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Audubon Florida
The Advocate
Week 3 of the Florida Legislative Session saw good water and resiliency bills move forward, imprudent legal fees stripped from worrying legislation, and more. However, two bills that could severely restrict common-sense community planning also moved forward.
American Bittern crouched in reeds next to the water.
Resiliency and Water Bills Move Forward
Audubon is tracking SB 1557, filed by Rep. Chaney (R-St. Petersburg), that includes provisions that will impact consumptive use permitting, reclaimed water use, and resilience planning. The bill was passed favorably by the House Water Quality, Supply and Treatment Subcommittee (Chair, Rep. Stevenson (R-St. Johns)).

Several helpful updates were made to the resiliency grant program, expanding the scope of eligible entities and types of projects. Additionally, a requirement for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to report annually on the water quality improvement grant program was also added to the bill. Lastly, the requirement for wastewater treatment facilities to treat to advanced standards was narrowed to only include those within DEP’s restoration plans.

We reported on the Senate companion last week, SB 1386. Read more about it here.

Legal Fees Provision Removed – Good News

A piece of good news to report, the committee substitute (CS) for HB 789  by Rep. Overdorf passed favorably at its first committee stop, the House Water Quality, Supply and Treatment Subcommittee. It removed a section from the original bill that would have entitled the prevailing parties to have their legal fees paid for by losing party in challenges to permits issued by DEP and the water management districts. The section that required a very expansive review of all coastal environmental permitting was also removed from the CS. We are hoping for a similar change in the Senate companion, SB 738, by Sen. Burgess (R-Zephyrhills).

Critical Stormwater Bill Moves Forward

Another positive update to share: SB 7040, Ratification of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Rules Relating to Stormwater – 2024, passed with unanimous support through the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee (Chair, Sen. Rodriguez (R- Doral)). It is important to note that while the stormwater rule update that is ready for ratification requires a higher level of treatment and removal through each approved permit, the new stormwater rule actually provides more routes to compliance by allowing for innovative approaches to meet the design criteria, including green infrastructure and low impact development.

The House companion was filed this week, WST1 - Stormwater Rules – 2024, by the Water Quality, Supply and Treatment Subcommittee.
Above: American Bittern. Photo: Margo Burnison/Audubon Photography Awards. Below: Painted Bunting. Photo: Mark Eden/Great Backyard Bird Count.
Painted Bunting standing on a twig. Leaves in the background.
Budget Recommendations Revealed
The Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Brodeur (R-Sanford), and Rep. Altman (R-Indialantic), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, shared their budget recommendations this week.

The Senate proposes $1.1 billion for water and the environment. The House proposal is slightly higher at $1.4 billion for water and the environment.

There is much work to be done and negotiations will continue between the House and Senate appropriations committees before they arrive at a consensus. Audubon advocates for strong funding of environmental programs that protect our quality of life now and into the future.

See highlights in the table below.
budget table
aerial view of Orlando, FL
Two Bills that Weaken Local Government Land Use Regulation Pass House Subcommittee
HB 1177 by Rep. Duggan (R-Jacksonville) and HB 1221 by Rep. McClain (R-Ocala) both passed out of the House Local Administration, Federal Affairs and Special District Subcommittee on Thursday, January 25.

HB 1177

HB 1177 provides that local governments cannot both collect transportation impact fees and also impose specific requirements on individual development proposals relating to improvement of specific roads that must be constructed by developers.

The bill also severely limits what local governments can do when a developer of a previously approved “Development of Regional Impact” (DRI) applies for changes to the original development plan.

Should this bill pass, such changes must be “Administratively Approved,” and not be subject to review (and possible denial) by elected county and city commissions.

The bill also provides that new changes to comprehensive plans and land development ordinances that took place after a DRI was originally approved cannot be applied to any later changes in the DRI.

The bill was approved after a minor amendment with only one negative vote.

HB 1221

HB 1221 as originally drafted included a section on “agricultural enclaves,” making it easier for developers to force local governments to allow housing development within remaining areas of farmland. That section was removed from the bill by an amendment offered by the bill’s sponsor. The remainder of the bill allows self-storage warehouse facilities to expand without regard to normal distance requirements from other land uses. The bill also substantially weakens “urban service area” designations by local governments by requiring the local government to consider the potential provision of services by private interests, such as “Community Development Districts.”

The bill almost completely eliminates provisions controlling “urban sprawl” by removing the substantive language from the longstanding definition of “sprawl.”

Other parts of the bill require local governments to avoid planning around “community goals and vision” and instead forces local governments to look primarily to calculations of how many houses, duplexes, and townhomes will be necessary to provide housing under anticipated future population estimates. With regard to population estimates, the bill requires local governments to plan for providing housing for the highest available estimates of future population growth. While lands set aside “…for conservation, preservation, or other public use…” outside the urban service area are not required to be considered for future housing, no such protection is provided for such lands within the urban service area, and designated areas such as “farmland preservation areas” within comprehensive plans are not protected at all.

Prior language encouraging location of new schools near residential areas is stricken, and schools are encouraged to be built in all areas within a local government’s jurisdiction. Finally, the housing types local governments are required to plan for completely exclude rental apartments. Should the bill become law, local governments must focus all planning for future housing around “…single-family, two family (Duplex), and fee simple, single-family townhouse development projects.”

The bill moved out of the subcommittee with five negative votes.
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