Deadwood, S.D., is hardly anyone's idea of a densely populated area.
Yet Florida lawmakers may eliminate state oversight of major projects in areas only slightly more congested than the legendary ghost town. Most alarming for smart growth advocates and environmentalists is that the bill eliminates a requirement that development be steered into areas with existing roads, schools and utilities.
Under SB 372, sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, large projects would no longer be reviewed by state officials if proposed for counties with a population of more than 300,000. The exemption is already in place for eight counties with populations of 900,000 or more — including Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and Pinellas. The bill would add seven more, including Pasco, Sarasota and Galvano's home county of Manatee.
The bill renders a crucial concept in growth management — density — meaningless. Under the bill, exempt areas would have to hold only 400 people per square mile. Currently, density in Florida is defined as 1,000 people per square mile.
By comparison, Manhattan has 170,000 people per square mile, Tampa has 2,960, Gainesville 1,993, and Deadwood, a town known largely for tumbleweeds, 332.
"It's absurd to refer to that as 'dense,' " said David Cullen, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club Florida. "That comes to about one house per three square acres. How can anyone possibly call that dense?"
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