Tag Archives: road concurrency

Fixing Florida Growth Management Law with a TCEA Exception Area

By Dom Nozzi

February 25, 2000

The Florida Growth Management law adopted in 1985 had a serious flaw regarding its “concurrency” rules that stated that new development could not lower adopted levels of service. The rule sounded wonderful, but had a serious, unintended consequence when applied to roads because it strongly promoted new development to occur in outlying areas where road capacity was plentiful. Such capacity is quite scarce in the in-town locations where new development is more desirable from the point of view of a community.

In other words, the law was strongly promoting sprawl and strongly discouraging infill development in town centers – the opposite of the intent of the law.

The major fix attempted for this flaw was for the State of Florida to adopt what it called “transportation concurrency exception areas” (TCEA) that communities could establish if they demonstrated to the State that they had factors in place to make such an exception work better (such as the provision of transit service in the exception area). To adopt TCEA as a tweak of the State growth law was essential to avoid the enormous unintended consequence of promoting sprawl and discouraging infill.

The TCEA has achieved two critical goals: Allowing communities to avoid having to enforce road concurrency where infill is desired, and removing a powerful sprawl incentive. Because road concurrency is the only level of service standard that matters,large lot subdivision because urban roads just outside the city are filling up, and because we need to reverse the fact that growth is much more rapid in such unincorporated urban areas around Florida cities than within cities (which is highly detrimental for a number of reasons), we need to be careful. Because even a paper tiger TCEA (ie, a TCEA that has weak conditions for being granted) is significantly better than no TCEA.

Having said all that, here are some tools for strengthening the TCEA rule, off the top of my head, to use TCEA to incentivize infill and discourage sprawl.

  • Be sure the TCEA is modest in size so that we can focus more on those areas where we truly want to encourage development. The TCEA area, in other words, should not extend out to suburban, drivable locations where transportation choice will not arise for several decades, if ever. Another benefit to a more modest TCEA size is that a smaller TCEA allows us to have stronger standards, since we inherently have to water TCEA down if it applies to an overly large area that captures suburbs.
  • Prevent the County from adopting their own TCEA in unincorporated urban areas around the city, since that would obviously would apply the TCEA to suburban sprawl locations where transportation choice is unlikely or impossible.
  • Within the TCEA, allow no net increase in road capacity: No new travel lanes or turn lanes.
  • Remove the parking minimum requirement within the TCEA. Requiring the provision of [free] parking as a condition for development approval is a fertility drug for cars.
  • Establish a high level of service for transit in the TCEA—say, a 10-minute transit frequency.
  • Do not allow drive-throughs.
  • If a project is over, say, 5 dwelling units or 10,000 square feet, require that the building be at least 2 stories high.
  • Allow no new cul-de-sacs.
  • Within a TCEA town or neighborhood center, require a minimum number of residential units per “X” square feet of non-residential floor area.
  • Require the commercial building front facade to be 0-20 feet from the front property line (for both streets if on a corner), and allow no car parking in front of the building.
  • Allow no block faces greater than 400-500 feet.
  • Require curb and gutter.
  • Pay RTS so that each employee or resident in the project is given a free transit pass.

Only with such meaningful requirements can a TCEA achieve growth management goals and not promote undesirable unintended consequences.


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Exempting New Development from Road Concurrency Rules

By Dom Nozzi

The State of Florida pioneered a seemingly beneficial rule that stated a new development could only be permitted if sufficient road capacity was available to absorb the new car trips that would be created by the proposed development.

Sounds wonderful, right? After all, how many of us have been stuck in traffic and cursed the local government for allowing new development without ensuring that the road system was adequate to handle the car trips from the new development?

A few mistaken assumptions are perpetuated by this seemingly desirable rule. First, it perpetuates the myth that it is necessary to maintain or improve road capacity at all costs as a way to retain or promote quality of life. Such thinking is seductive, because, after all, even progressives are against congested roads. However, the counterintuitive reality is that “free-flowing traffic” undercuts quality of life. This is because when car travel is eased in this way, more per capita car trips are created (particularly “low-value” car trips). Creating more car trips reduces the ability to safely or conveniently travel by walking, bicycle or transit. More car trips increases noise pollution and degrades residential quality of life. More car trips significantly increases household costs and therefore reduces housing and household affordability. Ease of car travel increases average car speeds, and increases the instances of dangerously inattentive driving.

A second problem perpetuated by the road concurrency rule is that it furthers the myth that it is possible for us to “build (widen) our way out of traffic congestion.”monstor hwy

But the most catastrophic, unintended consequence of this rule is that the rule powerfully promotes suburban sprawl. Why? Because in-town development, where new development tends to be preferred from a smart, compact development point of view, is significantly discouraged by the fact that in-town locations generally do not have any available road capacity for adding new car trips. The places in a community that tend to have available road capacity?

Dispersed sprawl locations.

The result of this state of affairs is that new development is made much less costly in sprawl locations and impossibly expensive for in-town locations.

A needed reform that Florida adopted, as a result of this unintended consequence, was to create “transportation concurrency exemption areas (TCEAs). By setting up such areas, the State granted local governments the ability to exempt new developments from road concurrency rules in places where new development was desired – such as in-town infill locations.

