live local act gives city commissioners grief, will express concerns to legislators.
This week, the city commission approved a motion to have city attorney Paul Buchman draft a letter to state legislators Danny Burgess and Lawrence McClure addressing challenges the municipality is facing with the Live Local Act, passed by the Florida Legislature earlier this year as a means to turbocharge construction of affordable housing in the state.
With housing costs spiking in Florida, at first glance the act seems like a no-brainer but the devil’s in the details. While the law does make hundreds of millions of dollars in low-interest loans and tax breaks available to developers, it preempts local governments from enforcing requirements regarding zoning, density and height for certain multifamily and mixed-use residential developments deemed “affordable” by the act. The new law also requires cities to approve the projects without hearings where elected officials could seek public input and discuss and vote on the proposals.
“At first glance, the actions related to the Live Local Act would appear to be outside any commission vote,” said Mayor Nate Kilton. “I think the biggest challenge with the Live Local Act is that it is potentially counter-productive to long-term planning done by municipalities through the Comprehensive Plan.”
City Manager Bill McDaniel agrees. “This law is so new that jurisdictions around the state are asking questions about how it applies, how it balances against comprehensive planning and other activities that jurisdictions take to chart their path forward,” said McDaniel. “Hence we’re asking lots of questions and doing our homework as we move forward with this.”
The letter should be drafted in a couple of weeks.
After commissioners voted on the drafting of the letter, Kilton opened the floor to public comments, when two Walden Lake residents expressed their anger about the new proposal by Walden Lake LLC, under the Live Local Act, to build apartments and townhomes on property in the established neighborhood. One resident blasted the city for the current situation because it didn’t purchase the property more than a decade ago to use as a municipal golf course. “I’m saddened that the city didn’t lift one finger to help the 2,000 homeowners that built this city, this council has failed Walden Lake,” she said.
Walden Lake resident Mike Fletcher remarked that the Live Local Act is a great idea but it needs to be fixed. “If there’s a problem with the law it needs to be changed so you have the ability to represent the community that has elected you,” he said. “It’s tragic to see the potential of a community being destroyed.”