The recent changes made to Florida's growth management legislation have not diminished the importance of planning for our future, rather these changes have shifted the focus from state oversight to local responsibility and initiative. This is an opportunity for the jurisdictions throughout Florida to engage the citizens and businesses in their communities to determine what is most important as they look at the roadmap to their futures through their Comprehensive Plans.
Growth is coming. So, how do we address the challenges that face us today with an eye towards meeting the needs of our future? Careful planning at the local level will help us ensure a high quality of life and make Hillsborough County a place our children will be proud to call home. In the Summer 2011 issue of Florida Planning, a publication of the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association, they featured a legislative overview for planners. Mary Gibbs, AICP, Community Development Director for Lee County, took an insightful look at The Next Decade in Florida: A Local Government Perspective. Her viewpoint reflects the opportunities we have in Hillsborough County to create the best possible future as we Imagine 2035.
The Next Decade in Florida:
A Local Government Perspective
by Mary Gibbs, AICP
As local government planners we are asking how planning will change and how our roles will evolve in the next decade. These are daunting questions. If we could easily predict the future we might be playing the lottery instead of planning! Here's what I see as key issues for local planners:
There will be much more emphasis on local planning
Legislation adopted this session will have substantial impact on planning and permitting processes. Streamlining processes ironically seems to result in extra workload at the local level. Reduced state oversight will also result in less technical assistance. The next decade will foster more decision-making at the local level.
Budget issues are even more important
Are you sick of the phrase "do more with less?" I hope not because you can count on even more of that! Budgets and staffing have been cut substantially, yet the service level demands from customers and citizens continue to grow. Your elected officials may think that with declining permits there is no work to be done, but long-range planning is still required, and code enforcement violations continue to increase in a down economy. We will have to continue to be creative and efficient to deal with our dwindling budgets.
We will be dealing with the aftermath of the "bust" cycle and a flat economy
I don't see a return to the boom years, but that's not all bad. Planners will need to be more involved in economic development and helping to create a diversified economy. We will need to broaden our knowledge base to understand and accommodate the industries of the future. Sustainability has become more important than ever.
Retrofitting land use patterns
In the next decade, instead of focusing on new development, we need to reallocate density, reshape suburban development patterns and foster infill and redevelopment. The planner's role will require bringing our local governments together cooperatively to solve these problems on a larger scale. We also need to help citizens understand and reduce the fears of changing land use patterns. Additionally, most of the "good" property (developable property with few constraints) is entitled, leaving the more challenging parcels, requiring creativity and innovation.
The planner's role is expanding
The role of the planner will change and expand. Planners will need to focus even more on communication and interpersonal skills, along with negotiation, mediation and multi-tasking. We'll become less "planoholics" and more "communicators." There will be continued emphasis on citizen and stakeholder outreach and interaction. Planning will be more "customized," involving smaller scale plans such as community plans, sector plans and neighborhood plans. These plans should identify and save those "special places" that make our communities unique and give us our identity.
In summary, the good news is, without the frantic reactive pace of the past, we have time to deal with the important planning issues. This will be an interesting decade for local planners. My advice is to remain flexible and adaptive and embrace our new challenges. Above all, enjoy your work and keep a sensor of humor!