New state laws hit Oviedo and Winter Springs land, businesses

New state laws coming into effect this month or in the near future are hitting Oviedo and Winter Springs, possibly changing the cities’ landscapes, in some cases literally. 
A large pipe emerging from the ground is part of Winter Springs' current wastewater treatment system. A new state law could inject funding for major, local projects, such as this wastewater treatment system.
A new state law could inject funding for major, local infrastructure improvements, such as Winter Springs’ plans for a new wastewater treatment system. Photo by Isaac Babcock.

New state laws coming into effect this month or in the near future are hitting Oviedo and Winter Springs, possibly changing the cities’ landscapes, in some cases literally. 

Municipalities that have been hit by sudden increases in project costs that are preventing infrastructure and repair projects from being completed can now get injections of state money to complete them. 

“You can come to the legislature and say ‘We’ve come 80% of the way but then our costs skyrocketed,’” Winter Springs state lobbyist Andrew Kalel said at a July 10 Winter Springs City Commission meeting. 

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“There’s projects where the legislature has awarded $9 million for an airport project for a small municipality,” Kalel said. “Could you ask for $10 million? Sure. Could they give it to you? Maybe … If you want to ask for an elephant and they want to pay for it, they can do it.”  

Commissioner Cade Resnick emphasized the need to have priorities for projects they need funding for. 

“We have to be realistic in where we’re looking and what we’re looking for,” Commissioner Cade Resnick said. “We could ask for wastewater, and lights for pickleball and a traffic light, rank them in order and they only give us a traffic light.”  

An image of pickleball courts and a modern facility are depicted because the project was suggested for potential state funding.
Lighting for Winter Springs’ new pickleball facility was suggested as a local project that the city could prioritize for state funding. Photo courtesy of the City of Winter Springs.

Pro-developer laws pass

Stakeholders in development projects and other parties can now more easily sue cities and counties for their comprehensive plans, which govern growth and development. The Community Planning Act, SB 540, would allow developers to recover costs for suing a municipality for “a small-scale development order” provided they act within 30 days of the adoption of the law. 

A similar law, SB 170, would make municipalities produce a “business impact report” for every ordinance they pass, determining unintended adverse effects against business. If a business successfully sues the government for adverse impacts of a law they can be entitled to costs of the lawsuit including up to $50,000 in attorney fees. 

“It’s going to be a pain in the rear and create a cottage industry for people who calculate what the impacts are,” Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek said. “It creates an extra layer of expense and hopefully keeps people from creating stupid laws. That’s what triggered this, was [bad] laws in the past.”

Another pro-development law that could have an impact on affordable housing and tax revenues for cities and counties in Florida is SB 102. It would eliminate municipalities’ ability to collect taxes on affordable housing projects for several years and make it harder to stop them from being built on industrial-zoned land. 

“Taxes on these affordable housing units can be tax exempt for a prolonged period of time, which is not good if you had a piece of industrial land and you thought you were going to build some kind of warehouse on it and receive tax revenue off of that and then affordable housing is built there and you’re not getting property taxes for a period of time off of that project,” Kalel said. 

The potential to lose out on control of property in the handful of enclaves and adjacent industrial land inside of or near Winter Springs had caused Resnick to call for the city to look into annexing all enclaves within the city before it’s too late.

“Affordable housing projects cannot be prevented on industrial land now,” Kalel said, also noting that the affordable housing law counterintuitively prohibits local governments from implementing rent controls to keep rent prices down. 

But the law has the potential to cause other headaches for cities if residential development suddenly replaces industrial zones, Sladek said.  

“We don’t have schools in those places,” she said. 

The result would be any new students who come into her area would be bussed to Geneva. 

“If you could live above industrial that’s terrific, but this thing is just going to eliminate places that we need and turn them into housing,” Sladek said. “To say you could convert them into housing even though you have a need for industrial…long term for the health of the city that’s a problem.” 

Another law that strips home rule from cities, at least temporarily: Cities will have to stick to whatever their current or nonexistent fertilizer ordinances are, which could halt some attempts to cut runoff into local rivers, lakes and into the drinking water supply. 

“If you don’t have an ordinance you can’t implement a fertilizer ordinance this year,” Kalel said. 

An image of Lake Jesup
An alligator swims near the bushes in Lake Jesup. Photo by Isaac Babcock.

The state says it’s performing a one-year study to determine the effects of fertilizer on water bodies. That’s on top of $796 million in water projects the state is launching or continuing this year. $1 million of that money will be coming to help study and clean the Lake Jesup Watershed, which spreads through small parts of Winter Springs and large parts of Sanford, Oviedo, Geneva and other parts of unincorporated Seminole County. 

A law that will go into effect in October was too late to stop a 7-year-old boy from being killed by a golf cart allegedly operated by his 3-year-old brother in Ft. Myers this month. Florida HB 949 would now make it illegal for drivers to operate a golf cart under 18 years old unless the driver has at least a learner’s permit, effectively raising the minimum age of a golf cart driver in the state to 15 years old. Drivers 18 years old or older need only possess a valid Florida identification of any kind. Violators would be punished non-criminally, similar to a traffic infraction. 

A law making it illegal for citizens of certain foreign countries to buy certain parcels of land in Florida is now headed to court. In a report from WUSF Public Media, the American Civil Liberties Union is arguing that SB 264, which went into effect July ,1 violates housing discrimination laws. 

The countries affected by the law include China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria and Venezuela. 

“Florida’s Law is truly extraordinary,” ACLU attorney Ashley Gorski said to Judge Allen Winsor. Winsor indicated that his deliberations on the case would be slow given the complexity of the issue. 

Buried inside of Florida HB 5, which renamed Enterprise Florida (a public-private partnership to grow business in Florida) was a provision that virtually eliminates tax credits for tv and film production companies that had attempted to lure productions to Florida. 

Another bill, SB 250, updates rules regarding rebuilding after storms, including a more visible change to neighborhoods after particularly destructive storms. It would allow residents to park a recreational vehicle or camper on site for upward of 36 months while rebuilding a damaged structure. 

“As long as they’re making a good faith attempt to rebuild their home you cannot prevent them from living in that structure,” Kalel said. “Tents don’t count.”  

For more summaries on legislation at the state level that impacts local cities, look here

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