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Research Question

To what extent do local urban development policies (Local Comprehensive Plans)
can protect Florida’s ecosystem along economic growth?
In July 2014, the United Nations Population Fund reported an estimated of 58%
of the world’s population resides in metropolitan areas, a rate that is expected to increase
to 68% by 2050. The UN’s report adds that the population of world’s urban area will
surpass six billion by the end of 2045.1 This raises the prospect of overly crowded and
unhealthy urban areas threatened by the acceleration of environmental degradation. City
Development Strategies involve a wide range of stakeholder, including politicians whose
top priorities are urban and economic growth, which put pressure on the environment.
While political support is vital for the acceptance and implementation of city
development plans, to what extent can urban planners reconcile these challenges at the
local level through an integrated and sustainable approach to planning?
Although the US has one of the most comprehensive environmental urban policy
structures, and amid its strict urban development regulations and permitting processes, it
has failed to avert the deterioration of its ecosystem and natural resources. Increasing
urban growth and thus usage of environmental and natural resources have neglected
water quality and the overall healthy natural environment.2 Conversions of land to

1 The United Nation’s 2014 revision of the World Urbanization Prospects, “World’s
population increasingly urban with more than half living in urban areas,”, July 10, 2014.
2 Szaro, Robert C., Sexton, William T., Malone, Charles R., “The emergence of
ecosystem management as a tool for meeting people’s needs and sustaining


2 . effective implementation of these policies can be achieved. This study aims to study whether managing ecological systems from a locallevel planning perspective (reviewing planning processes and the local-level factors that influence Florida’s ecosystem plan quality) is more effective in preserving natural resources in comparison to federal or state imposed environmental plans. and public infrastructure can be developed at the least possible cost. 2004. don't eat your seed corn. it is more likely that at the local level. and ensuring that industry and other economic opportunities continue to flourish. David M. through local comprehensive planning efforts. with its three major pillars (agriculture. well3 Bush. Furthermore. tourism. procedures and practices at local level urban planning can safeguard Florida’s nature and preserve natural environment in a less expensive and even more effective fashion than very well intentioned state and/or federal ecological protection plans.” Duke University Press. Pursuing environmental-friendly policies.agriculture.. As wise old farmers have long had said. Local Comprehensive Plans’ Direct Role in Preserving Florida’s Natural Resources Florida’s environment is its most vital economic strength.3 Thus protecting Florida’s environment and natural resources is crucial to protect these economic pillars. Sound land use planning efforts are vital to direct economic growth and associated land development to areas that both pose less harm to Florida’s environment. and suburban sprawl have mainly contributed to the continued degradation of natural environment. “Living with Florida's Atlantic Beaches: Coastal Hazards from Amelia Island to Key West. Furthermore. and land development) significantly depending and impacting the states environment.

planned rural development in appropriate geographic locations. the comprehensive plans determine the foundation for communities land and urban development guidelines. formulate Comprehensive Plans that set the basis for urban resource management and land-use regulations. 3 .. zoning regulations. Following the Growth Management Act of 1985.4 The local-level comprehensive plans set forth and describe the objectives. Meanwhile. state’s required ability to review local comprehensive plans has effectively led to urban development planning efforts with less impact on environment and natural resources. which regulate land development and urban planning expected to be very promising. 4 Chapter 163. Due to this official legal standing and considering the central role of local Comprehensive Plans urban development decision-making processes. All land development policies. every local government if Florida (more than 470). and the essential initiatives to meet these communities’ objectives and short/long-term goals. Florida Statutes of Florida’s 1985 growth management legislation mandates that all counties and municipalities establish Comprehensive Plans and seek approval for these plans from Florida’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA). which provides long-term protection for Florida’s ecosystems. which define communities’ anticipated growth and urban development. cities and counties. integration of environmental-friendly regulations in the appropriate sections of local Comprehensive Plans. State of Florida mandates that local communities. regulations and land growth related practices have to be in accordance with the local governments’’ adopted and approved Comprehensive Plan. has been obligated to have a comprehensive plan designed based on jurisdiction-wide basis. Furthermore.3161 et seq. in addition to policies that direct daily decision-making processes in regards to land-use and urban development. will enhance state’s quality of life.

