On April 24, the Florida House of Representatives added its approval to CS/CS Senate Bill 1216, an omnibus growth management bill. Most significantly, for new projects that are not currently exempt, the bill replaces the current Development of Regional Impact (DRI) review process with the state coordinated review process for comprehensive plan amendments. The bill also eliminates one of the Regional Planning Councils (RPCs) and reduces the scope of RPC authority in planning matters. Additional details on these and other bill provisions are found below. This bill is subject to a veto from the Governor on or before May 22. Unless vetoed, it will take effect immediately upon becoming law.

Under the bill, new development projects meeting the criteria for review as a DRI under section 380.06, Florida Statutes will instead be reviewed under the state coordinated review process for comprehensive plan amendments. This statutory change will give local governments and developers an opportunity to review and approve new DRI-sized projects using standards and processes that are on equal footing with non-DRI projects. However, where a plan amendment is required, local governments will retain considerable leverage to negotiate and condition development approvals through the terms of the amendment or through related approvals such as planned unit development zonings, concurrency agreements or other development agreements. 

The state coordinated review process for comprehensive plan amendments allows additional time for the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and other agencies to review and comment on the proposed amendment before its adoption and, like the pre-2011 review process, includes a compliance determination by DEO. However, since 2011, the authority of the state to challenge amendments has been limited and the standards of review applicable for challenges to adopted amendments has become more deferential to the local government's decision.

The pending change to the DRI review process does not affect existing exemptions from DRI review, including exemptions in "Dense Urban Land Areas" such as Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Seminole Counties, and numerous municipalities. 

SB 1216 contains other significant changes, several of which are listed below:  

  • Sector Plans. There are a number of changes to the sector planning program, including:
    • Conservation easements recorded pursuant to a sector plan will be treated as if no easement were in place during the Environmental Resource Permit application process.
    • Sector plans with an approved master development order will be authorized to obtain a Consumptive Use Permit for the same length of time as the master development order.
  • RPCs. The bill revises the RPC boundaries and removes the RPCs from involvement in a number of planning programs. Notably, it does not remove the RPCs' role in review of comprehensive plans.
    • The bill eliminates the Withlachoochee RPC (Levy, Sumter, Citrus, Hernando, Marion), and redistributes its geographic area to the remaining RPCs. Levy and Marion Counties are assigned to the North Central Florida RPC, Sumter County is assigned to the East Central Florida RPC, and Citrus and Hernando Counties are assigned to the Tampa Bay RPC. Beginning January 1, 2016, the bill authorizes the Governor to review and update the RPC boundaries under existing authority.
    • RPCs will no longer be recognized as a reviewing agency in the statutes relating to regional transportation planning, and siting of electric power plants, electric transmission lines, natural gas transmission pipelines and correctional facilities.
    • The bill eliminates a provision which could be read to give RPCs the power to suspend DRI development orders for failure to receive a DRI biennial report.
    • Connected-City Pilot Program. Under the existing local government comprehensive planning certification program, the bill certifies Pasco County for 10 years as a pilot community for "connected-city corridor" plan amendments within an area to be designated in the DEO notice of certification. The certification exempts eligible plan amendments from state and regional agency review. In addition, the bill provides for a DRI exemption within the certified area and, under certain conditions, deems projects within the area to have satisfied transportation concurrency and other state and local transportation mitigation requirements.
    • Areas of Critical State Concern (ACSC). There are new provisions for contribution of tourist tax revenues for affordable housing programs in an ACSC within certain municipalities.
    • A proposed cap on transportation proportionate share payments that was in companion House Bill 933 was not included in this bill.

This Practice Update highlights key items in SB 1216, but does not provide a full summary of all provisions. Interested parties are encouraged to read the bill in its entirety. As noted above, the bill has been presented to the Governor on May 7 and is subject to veto not later than May 22. As usual, some portions of the bill may be subject to different interpretations and implementation by government agencies. Interested parties should stay informed regarding these issues.