The important caveat, however, is that in my view, there must be meaningful design rules in place before the reward of transportation exemption is granted. Otherwise, developers are able to build “business as usual” projects that are car-dependent. Developments that will, in other words, create relatively large numbers of per capita or per household car trips.

What design requirements should we require to ensure that new development in these exemption areas delivers walkable, transit-conducive development, rather than drivable sprawl design?

1. First, the area that is exempted from road concurrency must be relatively small. By keeping the area small, the community is able to adopt relatively high-quality, meaningful design requirements for new development. If too large of an area is exempted, such rules must be watered down to avoid being excessively onerous.

2. Within the road concurrency exemption area, allow no net increase in road capacity. No new travel lanes or turn lanes should be allowed. This is because widening a road strongly promotes car trips and strongly discourages walking, bicycling or transit trips.

3. Instead of requiring car parking in the road concurrency exemption area, convert the former minimum parking rule into a maximum parking rule (a parking exemption that takes the position that too much parking is much worse than too little parking). Again, providing abundant and free car parking undercuts the essential objective of reducing car trips (parking is a fertility drug for cars).

4. Require frequent transit service in the road concurrency exemption area — say, a 10-minute transit frequency.

5. Do not allow drive-throughs in the road concurrency exemption area.

6. If a project is over, say, 5 dwelling units or 10,000 square feet, require that buildings be at least 2 stories high.

7. Allow no new cul-de-sacs, unless it is infeasible to do otherwise. Street connectivity must be extremely high.

8. To promote proximity, require that the development provide meaningful mixing of residences with offices, civic, jobs, recreation and retail shops. There should be a minimum number of residential units per “X” square feet of non-residential floor area.

9. Require the fronts of commercial buildings (the building façade) to abut the streetside sidewalk or otherwise be 0-20 feet from the front property line (for both streets if on a corner), and allow no car parking in front of the building.

10. Allow no block faces greater than 400-500 feet.

11. Require curb and gutter.

12. Provide each employee or resident in the project with a free transit pass.

13. Offer parking cash-out for employees in the new development, and unbundle the cost of parking from the cost of the residential units in the new development.

In sum, the above design requirements send a message in a road concurrency exemption area: “We give you an exemption. You give us walkable urbanism.”


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Why Dumping Florida’s Growth Management Law Is Not Such a Bad Idea

By Dom Nozzi

For 20 years, I was a long-range comprehensive planner for Gainesville, Florida. I was hired by to be a planner in 1986 to help that city comply with the 1985 Growth Management Law that the Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA) administered.

Frankly, I would find it difficult to shed tears if, as was proposed a few years ago, DCA (or the Growth Management Law) were dismantled.

The 1985 Growth Management Law was adopted largely as a way to protect quality of life in Florida, and prevent costly sprawl in Florida cities and counties.

But it almost entirely failed to do either.

The reason for its failure was that the “teeth” of the Law was “road concurrency.” That is, new development could not be approved unless it was demonstrated that adequate road capacity was available to serve the new development. This road concurrency standard, therefore, had as its implicit assumption that ensuring adequate road capacity and “free-flowing” traffic was the key to promoting quality of life and discouraging sprawl.

The consequence of the law, of course, was that roads were widened, in some cases, to maintain “adequate” road capacity, as a condition for development approval. When that was not possible, themonstor hwy development was either not given permission to build, or its density was substantially reduced as a condition for development approval.

Sprawl was therefore powerfully and unintentionally promoted because widened roads are the most powerful engine I know of for sprawl inducement. As noted above, the Growth Management Law was largely compelling developers and communities to widen roads, ironically.

Another enormous irony is that the road concurrency standard is anti-city and anti-infill (which promotes sprawl). Why? Because town centers and other infill areas tend to have the LEAST available/unused road capacity, and remote sprawl locations have the MOST available road capacity.

So the unspoken message from the Growth Management Law is if you wish to get road concurrency approval to obtain permission to construct a development project, you should build in sprawl locations rather than in town center locations to get road concurrency approval. After all, that is where the road capacity can be found!

In addition, if road capacity is not available for the proposed new development, it is quite common for the developer and the community to have insufficient funds to widen the road for more capacity. The common solution, as I noted above, is to therefore reduce the proposed development density (to load less car trips on the roads serving the development). To make it more suburban in density. Low suburban densities are ruinous to cities, and promote extremely high levels of unsustainable car dependency (by making walking, bicycling and transit extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Given this, my hope is that a challenge to the existence of DCA, the Growth Management Law, or both, in Florida will result in much-needed reform. Reform that can actually serve to promote quality of life, urbanism and sprawl reduction objectives.

Florida needs a substantially revised Growth Management Law. One that does not emphasize “adequate road capacity” as the key condition for development approval. Instead, it needs a law that requires something more in the direction of transect-driven, form-based coding (see http://transect.org/transect.html) as the key condition for approval. One that is designed to reward walkable, town center development – not punish it. One that is designed to promote a quality habitat for people, not cars.

All of this is not to say that Florida has a governor and legislature that is in any way sympathetic to quality urbanism. But I do believe that like with major hurricanes in Florida and Louisiana in recent times, this “dismantling” of DCA or the Florida Growth Management Law may be a critical opportunity for proponents of form-based land development codes to be involved in the much-needed reform of state planning laws and the state planning agency (DCA), so that the law delivers compact urbanism, not car-based sprawl.

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