Florida Comprehensive Planning: A Critical Analysis of the Sarasota County 2050 Plan

If you Google the words “comprehensive plan Florida” you will get 11.6 million hits. Florida cities and counties by law have produced comprehensive plans. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has an entire submission and process to review local comprehensive plans.

Section 163.3191 of  Florida Statutes requires “At least once every 7 years, each local government shall evaluate its comprehensive plan to determine if plan amendments are necessary to reflect changes in state requirements in this part since the last update of the comprehensive plan, and notify the state land planning agency as to its determination.”

What we have is state bureaucrats overseeing local bureaucrats comprehensive plans to meet their criteria for comprehensive planning. The planners are planning for the planners who are planning for every property owner in Florida. All of this is amounts to one thing – the control of dirt.

He who controls Florida’s dirt, controls all Floridians

The sole victim of comprehensive planning is you. Whether you live here year around, are a snow bird, business owner, visitor or just passing through the sunshine state you are impacted.

Supporters of comprehensive planning are not just bureaucrats. Bureaucrats do not live in a vacuum.  They need supporters, like minded people who are willing to support their ever expanding efforts to control dirt. They need elected officials who are willing to, on their recommendations, pass ever more stringent rules, policies and local ordinances to control the dirt.

One man who knows all about dirt and comprehensive planning is John C. Minder.  John is the founder of Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation. Minder & Associates are certified land surveyors and engineers. John’s company has offices in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. His clients have been the victims of comprehensive planning.

John has decided to enter the political arena by running for the Sarasota County Commission in District 4. His campaign is focused on eliminating the Sarasota County 2050 Plan. Doing away with it entirely. A needed move according to Minder to stop the government control of property and to insure individual property rights.

I had the opportunity to sit down with John for nearly three hours. He educated me on how the Sarasota County 2050 Plan was created and how it is not working to benefit landowners, citizens and Sarasota’s economy.

Why is the Sarasota County 2050 plan bad for Sarasota County?

As John would likely put it “let me count the ways.” From the concept of “fiscal neutrality” to “five acre lots” East of Interstate 75 to the building of “villages”, the 2050 Plan stops economic growth by controlling the dirt. The Sarasota County 2050 Policy states:

Adopted on July 10, 2002, Sarasota 2050 creates a set of policies overlaid on top of the Comprehensive Plan’s Future Land Use Map of Sarasota County. It establishes an optional policy framework to enhance the livability of the County by preserving its natural, cultural, physical, and other resources with an incentive-based system for managing growth.

The 2050 Plan is about “future land use” (controlling dirt) and “managing growth” (by controlling dirt). The justification is to create a Utopia in Sarasota County by controlling all “natural, cultural, physical and other resources.” Comprehensive planning is all about control, not economic development. It “enhances livability” by controlling people’s lives and ability to live free from government.

In an email exchange between Minder, Dan Lobeck, an anti-growth advocate, and Lourdes Ramirez, District 4 Republican primary candidate for County Commission, we get a stark view of how like minded people, Lobeck and Ramirez, support the control of dirt. Minder questions land use East of I-75 and fiscal neutrality. Minder believes that banks will not finance five acre lot developments as currently restricted by the Sarasota 2050 plan. The email thread begins with Minder taking exception to the Lourdes Ramirez threat  “CONA is petitioning Sarasota County to leave the fiscal neutrality policy as is to ensure, as you stated, that the developments under Sarasota 2050 does pay its own way.” Minder calls fiscal neutrality “a bunch of nonsense.”

Minder notes that “The 2050 Plan with its ‘Fiscal Neutrality Nonsense’ in its present state only allows 5 Acre Lots outside of ‘the Villages’ and 5 Acre Lots are selling at the present time for $500,000 and up and that is not affordable housing.”

Lobeck responds with:

“The financing excuse is not tenable for at least two reasons.  First, the large developers most likely to build under Sarasota 2050 have the resources to pay fiscal neutrality exactions without financing, such as Pat Neal or Schroeder-Manatee.  Second, and perhaps most significantly, fiscal neutrality is now typically reevaluated in phases, and it would seem likely that a Village or other Sarasota 2050 development would or easily could be financed in phases.  It is this requirement for a “true up” report at each phase that the developers want to eliminate.”

What Lobeck fails to understand is that any costs for land development are passed along to the home buyer and businesses.

Ramirez states:

It’s pretty simple but I could see why you’re confused. Here is a simple explanation.

Let’s take a development that has 1000 acres that currently is a open use estate district: 1 unit per 5 acres. That is what the developer owns and according to our local laws is entitled to build. That 1000 acres will yield a total number of 200 homes. Get it?

This 1000 aces development with the right for 200 homes will not need a lot of government services. There will be limited amount of roads but no schools, firehouses or parks since there are only 200 homes in the development

Say our local government decides to offer as a generous gift – an opportunity to get a huge increase in density. They offer 5 units per acre so now that same 1000 acres can get 5000 units.

What a great gift! The developer can keep what they have (200 units) or get a mini-city (5000) units. But with 5000 households the county must now offer a fire station, more sheriff patrols, additional water, sewer services, lots of roads etc.

So the county states the development must pay for these extra government services if the the developer chooses to accept the gift of increase density. That is fiscal neutrality.

Sounds like a fair deal.

No, it is not a fair deal for the new home buyer.

Ramirez wants to make the homes more expensive by limiting the number that can be built per acre. This means that affordable housing, which is a goal of Sarasota County government, cannot be built. The more homes per acre, the lower the cost per home, the lower the price per home and the more affordable the housing. And, the more people paying taxes for the services provided. Lobeck and Ramirez are driving up the price of homes, stopping affordable housing and raising the costs on all Sarasotans. It is a lose, lose, lose for economic development.

The Sarasota 2050 plans benefits only bureaucrats whose jobs depend on finding new ways to control dirt. Lobeck and Ramirez are supporters of controlling dirt and thereby controlling the lives and life choices of current and future residents of Sarasota County. Want to know more? Have a chat with John Minder, he will explain it to you.

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