After law changes, city alters how development will pay for transportation needs

The move comes after the Florida Legislature loosened growth management laws in 2011 and made concurrency — the requirement that roadways have sufficient space to accommodate increased traffic from a development in order for that development to be approved — optional for local governments.

The Legislature also eliminated from state law the option of transportation concurrency exception areas — the mechanism the city had in place since 1999 to allow developers to pay for an array of transportation improvements that included roads, transit, sidewalks and bicycle paths instead of taking on the costs of new road construction and widening roads that concurrency would mandate.

The rationale at the time was that the cost burden of paying for road concurrency requirements — and the unrealistic prospect of widening certain roads — had stopped development along stretches of West University Avenue, Newberry Road, Northwest 34th Street, Northwest 43rd Street and Northwest/Southwest 13th Street.

But the state’s 2011 changes required that, if local governments opt to continue with concurrency, they must do so by having developers pay through the same funding formula the city previously had said halted development in areas of the city and caused urban sprawl by pushing development toward more rural areas with road capacity.

On Thursday, city commissioners decided to take a different route in the ongoing process of updating the Comprehensive Plan that is expected to stretch into next spring.

A plan that advanced 5-0 with Mayor Craig Lowe and Commissioner Yvonne Hinson-Rawls absent would officially rescind concurrency and essentially replace the transportation concurrency exception areas the city had used with a transportation mobility program that would operate much the same way.

Under it, developers either could fund improvements to the transportation system directly or make payments to the city to fund transportation projects.

Commissioner Lauren Poe said that option recognized “the importance of maintaining a consistency with” the city’s current policies and allowed developers to “know what they’re working with and also know what they’re getting from their contributions.”

Representing the Builders Association of North Central Florida, Scott Buchanan, with AMJ Inc. of Gainesville, said the builders organization supported the proposal the city had advanced because it closely adhered to the current policies.

One option the city did not pursue was doing away with concurrency and requiring no payments into other transportation systems from developers.

Onelia Lazzari, with the Planning Department, said that essentially would have opened the door to developers and announced, “Let the good times roll.”