Next week, the state's growth-planning agency will be demolished — and one of the greatest cons in the history of Florida politics will be complete.
The con involves promises the state made last year to regulate sensible growth. That will be hard to do once the agency that did the regulating disappears.
The other con — the one more germane to you, your family and your budget — is that all new growth is good.
Hogwash. Poor growth costs you plenty.
Why? Because it requires everything from new schools to more police officers. And when the growth doesn't pay for those things, you do.
For proof, look atLake Nona.
Developers promised new houses and growth aplenty in southeast Orlando. So the city went ahead and built two fire stations — spending $6.4 million to do so.
Only the growth never came as promised.
As a result, taxpayers spent $2.9 million staffing two stations that responded to a grand total of 100 calls over four months in 2009. Compare that with the 2,000 calls handled during the same time by a single station in the city's urban core.
And guess who paid the tab?
We saw a similar story in southeast Orange where Orlando Utilities Commission built massive water pipes for a far-flung neighborhood that never fully materialized. The water was flowing — but unneeded. So OUC (and its ratepayers) paid to dump tens of millions of gallons down a storm drain.
But underused fire stations and unneeded water lines are just the tip of the urban sprawl iceberg.
New growth requires more schools, roads, libraries and bus routes.
In the past, the state's Department of Community Affairs was one of the final checks in making sure those provisions were in place. No more.
Lobbyists helped rewrite the rules. A Sentinel story summed up the changes like this: "Developers and local governments no longer have to prove that there's a financially feasible way to supply roads, sewers, parks and schools to new exurban developments."
And who do you think pays for all those roads, sewers, parks and schools when they're not "financially feasible" for the profit-seekers?
Keep this in mind as an out-of-state corporation pushes to build the Farmton community — as many as 23,000 homes in a remote, environmentally sensitive swath of timber, swamp and wildlife habitats — in Brevard and Volusia counties.
DCA previously rejected the project, saying it lacked plans to pay for new schools. But when DCA disappears, so will the watchdogs of your wallet.
And that's one of the biggest cons of all — because just last year, you were told that DCA would protect you.
It was during the debate over Hometown Democracy, the constitutional amendment that would have given residents more control over growth around them.
Big Business hated the idea that you might occasionally reject a project that would crowd your children's classes or spoil your community's water supply. So they argued that direct democracy was unnecessary when you already had watchdogs at the state level.
Voters relied on the watchdogs, which were promptly neutered.
Hometown Democracy certainly wasn't perfect. But the campaign against it was.
It was all part of the big lie upon which Florida has long been built — that all growth is good.
Wrong. Sensible growth is. Infill and new businesses provide jobs.
But unmanaged sprawl hurts our quality of life — and costs you money.
And frankly, most of us have our hands full trying to meet our own families' needs nowadays without having to subsidize yet another poorly planned subdivision.
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