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, 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.