News / Events

Growth essential for tax base

By Jim Cooper

March 3, 2010

I have been reading with interest the bombardment of anti-growth columns by Jane Healy, Lesley Blackner and others in the Sentinel, and it seems these naysayers are inconsistent.

If a landowner goes to the expense of obtaining entitlements such as zoning, development-of-regional-impact or planned-unit-development approvals, and waits until the economic times are right to develop, how does this cost the taxpayers or anyone else other than the landowner any money? In many cases, once the property is rezoned to a higher use, it may not be developed immediately and the property taxes still would increase. This helps the county and the citizens because there is no impact. Long-range planning is simply good business.

Blackner, in her Feb. 23 My Word column ("Farmton's changing the rules"), states that Farmton wants to change the rules because the present zoning allows one home per 25 acres. Using this logic, if we had never changed the Homestead Act of 1862, would we all be living on 160 acres? Is she advocating sprawl or does she simply want to change things to benefit her view, such as the approval process?

From my understanding, Farmton has proposed one of the most conservative development plans ever. It has 59,000 acres and has agreed to set aside permanently about 44,000 acres for conservation. This is unheard of. Instead of being criticized, Farmton should be applauded.

If anyone does develop in this overbuilt market and recession, we have impact fees to mitigate infrastructure costs. So again, how does the public end up getting hurt? Impact fees are $15,000 to $25,000 per home, depending upon the jurisdiction. Blackner and Healy seem to ignore this fact, and both paint the picture that the taxpayer will foot the entire bill for everything.

Finally, how can Blackner and Healy ignore what happened in St. Pete Beach? Officials will tell you the city is almost broke because of its version of Hometown Democracy, or Amendment 4. The cost of the elections is astronomical, and the lawsuits by those who don't like the outcome when a project is approved is a true waste of taxpayers' money.

I know the difference between smart growth and no growth. We are in a growth state, and if you don't like what public officials are doing, then vote them out, but don't put a nail in the coffin of future growth. I can assure you, without growth, there is no tax base to bond and put infrastructure in or even maintain it.

Jim Cooper of Winter Park is past president of the Home Builders Association of Metro Orlando.

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