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The 2014 Florida Legislature considered many, and passed some, bills that impact growth management and environmental matters throughout the state.

We have identified and summarized those that will be of interest to our clients and others interested in land use, development and environmental issues in Florida.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact an attorney on Gunster’s environmental and land use team.

Growth management bills

Several growth management bills were passed during the 2014 session. Below is a summary of some of the key points from the bills that passed this year.

SB 374 (Growth Management – comprehensive plan amendment referenda)

SB 374 modifies Section 163.3187, Florida Statutes, as it relates to the initiative or referendum process for local government comprehensive plan and map amendments.

The bill mainly concerns the Town of Longboat Key. Currently, Section 163.3187, Florida Statutes, prohibits local government initiative or referendum processes relating to comprehensive plan amendments or map amendments, with one exception. This exception allows initiative or referendum processes (i) in effect on June 1, 2011, (ii) affecting more than five parcels of land and (iii) that were expressly authorized in a local government charter, to remain in place.

SB 374 removes from this exception the requirement that the initiative/referendum process must affect more than five parcels of land because the Town of Longboat Key’s charter provision regarding comprehensive plan amendments would otherwise have inadvertently been invalidated.

This bill will take effect upon approval of the governor.

SB 1070 (Fuel Terminals)

SB 1070 creates new Section 163.3206, Florida Statutes, to prohibit a local government from enacting land use provisions that could result in an existing fuel terminal being classified as a nonconforming use.

After July 1, 2014, no local government may amend its comprehensive plan, future land use map, or land development regulations to classify an existing fuel terminal as nonconforming.

In addition, SB 1070 provides that if a fuel terminal is destroyed or damaged due to a natural disaster, a local government must allow the repair (in a timely manner) of the fuel terminal to the capacity that existed before the natural disaster.

SB 1070 is not intended to preempt a local government’s ability to adopt and enforce the federal and state requirements related to fuel terminals, including safety and building standards, and its own safety and building standards. A local government’s authority may not conflict with federal or state fuel terminal safety and security requirements.

If approved by the governor, this bill takes effect on July 1, 2014.

HB 7023 (Economic Development – land use modifications & permit extensions)

HB 7023 is an economic development bill. It provides for an additional exemption under the Development of Regional Impact (“DRI”) aggregation rules in Section 380.0651, Florida Statutes.

The exemption would allow developments located in a county or municipality that qualifies as a dense urban land area (“DULA”) under Section 380.06(29), Florida Statutes, from being aggregated for DRI purposes. The classification of a local government as a DULA allows projects located within the jurisdiction that would otherwise be required to undergo DRI review to be exempt from this review. The effect of this change will be to allow existing DRIs located in DULAs from being aggregated with another development under 380.0651, Florida Statutes.

HB 7023 also provides for another two-year extension to certain permits and local development orders.

Any local government development order; building permit, including certificates of levels of service; and DEP or WMD permits issued per Chapter 373, part IV, Florida Statutes, that expire between January 1, 2014 and January 1, 2016, are extended and renewed for two years. This extension cannot be combined with extensions approved under section 14, Chapter 2009-96, Laws of Florida, as reauthorized by section 47, Chapter 2010-147, Laws of Florida; section 46, Chapter 2010-147, Laws of Florida; section 73 or 79 of Chapter 2011-139, Laws of Florida; or section 24 of Chapter 2012-205, Laws of Florida, if the extensions, when combined, exceed four years in total. Also, development orders extended under Section 380.06(19)(c)2, Florida Statutes, cannot be further extended under HB 7023.

The permit holder must notify the appropriate agency or local government by December 31, 2014, that it intends to extend the permit for two years under this bill.

The bill also renames “rural areas of critical economic concern” to “rural areas of opportunity.”

If approved by the governor, the bill takes effect July 1, 2014.

