The Tampa Tribune: “Devising a better Florida by design”

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Excerpt from The Tampa Tribune, 1997

At 4 p.m. today the Hillsborough County Commission will discuss how it goes about the fundamental business of deciding who can build what and where. The board is reconsidering the way it handles planning and zoning.

This is a topic well worth exploring. It may be impossible to devise a system that regulates growth and development to the satisfaction of everyone. There always will be clashes between those who want their rural surroundings left alone and those want to convert the pasture next door into a subdivision. Change is disruptive by nature.

But it may be possible to make the process less contentious. After all, we Floridians are not so far apart in the things we value most. If we could build on that common ground more effectively, then we might end up with better developments, better neighborhoods and better communities.

What are those common values? Look at the most popular areas to live and you will find them. Here are a few: Parks and greenery. Being able to walk instead of drive as much as possible. Recreation. Neighborliness. Convenience. Peace and quiet. Security.

Developers generally manage to provide some of these amenities, but very few provide them all.

Commissioner Ed Turanchik is bringing before his colleagues today an alternative called community-based planning. The idea is to try for a consensus among developers, landowners and residents in a broader context, not going one parcel at a time, but looking at the community as a whole and getting everyone to decide what its future should be, what it needs and what it doesn’t want.

It may sound impossible to those who have witnessed the fire-spitting battles that occur when a major developer wants to put something huge in a long-settled, comfortable community. The two sides are not likely to come to any consensus at that point. And there always will be disputes that only a judge can settle.

It may be possible, though, to prevent some of these dustups by planning ahead. That’s what community design planning is supposed to accomplish.

“We don’t have planning,” says Turanchik. “We have stopped regulation and subdivisions…We’ve stopped building neighborhoods.”