Future Land Use Map: a Local Comprehensive Plan’s Element. however. zoning codes and environmental policies. location and extent of various categories. Which Enables Environmental Considerations As a part of Comprehensive Plans. such as National Estuary Programs and/or EMA plans. as regulatory and prescriptive map determines the type of land-uses allowed in each and specific areas within jurisdictions. Therefore. Every FLUM adopted under local comprehensive plan is reviewed and approved by the 4 . if the goal is to implement environmental considerations and ecosystem management programs.Florida comprehensive plans outline land development regulations. The FLUM requirement safeguards that developments of urban areas precede along sufficient public infrastructure do not negatively impact local ecosystems and natural habitats such as wetlands and do not increase the harmful impact of urban sprawl. These FLUMs are now required to accommodate projected development growth for a 10-year period utilizing the University of Florida’s population projections. fail to effectively incorporate and thus consider regional environmental plans and activities. This requirement for each jurisdiction. they must be rooted in the local level comprehensive plans and policy guiding development decisions. This is significant as local comprehensive plans are where the rubber hits the road and directly impact natural habitats and long-term ecological processes. each local government is mandated to develop a Future Land Use Map (FLUM) designed to plan counties’ future land distribution.

FLUM also creates opportunities for local planners and activates to address environmental concerns in a long-term fashion.. which 5 Mura. an environmental planer for Hillsborough Planning Commission. Hillsborough County’s activist and local planners’ ongoing attempt to encourage local governments to consider the consequents of climate change in their FLUMs is an example of local-level influence on preserving ecosystem. Shawn College. Hillsborough Activists Reform Local County’s FLUM to Address Climate Change Concerns With an estimated one thousand miles of coastline and low-lying landscape. a 2011 study by the Brookings Institute suggests that metro areas in Florida have emitted more greenhouse gases per resident than any other major metropolitan areas in the US. Jonathan. 2011. told me that the proposed change is considered to be just one line in a the extensive local Comprehensive Plans for Hillsborough.” Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. Temple Terrance and Plant City counties that are due to review their FLUMS this year. Mark. 5 . according to a 2007 report. Meanwhile. such as the Hillsborough Planning Commission’s current attempt to integrate considerations regarding the effects of climate change in County’s upcoming FLUM review. “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment. Rothwell. therefore acts as a legally binding regulator that clear guidance for future urban development patterns. Florida is one the most vulnerable states to the climate change effects and its consequent sea level rise.5 Moreover. He also told me that the proposed change..state. 40 percent of Florida’s greenhouse gas emission is rooted in its transportation.

College. this is a notable step for the state of Florida. Local Comprehensive Plans’ Indirect Role in Preserving Florida’s Natural Resources Reducing Florida’s vulnerability through protecting and improving natural and environmental protective features serves state’s ecosystem 6 .” which is seemingly less “politically sensitive phrase. Despite rising County commissioners’ objections to the propose change in Comprehensive Plans. which is facing rising sea levels and endangered wetlands." However ambiguous or vague. It is worth noting that the Pinellas County has already included numerous direct instructions for addressing climate change in its Comprehensive Plan and its FLUM since 2008.” According to Mr.empowers the local governments to address climate change in their planning efforts. members of the county board have welcomed and considered changes in Comprehensive Plans to address the potential impacts and consequences of rising sea levels in counties’ urban planning efforts and their developments of FLUM. does not even reference “climate change.” The exact language used by the Planning Commission's for the section on Coastal Management in aforementioned counties’ local comprehensive plans is stated as: "Develop strategies to address issues associated with climate adaptation in collaboration with the Planning and the Environmental Protection Commission. proposed changed refers to climate change as “climate adaptation.

