Incoming Gov. Rick Scott should fold the three agencies now overseeing environmental protection, growth management and transportation into a single agency called the Department of Growth Leadership, according to a report Monday from a transition team he appointed.
Scott should also abolish some longstanding growth-management rules and block local governments such as Hillsborough County from enforcing their own, more restrictive regulations protecting wetlands from development, according to the report from the committee, which is chaired by a former developer.
Scott's regulatory reform transition team contended that getting the Legislature to approve merging the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Community Affairs next year would reshape how the state deals with development.
And that's just the start. Other agencies could be integrated as well, such as the state's regional planning councils, the water management districts, even the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Currently those agencies are mired in "regulatory mistrust, competition, duplication and conflict," the committee warned in a series of slides released Monday by Scott's team. In fact, one slide says the DEP had gone from a mission of "protection" in the 1970s to one of "suppression" in the 2000s -- even though that was during the two terms of business-friendly Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.
The result of the current setup, according to the transition team report, was a host of woes including urban sprawl and overbuilding. That argument "doesn't seem to match very well with the actual facts," said Charles Pattison of 1,000 Friends of Florida, a pro-growth management activist group.
The Regulatory Reform Transition Team is chaired by Chris Corr, vice president for planning, design and development the global builder and designer AECOM. In the 1990s Corr helped develop the 5,000-acre town of Celebration for the Walt Disney Corp. He then served until 2008 as vice president of the St. Joe Co., which spent the past decade transforming its Panhandle pine forests into a series of residential and commercial developments.
Two other former St. Joe executives, Peter Rummell and Billy Buzzett, also serve on the committee. The environmental subcommittee is chaired by Doug Manson, a Tampa lawyer who a lawyer who has represented utilities and bottled water companies.
-- Craig Pittman