The idea behind the “Live Local” bill adopted by the Florida Legislature is to ramp up the inventory of affordable housing across the state, so workers can afford to live where they work.
In Pasco County’s case, however, the effects of the bill could make it even harder for the county to escape the bedroom-community role it has played for decades.
Part of the Live Local bill makes it impossible for local governments to block the conversion of existing commercial and industrial sites to be developed for multifamily use, if the project meets requirements regarding the provision of affordable housing units for a specified period. The law also provides a tax break for such projects.
The Pasco County Commission made it clear at its June 20 meeting that efforts must be made to either exempt the county from the new law, or provide some other kind of change that would prevent Pasco from falling into an even larger housing/jobs imbalance.
Pasco has been making strides in recent years to protect its industrial and commercial lands and to put those sites into a posture where they are ready for companies that provide high-wage jobs.
The county also has taken steps to avoid the conversion of commercial and industrial land into residential use because of the county board’s desire to provide jobs closer to home for its residents.
As it stands now, about seven out of 10 of Pasco’s workers commute to another county for their job.
The board has been trying to change that, through its protection of commercial and industrial sites.
Board members had plenty to say about the Live Local law, during their June 20 session.
Shawn Foster, the county’s lobbyist from Sunrise Consulting, said he’s already discussed the pre-emption portion of Senate Bill 102 with State Sen. Ed Hooper, who said he would like to meet with the county about its concerns about the potential implications it has on the county’s economic development projects.
Pasco County Commissioner Seth Weightman said, “We know we’re housing-rich and jobs-poor.”
David Goldstein, the county’s chief assistant county attorney, said “I think when Senate Bill 102 was originally proposed, it was sort of done as a one-size-fits-all, but I’m not sure it really is appropriate for certain counties.
He said it doesn’t make sense to him to apply Senate Bill 102 to counties that have a poor ratio of jobs to housing.
Weightman said he’s aware of three projects that already have set their sights on converting general commercial parcels into multifamily developments, under provisions of the Live Local bill.
They represent a total of 786 units.
“They’re not blighted areas. They’re not areas of redevelopment. They’re prime time areas,” Weightman said.
He’s concerned that the county has no control over this type of development, making it much more difficult for the county to plan to handle the developments’ traffic and other impacts.
“How we are going to go about managing these things and how we go about budgeting, especially since they’re tax-exempt.” Weightman said.
Alexander Alt, intergovernmental affairs officer for the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, said residential development has a greater impact on public services than other types of development.
“Whenever you get a piece of land that was zoned agriculture or commercial use and basically becomes multifamily or some large housing development, you see a continued strain on government services, whether that be the sheriff’s office, fire/rescue or just all government services, in general,” he said.
Weightman added: “There’s a lot of challenges. I don’t think our Legislature meant any ill intent. There’s a lot of good portions of this bill.
“Counties like ours, and other rural and growing counties, we really need to stand together and lock-arms, to protect our job-creating sites. It’s not something I’m willing to back off on.”
“I don’t want to see those sites disappear because they’re not a dime-a-dozen.”
“I think time is of the essence,” he said.
Pasco County Commission Chairman Jack Mariano agreed: “With all of these apartments coming in, without the jobs to go with it, it just kills us.”
Lobbyist Foster encouraged the board to work with their colleagues from other counties to make this a priority issue for the Florida Association of Counties.
“I’m not talking No. 20. I’m talking right up there, No. 1, No. 2, No. 3. This needs to be a major priority,” he said.
Published July 04, 2023