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Bill Could Cripple Florida's Growth Management Plans

Carlton Ward Jr.
Growth in the Four Corners area of Central Florida

State lawmakers over the weekend passed a bill that would restrict local governments from requiring new developments to have units set aside for affordable housing. It would also mean anyone challenging a development being approved that's inconsistent with the existing growth plan would have to pay the other side's attorney's fees if they lose.

Thomas Hawkins, of the environmental group 1,000 Friends of Florida, says the fear of having to pay potentially huge fees would essentially mean comprehensive plans could be gutted.

"Effectively, this will prevent any enforcement action of local government comprehensive plans," he said. "The result will be local governments will not have to adhere to their own development plans."

Hawkins said that could mean outside political influence and money dictating where - and how fast - Florida would grow.

"So anytime somebody - and it could be a landowner, could be a developer, could be a neighborhood association - anytime somebody sees a city or a county breaking its own land development rules," he said, "before they decide whether they want to take legal action to get the city to do what it's supposed to do, they have to figure in the risk of losing and paying the city's attorney's fees. Which can be very, very expensive."

The bill is now in the hands of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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