Due Process and Permitting/Zoning

For many years now, local and state governments in Florida have increasingly slowed the process of zoning and permitting requests. We desire to explain the many detrimental effects of intentionally stalling zoning and permitting.

Before explaining the cost of this to our residents and state, we will first explain the problem. Cities, counties and our state government agencies have posted application deadlines and stated expectations of how long the applicable process will take. However, even with the most highly paid attorneys, engineers, and architects engaged in the process, no application is processed as fast as the governmental body claims.

In reality, how does this work? For starters, instead of one comprehensive review by the governing body, they keep reviewing the same plans many times over and keep giving the applicant new comments/problems to be solved. Instead of one review over a two months period, they may literally keep sending the applicant back with new issues four to five times over totaling well over a year. In addition to needless delays, on many occasions the government staff members require their own personal preferences on the property. This can be in the form of overtly blocking uses which are already approved on that property’s zoning, for example requiring wetlands to be mitigated which are not being touched, or even requiring a certain architecture to be used. Instead of including pages of examples, we will stop the list here.

What is the cost of these needless delays to our citizens and our state? They are many but the most significant ones we will list below:

  1. Property Owners Lose Money: If you desire to sell, or even worse, need to sell, you are being harmed. If it takes two years to close, most buyers will give up or not even try. And if the process takes two years instead of seven months, your property value goes down because there are fewer buyers interested. Most buyers are unwilling to go through the tremendous expense and risk of the government saying no.
  2. State and Local Economies Get Hurt: People move to Florida. But businesses are increasingly saying no to Florida. There was a time when Florida was viewed as pro business. Unfortunately Florida is starting to known for permitting and zoning delays. We have an increasing lack of white collar, high wage jobs as a disproportionate amount of people move here relative to business relocations.
  3. Developers Get Hurt: Increasingly, developers give up after fifteen months and don’t buy the land. Is this a problem? This is a resounding yes. Developers provide the housing and the commercial space to house our growing economy. If they get hurt more in Florida than other states, they can simply invest elsewhere. A retail developer recently named this as his sole reason for developing elsewhere, although he lives in Florida!!!

A simple solution would be a mandated completion timeline insuring due process takes place. Regarding zoning, all city and county governments could be required to process the entire zoning request including the commissioners vote to four months. This is realistic and is more than ample time for good governance. In a similar fashion when permitting is needed, the governmental body (whether state, city or county) could be required to perform one comprehensive review and provide one list of concerns or changes to be made; so that the governmental body would not be allowed to require new changes after the first comprehensive list is provided. The applicant can then respond with changes and if inadequate solutions, the government could require the applicant to provide additional proposed solutions. This is good governance and allows the property owner to not get hurt in the process.

Our aim at Coalition For Property Rights is to protect property rights while giving sensible solutions to the problem. If you have a situation where property rights are being undermined please contact us. It is our passion to protect property rights.

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Jonathan Moore

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