Florida in 2070: Development will dominate, report warns

South Florida's growth is projected to span south of Lake Okeechobee.

South Florida’s growth is forecast to span area south of Lake Okeechobee.

Florida in 2070 will be a state brimming with almost 34 million residents — 70 percent more than currently — but with many of the same growth problems, a statewide management organization concludes in a report released today.

Balancing development against nature preserves and farmland will be a recurring theme of the next half-century, 1000 Friends of Florida says in its Florida 2070 report.

But the organization maintains that through smart growth management, there is a way to lower the trajectory Florida is on, which puts on course to having one-third of the state developed, up from less than 19 percent during the report’s 2010 baseline year.

If  many residents are already feeling the pressures of crowded roads, neighborhoods and schools, there is certainly more to come, the report shows.

But 1000 Friends argues that by relying on a more compact pattern of development and increasing the state’s protected land holdings, the percentage of Florida under development can be held to 28 percent in 2070.

South Florida, so long home to rapid growth, is projected as slowing in coming years, relative to the rest of the state.

Within South Florida, the most dramatic potential changes in 2070 can be seen in the areas south of Lake Okeechobee, including in Palm Beach, Hendry and Glades counties, as well as in Lee and Collier counties, the report finds.

Still, land devoted to cities and suburbia in the region should cap at 30 percent of the region — below the state’s 34 percent average, analysts said.

The area of most overwhelming growth in the next half-century? Central Florida.

By 2070, almost half the region from Tampa to Daytona Beach will be devoted to roads, homes, and the other trappings of development, 1,000 Friends forecasts.

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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