Scott says mega-building is generating dollars that help Florida fight environmental problems

Gov. Scott says mega-developments are helping state pay for environmental problems
Gov. Scott says mega-developments are helping state pay for environmental problems

Florida’s building boom, which followed Gov. Rick Scott’s rollback of growth management laws, is alarming many community activists and environmentalists.

But Scott sees the spread of mega-developments, from the Panhandle to the heart of panther habitat in Southwest Florida, as helping the state pay for widespread environmental problems facing the state.

The Indian River Lagoon on the state’s Atlantic shore and Caloosahatchee River on the Gulf of Mexico side have been badly fouled by freshwater runoff from Lake Okeechobee, carrying pollutants from neighborhoods, farms and cities.

At the same time, freshwater springs, concentrated mostly in Central and North Florida, have proved particularly vulnerable to pollutants from nearby development. Such landmark sites as Silver Springs, Wakulla Springs and Fanning Springs are choked by nutrients and algae.

Scott, though, said his administration has steered $880 million toward advancing long-stalled Everglades’ projects while backing major efforts for cleaning the Indian River Lagoon and endangered springs.

These initiatives would not be possible without the dollars provided by the building projects that are flourishing in Florida, he said.

“All that’s happened,” Scott said, “because we’ve turned around our economy.”

Palm Beach County’s unincorporated western area is the site of almost 14,000 new homes planned in coming years, spread across four new communities, including Westlake, whose developers want to make it the county’s 39th city.

On what had been timber and farm land in Charlotte County on the Gulf coast, a city whose acreage is bigger than Manhattan is beginning to emerge. In Orange County, 4,000 homes are on their way east of the Econlockhatchee River, long a dividing line between urban and rural Central Florida. Prime Florida panther habitat is targeted for development in eastern Collier County, just southeast of Palm Beach County.

What’s happened in Florida since growth oversight has been reduced?

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Florida’s building boom has financial and political pay-off for state’s ruling Republicans

Tax collections from real estate transactions are returning to their pre-recession heights in Florida
Tax collections from real estate transactions are returning to their pre-recession heights in Florida. Graphic by Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

The spread of mega-developments across Florida five years after Gov. Rick Scott sharply reduced growth management laws is yielding both a financial and political pay-off for ruling Republicans.

The wholesale building boom can be traced in state statistics.

Real estate tax collections, a strong barometer of growth, soared 17 percent last year in Florida to $2.1 billion.

That was the highest level in the state since 2006 when these documentary stamp taxes paid on real estate transactions began toppling from a pre-recession high of $4 billion in 2005, a towering mark propelled upward by two straight years of hurricane rebuilding.

The most building permits in a decade also were issued last year in Florida after five years of growth.

The rising tax receipts not only are proof of a rebounding economy, but also helped fuel a state budget that hit $82 billion this year for the first time. That allowed Scott to make good on his re-election promise to give back $1 billion in tax breaks.

Full story on how reduced regulations are spurring runaway growth:    http://bit.ly/1VlNqZT

Five years after Scott reduced state growth laws, mega-developments are booming

Palm Beach County’s unincorporated western area is the site of almost 14,000 new homes planned in coming years, spread across four new communities, including Westlake, whose developers want to make it the county’s 39th city.

But similar, multi-thousand-acre projects are also in the works this spring across remote stretches of scrub and wetland – virtually in every corner of Florida.

Such mega-projects as Babcock Ranch,Plum Creek, Lake Pickett and Deseret Ranch, are poised to add thousands of houses, millions of feet of commercial space and swell the state’s population through the next decade by converting vast amounts of rural land.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick, who fought much of the western growth in her county, traces Florida’s boom to Scott’s actions in 2011.

“It just kicked the door open,” Burdick said. “But the impact of all this development is ultimately going to be picked up by the taxpayers. They’re the ones who will have to pay for the needed roads, the schools and improving the bad water we’ll be left with.”

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