floridajobs. As such. Unmanaged urban development has permanently or partially damaged or destroyed these ecological protective features and severely impacted nature’s capability to absorb rainfall. the main federal and state’s emphasize to local governments have been on hard flood and erosion protective measures and structures such as levees.pdf. beaches and dunes. in some cases. natural drainage ways and wetlands. planned unit development regulations.6 Restoring and enhancing natural protective features of the community’s environment. if considered and pursued as a measure to reduce community’s vulnerability toward natural disasters can impact major land use planning and development management such as. subdivision regulations. federal and state’s resources have been extended to preserve and enhance these ecological protective features and to impose federal conservation plans such as National Estuary Program (NEP). 7 . and dams and beach and dune re-nourishment projects. According to Florida Department of Community seawalls. site design 6 Florida Department of Community Affairs. some communities and counties (such as Pinellas County) have developed policies and land development regulations embedded with their comprehensive plans. setbacks and buffers. September 2005. overlay districts. “Protecting Florida’s Communities: Land Use Planning Strategies and Best Development Practices for Minimizing Vulnerabilities to Flooding and Coastal Storms. Meanwhile. water overflow and particularly storm. which are adopted to preserve these ecological protective features.Natural and ecological features are known to effectively make Florida’s environment less hazardous and safer for its residents by providing long-lasting protection from the devastating impacts of storms and floods in many different forms including floodplains. zoning regulations.” http://www. building codes.

cluster development. transfer of development rights. in 7 Everglades Foundation. freesimple property acquisition. while employing setbacks to protect buffer zones/lands surrounding the natural protective features. Therefore. high winds. purchase-and-sellback or leaseback. hurricanes. Although.” http://www. protection has been granted to wetlands (in a case by case fashion and as a result of public initiatives or political decisions) such as Big Cypress Swamp and the water conservation units of the South Florida Water Management District. financial capital and operating costs and education and information elements of urban planning and development efforts. and later Key Largo. wetlands such the Everglades are in irreparable deterioration due to the decline in quality and quantity of water. agriculture and recreational purposes has had negative consequences on water-based features such as wetlands. However. Federal and state regulations have been enforced in order to protect and maintain natural protective features. “How is the Everglades Ecosystem Threatened?. the lack of strict state/federal policies and initiatives to prevent interruption of water for urban.regulations and performance standards. incentive zoning.7 Pinellas County Natural Disaster Planning: A Mitigation Strategy Serving County’s Ecosystem Pinellas County is statistically vulnerable to natural hazards such as coastal storms. capital expenditure policies and 8 .evergladesfoundation. purchase of development rights and easements. beach erosion and fresh water flooding. These approached include land use regulation aimed at preventing damage to preexisting natural protective features.

pinellascounty.pdf. “Chapter 5: National Estuary Program Coastal Condition. the absence of these natural buffers has dramatically increased county’s vulnerability. County’s mitigation strategy has played a key role in controlling these developments at the interest of residents’ safety and county’s ecosystem. which was included in its Comprehensive Plan. Amid economic pressure to construct and develop urban areas more intensely close to the coastline.htm 9 National Estuary Program Coastal Condition Report. vegetation and beach management. Pinellas County developed a uniform. community-wide local natural disaster mitigation strategy. Pinellas County acknowledges that in the areas where beached have eroded and dunes disappeared due to urban developments.epa.” http://water. the local mitigation strategy is designed to provide a “countywide blueprint for a unified and consistent course of action needed to eliminate or minimize the impact of disaster that threaten Pinellas County and its municipalities. As stated in Pinellas County Comprehensive epccr_gom_partc. 9 . and provide a buffer between the force of wind and wave and urban areas. the condition of these ecological mitigation systems varies from well-preserved beached along well-developed dunes and strong vegetation on Clearwater Beach Island to partially destroyed natural habitats and vegetation on northern Sand Key. Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.9 According to current assessments. However. vegetation and dunes act as natural hazard mitigation systems due to their ability to absorb the devastating impact of wind and waves during storms.1998. under Pinellas County 1998 Mitigation 8 Pinellas County Comprehensive” However. June 2007. http://www. Beaches. this local mitigation strategy extends to imposing urban development regulations aimed at preserving county’s natural habitat.

