Under Florida’s new Growth Management Act, fixing sprawl is one thing, stopping is something altogether different.
This article appeared in the January 25, 2012 edition of the Orlando Sentinel under the headline “Ruling: Giant Farmton development not 'sprawl' under new law” (hat tip – Greater, Greater Washington):
“Farmton, a city of 23,000 homes proposed for a remote tree farm in Volusia and Brevard counties, isn't urban sprawl, according to an administrative law judge's ruling in the first case to test Florida's watered-down growth management law….
Among the key rulings, Maloney decided that Farmton doesn't meet the new definition of sprawl because the law allows such growth if the plans also show ways that the impact is being limited. The new law lists eight factors that limit urban sprawl. If the plan includes at least four of the factors, then the proposed development isn't urban sprawl. Maloney ruled that Farmton met seven of the eight anti-sprawl factors.”
Farmton Tree Farm is located on the map below under pin "A."
What? The changes to the Growth Management Act basically modified the definition of sprawl, and added a bizarre new checklist of how development (any development) could qualify as “not sprawl.” The law can be found here, beginning, Line 1447.
The definition of sprawl reads:
(I) Promotes, allows, or designates for development substantial areas of the jurisdiction to develop as low-intensity, low-density, or single-use development or uses.
(II) Promotes, allows, or designates significant amounts of urban development to occur in rural areas at substantial distances from existing urban areas while not using undeveloped lands that are available and suitable for development.
(III) Promotes, allows, or designates urban development in radial, strip, isolated, or ribbon patterns generally emanating from existing urban developments.
(IV) Fails to adequately protect and conserve natural resources, such as wetlands, floodplains, native vegetation, environmentally sensitive areas, natural groundwater aquifer recharge areas, lakes, rivers, shorelines, beaches, bays, estuarine systems, and other significant natural systems.
(V) Fails to adequately protect adjacent agricultural areas and activities, including silviculture, active agricultural and silvicultural activities, passive agricultural activities, and dormant, unique, and prime farmlands and soils.
(VI) Fails to maximize use of existing public facilities and services.
(VII) Fails to maximize use of future public facilities and services.
(VIII) Allows for land use patterns or timing which disproportionately increase the cost in time, money, and energy of providing and maintaining facilities and services, including roads, potable water, sanitary sewer, stormwater management, law enforcement, education, health care, fire and emergency response, and general government.
(IX) Fails to provide a clear separation between rural and urban uses.
(X) Discourages or inhibits infill development or the redevelopment of existing neighborhoods and communities.
(XI) Fails to encourage a functional mix of uses.
(XII) Results in poor accessibility among linked or related land uses.
(XIII) Results in the loss of significant amounts of functional open space.
The list of “not sprawl,” defined as meeting at least four of the following eight, is:
(I) Directs or locates economic growth and associated land development to geographic areas of the community in a manner that does not have an adverse impact on and protects natural resources and ecosystems.
(II) Promotes the efficient and cost-effective provision or extension of public infrastructure and services.
(III) Promotes walkable and connected communities and provides for compact development and a mix of uses at densities and intensities that will support a range of housing choices and a multimodal transportation system, including pedestrian, bicycle, and transit, if available.
(IV) Promotes conservation of water and energy.
(V) Preserves agricultural areas and activities, including silviculture, and dormant, unique, and prime farmlands and soils.
(VI) Preserves open space and natural lands and provides for public open space and recreation needs.
(VII) Creates a balance of land uses based upon demands of residential population for the nonresidential needs of an area.
(VIII) Provides uses, densities, and intensities of use and urban form that would remediate an existing or planned development pattern in the vicinity that constitutes sprawl or if it provides for an innovative development pattern such as transit-oriented developments or new towns as defined in s. 163.3164.
The Farmton ruling gives us the first real life case of how the new law works with the toggled sprawl/not sprawl definitions. Other aspects of the rewrite seem to have crept into the ruling as well, for example, the new "fairly debatable" standard. Word on the street is that this legislative session will see attempts to further weaken the Growth Management Act. Is Farmton the wave of the future, or smart locking in of entitlements before the backlash kicks in?
As follow up, here is a link to the Farmton decision (Barbara Herron and Edgewater Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development v. Volusia County ; Miami Corporation, and Volusia Growth Management Commission).