Work for Smart Development

Tampa Bay Times
February 4, 2013

Environmental Chair Howard Nelson's opinion editorial addresses the need for government and developers to work together to advance the region's environmental solutions without curbing growth.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is a relatively new state agency designed to ensure the continued growth and development of the region without hurting the preservation of our state's precious natural resources. Last month, the agency came out with its annual economic growth report, and while it made attempts to reconcile the competing interests of developers, environmentalists and government, it once again missed the mark by failing to bring developers into the conversation.

In order for the DEO to be effective, it must begin to view the developer community as a partner - rather than obstacle - to achieving its goals.

Coordination with the business sector is critical to managing the state's economic development and environmental planning efforts. Yet by restricting dialogue to internal conversations between regulatory agencies, the group with the most at stake - and most likely to offer solutions - has essentially been cut out of the process.

For example, our current government-mandated carrying capacity models, which determine how much growth an area can support, are created by the state's municipalities and corresponding water management districts, resulting in growth restrictions that could have been avoided by working with the business community to find alternative solutions, such as new water supplies.  

When it comes to environmental protection, developers have a keen interest in preserving our natural resources, and as such, can play a strong role in driving this effort.  

Florida's development community has learned to embrace environmental protection measures, not just because it is the right thing to do but because it makes good business sense. After all, what developer would attempt to build without access to adequate potable water or where natural resource issues are insurmountable? Not only are these elements necessary for regulatory approval, but in today's market, they are critical to making a development viable.

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This article is reprinted with permission from the Tampa Bay Times.
Howard E. Nelson
Partner, Head of Environmental Practice
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