townhall meeting - proportionate fair share
By Gabriel Tynes
After an intense townhall meeting Monday, state lawmakers promised a quick review of a two-yearold traffi c concurrency bill that is reportedly hindering growth in Walton County. Orchestrated by the Walton County Chamber of Commerce, the meeting was an opportunity for the local business community to debate the pros and cons of proportionate fair share mitigation (prop share), a state mandate that county Planning Director Pat Blackshear said, “doesn’t work.”
Addressing a capacity audience at the Sandestin Bayside Ballroom, Sen. Don Gaetz said “This is a classic case of ready, fi re, aim. Changes can be made and will be made.”
Enacted by Florida Senate Bill 360 in the summer of 2005, prop share allows applicants for development an opportunity to meet transportation concurrency guidelines by contributing their financial share of the cost of improvements to affected transportation corridors. The Florida Department of Transportation was charged with publishing a model ordinance shortly thereafter, and Walton County implemented similar guidelines in February, 2006. Since then, county planners have identified a number of weaknesses.
At the meeting, Blackshear told interim FDOT Secretary Larry Kelly, “We have being working a year to make this work and we simply can’t the way it’s written.”
Among the problems planners have encountered have been egregious cost estimates that developers are unwilling to pay. Blackshear complained that there are no minimum technical standards on which to base the estimates and the current law fails to make exemptions for industrial developments or affordable housing. Blackshear also requested the DOT to commit to projects outside of its own fi ve-year plan.
Honey Harris, who is attempting to open a bank on U.S. Highway 331, said her project was levied a $730,000 prop share fee.
“My concern is that this will have a major ripple effect,” Harris said. “We’ve had to open temporarily in Okaloosa County because we cannot afford to move forward with transportation concurrency here.”
Other audience members wondered why the state didn’t share more of the costs, or why the county hadn’t been better prepared for the area’s current transportation defi ciencies.
Michael Mead, a Fort Walton Beach attorney who represents several local developers said, “These are problems that have been compounding over time. A lot of that responsibility falls on county and local governments.”
Meanwhile, Secretary Kelly admitted there were problems, but hesitated on accepting the blame.
Speaking of the DOT model ordinance, Kelly said, “We fi nd ourselves defending our standpoint, but we want the system to work.
“If major changes are going to take place it will be the responsibility of everybody to make sure it’s not an ‘unfair’ share.”
Gaetz said lawmakers will review the legislation within the next few months and hopefully a more functional method could be adopted by the end of the year.
02-11-2007, 06:16 PM #2
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