Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tom Pelham resigns, Energy Efficiency in Comp Plans Delayed

Tom Pelham, Secretary of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has confirmed his resignation effective at the close of business on January 3, 2011 – the day before Governor-Elect Scott will be inaugurated. 

Pelham was a staunch advocate for Florida’s 1985 Growth Management law which he had a central role in implementing while running the agency for Gov. Bob Martinez from 1987-91.  He was appointed Secretary again in 2007 by Gov. Crist who recently asked his agency heads to submit letters of resignation so the Scott administration can start fresh.

The Secretary’s tenure the past four years was not without controversy.  The development community has complained regularly that DCA is stopping growth, and incoming Governor Scott has echoed that the agency is “killing jobs”. 

At the beginning of the 2010 session he informed legislature that DCA did not interpret the previous year’s growth management bill, SB 360, which created dense land use areas (DULAs) exempted from transportation concurrency requirements, the way they expected.  He told them

their action had not “reached down and changed all the local comprehensive plans” from Tallahassee and that localities could opt for DULAs, but that they were not mandated.  (SB 360 was later found unconstitutional by the Circuit Court in Leon County, but its decision is stayed pending an appeal.)

In a related development, Secy. Pelham has ordered the suspension of rulemaking implementing changes to Rule 9J-5 because there is insufficient time to finish the process before the new administration takes over.

Rule 9J-5 deals with local comprehensive plan amendments and the requirements to be met for approval.  The changes to it would have addressed how to determine need as a function of population for additional development (including seasonal) and would have required local governments to include energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction provisions in their comprehensive plan updates. 

Early this year Sierra Club Florida submitted comments to DCA urging strong transit and walkability policies with respect to land use to reduce greenhouse gases mandated by HB 697.  It will now be up to the Scott administration to implement these changes.

David Cullen, Sierra Club Florida lobbyist