Our statement to the Escambia Board of County Commissioners regarding Growth Planning was presented by Carolann Holmes on August 2, 2007. A summary of her remarks follows.
The League of Women Voters has been involved with growth planning for 32 years. After completing a two-year statewide study on growth in 1975 the League adopted the following statement:
"Support public policies that provide for cooperative coordinated planning and decisions about land use in Florida, including methods for resolution of conflicts."
Locally, League representatives were directly involved in the development of Escambia County's Comprehensive Plan as part of Growth Management in Florida. Members of our local organization joined the Florida Department of Community Affairs in legal action to bring our county's plan up to standard. Our main concern was that the population density allowances were too confusing and allowed too much development in vulnerable areas. Hurricane Ivan's destruction has verified our concerns.
Currently, the US Congress is debating the advisability of increasing the general public's investments in coastal development, as part of the Federal Flood Insurance Program. Recently the state of Florida borrowed $10 billion dollars to reinforce its flood insurance program, which is similar to that of the Federal Flood Insurance Program. All taxpayers, not simply those living in coastal areas, pay these costs.
As a part of growth planning in Escambia, The Evaluation and Recommendation Committee recommended that the duties of the Board of Adjustments should be less expansive. Members of this Board must spend sufficient time reviewing a great amount of documentation submitted by the applicants and the staff, and become knowledgeable of the land development code. This is a responsibility for volunteers to assume.
The League calls to your attention four specific major concerns:
The League is troubled that the Board of Commissioners would expend county resources to knowingly submit an ordinance that is not in compliance with well-established state growth management statutes.
- The public should be given notice of changes in their community and this should be undertaken through every possible method.
- State law requires that impact fees be studied. Again, those new developments, which generate expansions of roads, services for additional water, sewer, emergencies, etc. should contribute by use of impact fees to the needs they generate. Impact fees can only be used at those developments that require additions.
- The League is dismayed with the proposed ordinance (2007-02C) to remove the development cap at Perdido Key. It amends several elements of the comprehensive plan and the land development code. It appears to affect areas other than Perdido Key.
- Also, the wording of the effective date seems to anticipate an administrative order of noncompliance, giving the county instructions to adopt the document by resolution and submit it to the Department of Community Affairs regardless.