Greater City Providence

Florida’s Plan: Sprawlimulus

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The St. Petersburg Times reports on Florida’s plan to stimulate the state’s economy. Basically they plan to deregulate the construction industry to make it cheaper and easier to build sprawl.

State legislators are pushing to dismantle the agency in charge of managing growth, arguing that it’s standing in the way of reviving Florida’s economy.

The move is one of a host of measures proposed by lawmakers to stimulate the state’s economy by loosening the rules on construction permitting. Other proposals include eliminating impact fees designed to make developers pay for roads, sewers and schools needed for growth, and cutting in half the time allowed for reviewing permits for wiping out wetlands.

Now as many of the commenters point out, it was speculative and unmitigated growth in the state that has resulted in thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of empty homes and condos that are now littered across the state. And correct me if I’m wrong, but real estate speculation is a wicked major humungous reason why we are in the economic mess we are in. The comments on the newspaper’s site are almost unanimous (I haven’t read them all, but it is pretty close) in condemning these proposals to loosen regulations and attempt to build their way out of the economic crisis.

Alex from Tampa
Real estate prices are in the dumps because there are more houses than people who want them. Why on earth would we want to build even more? It would only drive prices further down.

Don from St. Pete Beach
This is precisely the type of thinking that got is into our present economic mess. Clearly the development lobby is behind this. It is time the residents had a lobby of their own.

My favorite comment:

Vikki from Palm Harbor
Attention Floridians! Stop watching Dancing with the Stars and contact your state legislators to stop this madness! Act now, before the wing-nuts in Tallahassee destroy our beautiful state forever.

Why is it that citizens get it, but the legislatures don’t? One commenter from Oregon pointed out that they have strict growth regulation, and are far less effected than the rest of the country by the foreclosure crisis (I don’t have any figures at hand to prove that though). Another commenter said he was planning to retire to Oregon. I never really considered where people who live in Florida retire to.

In Florida they’re trying to build their way out of a crisis they built their way into. Here in Rhode Island we’re looking at what, slot machines to get us out of the crisis? There must be a better way. And whatever we do to end the crisis needs to not set us up for future crises.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • Jef,

    Just stumbled onto your blog. Great stuff! I’ve been checking it every day to quench the thirst of my Providence related obsession! Keep up the good work.

    – Anthony

  • Well Rhode Island is guilty too.

    We’re under the impression we can pave roads and build bridges to get ourselves out of trouble; Trouble that’s in no small part caused by the waste and interest payments we’ve thrown at our infrastructure for the past two decades.

    See, here in Rhode Island, we have really high government overhead, because we have so many municipalities, a consistently veto-proof legislature, and not a lot of land or people to spread the costs to. By our size and location alone, we’re going to have to outlay more per-capita to roads and bridges than many other states.

    We’ve also -borrowed- tens of millions, every time the referenda come around, to ‘fix the roads and bridges with matching federal dollars!’, only to see the roads and bridges get worse and worse. What makes us think that the stimulus money will be any better spent than what we’ve already loaned-out far in excess of what we can afford in the budget?

    When you have a spending problem, you can throw money at it, but when you have an -efficiency- problem on top of it, all the money you throw just ‘feeds the beast’. What we need in Rhode Island is a competitive tax structure that acknowledges that our neighbors are close enough to compete for our dollars, followed by -serious- privatization, competition, and accounting in both public works projects and governance as a whole.

    I’m no fan of the economics of the right wing, I’m a -very- liberal dude myself, but I can say that Rhode Island didn’t buy-in to the idea that low taxes and relaxed zoning and permitting were a good idea, and now there’s no reason to set up shop here when you can cover our entire state from Massachusetts.

    If anything, we should have a -lower- tax rate than Massachusetts, so they buy stuff at -our- stores. We should build -destination casinos- in our downcity, not blue-collar gambling-dens in the ‘burbs. I also think we should capitalize on our already-legal prostitution status and build brothels attached to these destination casinos. Hell, we could have Saudi princes dropping tens of thousands per night into our economy, but we’re more concerned with bickering over we should or shouldn’t bail-out some nasty smoke-den of a shady casino in the boonies.

  • Anthony, thanks, glad you found us and glad you’re enjoying it.

    Marc, I agree 1000% with pretty much everything you say. I’m a little iffy on casinos, but I concur, if we are to have a casino, it should be big, high class, and in the city. And I agree with the brothels. Throw in legalized marijuana too.

  • I just think that to compete with our neighbors, we have to be -a -better- place to live, and the best way to do that is for Rhode Island to be a bastion of personal freedoms in the normally-uptight northeast.

    Another thing that bothers me is how we handle population growth; we subsidize the poor and uneducated to have children for free, while taxing the upper and middle classes to pay for it. While I understand that this is a very -compassionate- idea, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot in the long-run. What we -should- do is have some sort of tax benefit or public benefit to keep our college grads here. Imagine if we provided assistance for -college graduates- (which I am not, by the way) to buy a house in-state, or have babies in-state! We need to do something to incentivize the middle and upper classes to stay and reproduce here. I know this sounds very… NeoCon, but again, I’m a liberal dude who watched all the ‘smart kids’ I grew up with leave town for greener pastures.

Providence, RI
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