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Growth management overhaul is 'undermining everything' critics say

Florida, which ranks near the top nationally for foreclosures and already has more than 1.5 million homes sitting empty, is poised to make it easier and cheaper for developers to build more of them.

State lawmakers — reciting Gov. Rick Scott’s mantra that reducing regulations will spark the sluggish economy — are on the verge of a major “streamlining” of growth management laws. Critics contend it amounts to a bulldozing.

“We’re not only throwing the baby out with the bath water, we’re literally ripping the bathtub out of the floor and throwing that out the window, too,’’ said Charles Lee, a lobbyist for Audubon of Florida, during a Wednesday conference call organized by nine conservation groups.

The groups contend bills speeding through the House and Senate would gut a state oversight process strengthened 26 years ago in an effort to control the rampant sprawl of strip malls and suburbs that left roads and schools overcrowded, plowed under wetlands and woods and strained water supplies.

At the top of the list of rules to go: reviews by the Department of Community Affairs of local government land-use decisions. That process, long labeled “red tape” by developers and local politicians, has usually been a speed bump to growth statewide but DCA oversight has proved critical in South Florida, helping to maintain the urban development boundary in Miami-Dade County and to preserve the last remaining hardwood hammocks and wetlands in the Florida Keys. More here.