Fort Myers Florida Weekly

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida comments on two bills

“This year’s House Bill 359 and its companion Senate Bill 540 include many disastrous provisions. One would entitle prevailing parties to recover attorney fees and costs in challenges to comprehensive plans and plan amendments, which again could be in the millions of dollars. These mandatory fee-shifting provisions are an assault on the public’s right to due process.

“The other provision is a change to Florida’s Community Planning Act, which would severely limit challenges to development orders … that ‘materially alters’ the use or density or intensity of use on a particular piece of property rending it not consistent with the comprehensive plan.”

“If development orders don’t materially alter the use of a property, the so-called density of intensity can’t be challenged in court.

“House Bill 439 doubles down on limiting challenges in court by redefining ‘intensity.’ That currently includes a development’s ‘demand on natural resources and demand on public facilities and services.’ These terms are very important as local comprehensive plans are designed to minimize a development’s impact on natural resources by protecting water, minimizing nutrient loading and other pollution and minimizing a development’s effect on roads, schools, water, sewer, parks and law enforcement.

“But if HB439 becomes law, ‘intensity’ would only measure development as square feet per unit of land.” ¦

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