The key element in Florida’s growth management process is the local comprehensive plan, which is a blueprint for local development. These plans are built around a land use map that specifies what types of development are allowed in what areas. Plans must be approved by Florida’s Department of Community Affairs and every local government is required to have one. The state can assess penalties on local governments whose plans do not meet the approval of the Department of Community Affairs.
The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has created specific guidelines to prevent local comprehensive plans from allowing urban sprawl. These guidelines have now been made a part of the Florida Administrative Code that governs the creation of local comprehensive plans. While the concept of preventing urban sprawl sounds desirable, the DCA guidelines will prevent efficient development patterns and, in general, will have a harmful effect on Floridians.
Florida’s growth management policies have the effect of making developed and developable land more expensive, thus raising the cost of housing. This is especially harmful to lower-income Floridians, who tend to be renters. It lowers the value of land and the property tax base, thus increasing tax burdens on those who rent or own developed property. While there will be some gainers and some losers in the process, accounting for all the changes in property values due to growth management illustrates an unambiguous net loss to Floridians.
The effects of Florida’s growth management policies will be slow to show up because the amount of land developed in any particular year will always be small compared to the amount of land previously developed. As of 1995 the effects have barely shown up, so it is too soon to judge the success or failure of growth management based on that evidence. The full effects will not be visable for a decade or more. The danger is that as harmful effects do begin to appear, people will not recognize them as the direct result of growth management policies and will demand that the government create new laws to mitigate the harm caused by the old laws. In states where this has already happened, the negative consequences of poorly designed land use restrictions are apparent.