local planning efforts must acknowledge and consider that sewage drainage into the bay can significantly impact natural habitat and ecosystem and consequently tourism attraction hundreds of miles away. pp. DC: Island Press. many beach and vegetation re-nourishment efforts and projects are undertaken to preserve the existing and restore these necessary buffer zone. The Role of Federal-level Planning in Addressing Environmental Concerns Amid the well-established theories emphasizing on the benefits of addressing and managing environmental concerns at local level planning. L. 7-33.Strategy. Steven L.L. Special-Area Conservation Planning: An Approach to Reconciling Development and Environmental Protection. “Making Collaboration Work: Lessons from Innovation in Natural Resources Management. DC: Island Press. and P. which is extended beyond jurisdiction and even state boundaries. 1995. 10 Wondolleck..” Washington.12 For instance. 11 Ibid 12 Marsh. Lallas.10 Some resource managers have argued that essential level of environmental protection cannot be reached through narrow set of regulations embedded with local urban planning policies and state review processes of local comprehensive plans focused on individual jurisdictions. Yaffee. In: Collaborative Planning for Wetlands and Wildlife: Issues and Examples. L. 2000.. Julia M.” Washington. 10 . some have argued that traditional jurisdiction by jurisdiction approach to environmental regulations has been unable to solve many complex environmental problems facing the entire state and/or the country. while greatly contributing to preserving County’s ecosystem. “Focused.11 Ecologists have also suggested that sustainable environmental management must consider the connections to broader ecological systems.

11 . (1998) 14 Kirklin.. “Protecting species and ecosystems within planning processes.” Environ. “Ecosystem management and environmental policy in the United States: Open window or closed door?.e.An estimated of 18 federal agencies have so far officially initiated efforts to manage ecosystems and address environmental concerns.F. 6–13. 12 (4). 15 Beatley. R. In Ecosystem Management: Applications for Sustainable Forest and Wildlife Resources. 221–233. Scott. R. 239–264..” Yale University Press.16 The majority of policies and choices affecting our environment are made and will be implemented at a smaller scale where they make the greatest impact on our 13 Haeubner. “Ecosystem protection and restoration: The core of ecosystem management. T. these federal restoration plans are criticized for excluding or not accounting for local populations’ role in these policy-making processes.13 However. joint federal-state Everglades Restoration effort).” Landscape and Urban Planning. 1997. Integration of environmental considerations in urban development requires interregional plan and policy coordination. Plan.” 2000.15 Conclusion: Many of the causes of environmental decline. “Preserving biodiversity: challenges for planners. 1995. J. and J.14 Thus. 16 Noss. and over 600 federal and statelevel ecosystem management efforts have been identified from Yellowstone ecosystem and the Everglades ecosystem to the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Maine. 40. or not considering the urgency of implementing these efforts as locals do (i. these concerns should be resolved and plans should be implemented at the local level with sound local land-use policies. are rooted at the local level and are engendered by local landuse policies. such as habitat fragmentation and disappearance of wetlands.M. although resource managers and environmental planners acknowledge that addressing environmental concerns requires researches extended beyond jurisdictions..

Despite calls for more federal government involvement in addressing environmental concerns in urban development. E. J..” American Planning Association Planning Advisory Service. 1997.. Johnson. C.. Hobbs. 18 Duerksen. 12 . R. in Florida. T. some of the most influential and eefective policy tools are in the possession of local planners. M. J. Increasing residents’ participation. N. Gamman. which are more effective and less expensive than the best intentioned state or federal environmental planning efforts...18 Moreover. D. J. Sources: 17 McGinnis..17 Particularly. city councils and the general public. J. county officials. integrating environmental considerations into local planning and decisionmaking can be the most effective way to prevent ecosystem deterioration. “Bioregional conflict resolution: rebuilding community in watershed planning and organizing. state must play a more involving role.” 1999. Woolley. The state’s planning role must evolve along maintaining the central concepts of the 1985 Growth Management Act: the legitimacy of the local comprehensive plans in guiding land use and development activity. more than just reviewing the comprehensive plans. “Habitat protection planning: where the wild things are. Environ. town boards. Washington.. can also lead to implementation of more thoughtful plans and policies at the local level. A. who are the most effected and major stakeholders in environmental issues. and Miller. meaningful protection of natural areas and encouraging local public participation in the comprehensive planning process and FLUM designations. Elliott. DC. where a fragmented pattern of property ownership is intertwined with strong and durable economic pressure for urban development.natural habitat and environment..

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