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Appeal of Growth Management Decision Will Wait

August 26, 2010 - 6:00pm

To developers, Senate Bill 360 was a breath of fresh air in a stifling economic climate. For cash-strapped cities and counties throughout Florida, it was an unfunded mandate that would have forced taxpayers to pick up a tab developers have traditionally paid.

Circuit Chief Judge Charles Francis sided with the municipalities Thursday, striking down the law that reduced requirements on developers to pay for road impacts and other costs incurred by growth.

Predictably, the cities rejoiced while developers and business groups are crying foul.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is disappointed in Thursdays ruling striking down SB 360. Legislation intended to reduce excessive regulations, stimulate investment, and create jobs has instead been tied up in costly, taxpayer-funded litigation for over a year," said Adam Babington, vice president for Government Affairs at the Florida Chamber of Commerce in a released statement.

The cities involved in the lawsuit, however, maintain that taxpayers would have been the hardest hit had the legislation been allowed to stand.

"Basically, this bill would've shifted the burden of traffic and roadway mitigation onto the taxpayers," said Eric Hersh, mayor of Weston, one of the cities that was a lead plaintiff in the case.

Most of the cities that brought the lawsuit (Deerfield Beach, Miami Gardens, Coral Gables, Pembroke Pines, Homestead and others) are located in South Florida, the site of some of the fastest growth in the state in the decade before the housing crash.

But Hersh is unimpressed with the argument that SB 360 would've aided growth in the short-term.

"We've had an unprecedented amount of growth before the law. You can't say that (striking down SB 360) stymies growth, that's nonsense," he said.

Although the chamber, which represents more than 139,000 businesses statewide, is clearly not pleased with the ruling, they are unsure whether an appeal or reworking the legislation would be the best tactic to solve the problem.

We are in the process of thoroughly reviewing the ruling and evaluating the appropriate next legal and legislative steps to protect the interest of our members, Babington said.

Hersh, however, is unconcerned about a reversal of the decision, either by appeal or by rewording the legislation.

"I'm not at all worried. This is pretty clear-cut. I think (legislators) knew that they were trying to get away with something and thought they wouldn't get called out on it," he said.

The fact that most of the state's leadership is involved in their own political battles or have just lost at the ballot box means the question of how to fight the ruling will likely remain up in the air until after the November elections.

"The governor is focused on the Senate, the attorney general is done, the Senate president is trying to be the CFO -- I don't think they're going to focus on an appeal," Hersh said.

Gray Rohrer, who writes "special to Sunshine State News," lives in Satellite Beach.

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