Environmental bills

The Florida Legislature passed a limited number of bills impacting environmental regulation. Importantly, two of the most significant pieces, companions HB 703 & SB 1464, and companions HB 1313 & SB 1576 did not pass. HB 703 & SB 1464 were the wide-ranging environmental bills touching on topics including duplicative regulation, consumptive use permitting and solid waste facilities. HB 1313 & SB 1576 were comprehensive legislation regulating springs across Florida, including provisions for the creation of springshed boundaries, baseline flow pattern development, completion of Basin Management Action Plans, adoption of fertilizer ordinances, and septic tank connection by local governments. Although this legislation failed in 2014, it will likely resurface next year. Water issues are predicted to be a legislative priority for the 2015 legislative session, particularly with the interest expressed by incoming House Speaker Crisafulli.

Below is a summary of some of the key points from the bills that passed this year.

HB 325 (Brownfields)

HB 325 clarifies the procedures for brownfield designation under the Brownfields Redevelopment Act. The bill also provides additional liability protection from property damage claims for entities responsible for rehabilitating brownfield sites.

If approved by the governor, the bill takes effect July 1, 2014.

HB 7171 (Establishing Minimum Water Flows and Levels for Water Bodies)

HB 7171 exempts rules that the DEP set establishing minimum flows and levels for the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers from the statutory legislation ratification requirement.

This bill will take effect upon the approval of the governor.

HB 7093 (Department of Environmental Protection)

HB 7093 revises multiple statutes to comport with changes made to the Petroleum Restoration Program and rehabilitation of contaminated sites. The bill also revises permit requirements for coastal construction and excavation, and requires the DEP adopt rules to establish criteria and guidelines for permit applicants.

If approved by the governor, the bill takes effect July 1, 2014.

SB 846 (Governmental Ethics)

SB 846 requires lobbyist registration prior to lobbying a water management district. Each lobbyist will also be required to disclose his/her client and the client’s main interests. Water management districts may adopt rules establishing procedures to govern the registration of lobbyists, including the adoption of forms and the establishment of a lobbyist registration fee.

If approved by the governor, the bill takes effect July 1, 2014.

SB 536 (Reclaimed Water)

SB 536 requires the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a comprehensive study regarding the expansion of the beneficial use of reclaimed water, stormwater, and excess surface water in the state. The bill further requires the DEP to hold at least two public meetings to gather input and also provide an opportunity for the public to submit written comment. The report is due by December 1, 2015.

If approved by the governor, the bill takes effect July 1, 2014.

HB 7091 (Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)

HB 7091 allows agricultural lands participating in a dispersed water storage program pursuant to a contract with the DEP to retain an agricultural classification for the duration of the inclusion of lands in such program or successor programs, and requires those lands to be assessed as nonproductive agricultural lands. If the land is diverted to a nonagricultural use, it must be assessed as any other nonagricultural land.

If approved by the governor, the bill takes effect July 1, 2014.

Budget

Budget allocations were made for the following environmental projects:

  • $172 million toward Lake Okeechobee and Everglades restoration
  • $88.5 million for local water projects
  • $47.2 million for beach restoration projects
  • $12.5 million for Florida Forever (plus $40 million for possible nonconservation land sales)
  • $5 million for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program
  • $50 million for Florida Keys wastewater improvements
  • $110 million for DEP petroleum site cleanups
  • $30 million for springs (including $5 million in agricultural spending)
  • $35.7 million for expanded agricultural water programs
  • $6.5 million for cleaning up dry cleaning contamination sites

The budget was submitted to the governor on May 20, 2014. He has until June 4 to decide whether to accept or veto each of these allocations.

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This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.

Gunster, Florida’s law firm for business, provides full-service legal counsel to leading organizations and individuals from its 11 offices statewide. Established in 1925, the firm has expanded, diversified and evolved, but always with a singular focus: Florida and its clients’ stake in it. A magnet for business-savvy attorneys who embrace collaboration for the greatest advantage of clients, Gunster’s growth has not been at the expense of personalized service but because of it. The firm serves clients from its offices in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa, The Florida Keys, Vero Beach and its headquarters in West Palm Beach. With more than 160 attorneys and 200 committed support staff, Gunster is ranked among the National Law Journal’s list of the 350 largest law firms. More information about its practice areas, offices and insider’s view newsletters is available at www.gunster.com.

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