Letter of the Month, March

April 6, 2014 

Bill to exempt big development wrong

Letter of the Week, March 1-8

The Herald's Feb. 28 editorial exposed state Sen. Bill Galvano's bill to exempt Manatee County from Development of Regional Impact review (DRI).

This bill would exempt projects in Manatee County from ever being subject to this form of regional and state review on the spurious notion that jurisdictions whose density is only slightly higher at 350 persons per square mile (the average for the state of Florida) at 400 persons per square mile and contains a population of at least 300,000 are somehow so dense as to warrant the exclusion.

The state defines a DRI (State Statute 380.06) as "any development which, because of its character, magnitude, or location, would have a substantial effect upon the health, safety or welfare of citizens of more than one county."

This is clear, concise, and understandable to the general public.

The average density of an entire jurisdiction is not mentioned as a criterion for a DRI determination.

Unfortunately, the statute then follows the definition with 32 pages of legalese, conditions, and exemptions that debase that definition and largely undermine the purpose of the DRI.

The statute is already compromised by Dense Urban Land Area exemptions (DULAs), which affect eight counties and 242 cities.

Therefore, Galvano's amendment is only the latest shark bite into this dying whale of what once was Florida's promising and innovative regional planning approach.

That Galvano's bill follows the controversy over the Long Bar Pointe project seems more than coincidental.

The Long Bar Pointe project and its neighbor Manatee Fruit properties, located near Sarasota Bay, should be considered as DRIs, and there should be a county process which requires conceptual development plans for these properties in their entirety for analysis at both local and state levels.

Manatee County commission hearings over changes to the Land Development Code regulations are a good place to start.

Raymond E. Wonder


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