giving developers anything they want. Lawmakers in the House who have their eyes closed and fingers in their ears have some explaining to do for keeping the Department of Community Affairs in limbo. They need to reenact this vital state agency.

All Floridians concerned about the future of their state should contact Cretul and Cannon to urge them to use their leadership positions to assure the reauthorization of DCA in the 2010 legislative session. You can reach them here.

Florida’s Growth Management Agency in Peril

posted on in Growth Mgmnt


Here’s a lesson for middle-school students who will be required to take civics classes under a proposed law headed to the governor: Look out for closed-door shenanigans when a law gets passed — or not — in Tallahassee.

Example: The fate of the Department of Community Affairs, the state’s final arbiter of growth management laws that ensure new development doesn’t hopscotch outside designated urban areas. Every 10 years the Legislature reviews whether agencies are still warranted. This year, the DCA’s review passed in the Senate, and after initial blocks in the House two committees gave the nod.

Then came the roadblock.

With barely a week left in the session, the full House has yet to vote on the DCA’s fate. Why? Because incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon has made no secret that he loathes growth management laws and the agency that stands between sprawl and sustainable growth so that schools, roads and sewer systems aren’t overwhelmed. If nothing happens, DCA will be in limbo for another year.

Delaying DCA’s reenactment likely will strengthen the case for those who back Hometown Democracy, Amendment 4, to the state Constitution. It would require local voters to decide on every new project outside their community’s designated urban areas.

Builders don’t want this; neither does Mr. Cannon. Yet House stalling tactics can backfire. Call their intransigence a textbook case in the law of unintended consequences.

All Floridians concerned about the future of their state should contact Cretul and Cannon to urge them to use their leadership positions to assure the reauthorization of DCA in the 2010 legislative session. You can reach them here.

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