The sprawl industry is pushing for more reckless growth – with plenty of inside help

The “Session of Sprawl” is upon us.

With nearly a month to go before the 2023 Legislative session officially begins, several bills have already been filed which, if passed, will supercharge sprawl across the entirety of the Sunshine State.

These include bills like House Bill 41, which would prohibit local referendums on development rules that favor developers. House Bill 359/Senate Bill 540 seeks to intimate citizens who might challenge a comprehensive plan amendment by saddling them with the “prevailing party’s” court costs and attorney fees if they go to court and lose.

House Bill 383/Senate Bill 346 would mandate that any application for a development permit or order – including zoning changes — is automatically approved after 180 days, even if a municipality needs extra time to review the proposed changes.

House Bill 439 would scuttle the existing definition of “sprawl” and redefine it as merely “unplanned” development requiring the extension of public services by local government.

House Bill 671/SB 682 would shorten the time local governments have to approve or deny building permits from 30 business days to 9 calendar days.

You get the idea. It almost looks like a coordinated assault — and it’s strange, given that these pro-sprawl measures run counter to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s desire, expressed in his Executive Order 23-06, to strengthen the local government comprehensive planning process.

Pretty audacious for these legislators to go against Gov. DeSantis like this, don’t you think?

But let’s talk about those legislators. You might be surprised — or not — to know many who sponsored these terrible bills are, in fact, part of the sprawl industry.

Take state Rep. Stan McClain, the Ocala Republican who sponsored HB 439. His occupation, when not in the state capitol trying to undermine sound planning? Why, he’s a building contractor.

Or how about Rep. Wyman Duggan, the Jacksonville Republican who sponsored HB 359? He’s an attorney who represents developers.

Newly elected Rep. “Griff” Griffitts, a Panama Beach Republican, is the sponsor of HB 383, But you know what else he is? The owner of a construction company.

Then there’s Rep. Alina Garcia, a Miami Republican also newly elected, and the sponsor of HB 41. She operates rental properties through her real estate business.

Now, not all of the pro-sprawl bills were sponsored by legislators whose livelihood depends on  the sprawl industry. Take Sen. Nick DiCeglie, a Republican from St. Petersburg who sponsored senate bills 346, 540 and 682. He merely owns a waste management company.

But he also got thousands in campaign contributions from the sprawl industry in 2022, including $1,000 from the Associated Builders & Contractors PAC, $500 from the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the Associated Builders & Contractors PAC; three separate $1,000 contributions from the Florida Home Builders Association PAC; two $1,000 contributions from the Realtors Political Action Committee… and on and on.

This is how the voracious sprawl industry gets what it wants in Tallahassee, spreading its money around and making sure plenty of the legislative seats are occupied by one of their own.

And you see the results every time you take to the highways, every time you notice another stand of trees flattened by the bulldozers to build more strip malls and $400,000 “luxury townhomes.”

Florida needs growth — but it needs careful, considered comprehensive planning.

Not this.