Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Tragedy of What We Are Doing to Ourselves

By Dom Nozzi

In Florida, Orlando and Daytona exemplify a terrifying, tragic nightmare that has been occurring over the past several decades in that state. Those cities squandered several decades of public wealth in an obsessive, relentless effort to make cars happy. By building so much street and highway capacity, they’ve doomed themselves to an inevitable future of financial misery and utter ruin of their quality of life. Most all cities in Florida have committed this blunder, which means we’ve created a bunch of white elephants that are hopeless, embarrassing indictments of our culture.traffic jam on huge hwy

One of the great ironies for Florida is that the state created a statewide growth management law (circa 1985) which supposedly was designed to protect quality of life in the face of rapid growth. Foolishly, the law creates a “road concurrency” rule that does not allow a new development to “degrade” the “level of service” for roads.

Florida applies this concurrency rule to several types of facilities. Predictably, however, road concurrency is the only concurrency rule that matters (in terms of being enforced). What road concurrency did, tragically, was make Florida even MORE obsessed with building more road capacity for cars (or fighting against traffic congestion – a hopeless, counterproductive task), which is the WORST thing Florida could do to its quality of life and efforts to control sprawl. After all, in a city, all of the available road capacity is in the outlying sprawlsville locations. Road capacity is NOT found at in-town locations – which is precisely and appropriately where Florida wants to encourage more urbanism.

It is the madness of a people being their own worst enemy.

And to think that Florida is often held up as a model for growth management…

For almost two decades, since about 1990, I was telling anyone who would listen that Florida needs to abandon road concurrency if the state wants to have any hope of protecting or creating communities worth living in. Of course, no one paid attention.

Some communities in Florida have recognized the road concurrency mistake, and seem to be on a path of giving developers exemptions from road concurrency. However, as far as I could see, that exemption was being offered to developers without using that strong concurrency leverage to get quality walkable urbanism in return. In my many years as a town planner working within the Florida growth management concurrency regime, I often dreamed about having regulations that would require walkable design and civic pride. But now that such leverage has started to emerge, communities in Florida are squandering it.


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Filed under Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design