TO: Representative Ray Liberti, Chair
Select Committee on Growth Management
FROM: John M. DeGrove, Director
Joint Center for Environmental and Urban Problems
SUBJECT: Strengthening the Regional Capacity for Growth Management
The Environmental Land and Water Management Act (Chapter 380) and
The Water Resources Act (Chapter 373) both involve a very important role
for the regional level in carrying out their purposes. In the case of the
Water Resources Act the Water Management Districts authorized by
Chapter 373 seem to be working very well, although some funding issues
remain to be resolved. The same cannot be said for the regional agencies
that have the lead responsibility for the regional assessments required by
Chapter 380. In his presentation at the first meeting of the ELMS II
Committee, Allan Milledge, Chairman of the first ELMS Committee, said that
his greatest surprise at how Chapter 380 has been implemented was the
" (get the exact quote of what he said about RPCs)." The view that
Regional Planning Councils as presently constituted cannot and will not
serve adequately to protect and assure efficient use of the state's
regional resources is widely shared by observers and practioners alike.
In a decade of close observation and some systematic research into this
issue, I have come to the conclusion that substantial changes need to be
made in order to assure a creditable regional level in Florida's growth
management system. The Governor's Task Force on Resource Management started
this process in 1979-1980, but not all of its recommendations were approved
(e.g. mandatory membership for counties). Furthermore, I have concluded
that while the Task Force recommendations and subsequent action by the legislature
were in the right direction, they did not go nearly far enough in strength-
ening the regional level in Florida's growth management system. To correct
this weak link in the system, I propose the following further changes, all
of which would require legislative action:
1. Mandatory Membership
Membership in Regional Planning Councils should be mandatory
for counties. Cities would be required to participate in the
RPC in which their county was required to be a part.
RPC's need to make important regional resource decisions
that inevitably will seem not in the interest of one county
or another at one time or another. Voluntary membership is
not conducive to rational and comprehensive regional resource
management. The Resource Management Task Force recommendation
for mandatory membership for counties should be adopted by the
2. Composition of Regional Planning Councils
RPC members should all be appointed by the Governor, with
one-third of the members elected officials, and two-thirds
citizen members. The Governor should appoint the Chairman.
Elected members would be appointed from lists presented to the
Governor by the League of Cities and the State Association of
Counties. No Council could have less than 9 or more than 21
members. There should be a mandated degree of overlap between
Regional Planning Council and Water Management District Board
The present system in which at least two-thirds of RPC
membership is made up of elected local officials is subversive
of regional planning and management. Local elected official
input is desirable, but should not be the dominant force on
the Councils. Appointment of the Chair by the Governor would
be a recognition that RPC's have an important role to play in
planning and implementing the regional component of the state's
growth management system,including the protection and efficient
utilization of key regional and state resources. The very large
(up to ) Councils in some areas of the state are unwieldy,
and do not allow an efficient decision making process. There
is no need, indeed it is not desirable, to have direct repre-
sentation by all local governments by elected local officials
on RPCs. The overlapping membership with Water Management
District Boards is a recognition of the close relationship
between land and water management. The recommendation is
related to the boundary changes proposed below.
3. Funding of Regional Planning Councils
The funding system should be mandated by the legislature,
and should include a mandatory local government assessment; state
funding; and authorization for appropriate fees and other charges.
Funding should be sufficient to assure a competent professional
staff able to carry out the wide range of responsibilities that
will be assigned to the new RPCs in a timely and efficient manner.
However, it should be made clear that RPCs should not staff up
in areas that involve a direct duplication with other regional
agencies, e.g. Water Management Districts.
Stable and adequate funding is essential to the effective
functioning of the regional level in the state's growth manage-
ment system. The exact level of funding needed will depend on
the range of functions assigned to the new RPCs, and is related
to the sub-state district recommendation that follows. The
funding and the allocation of responsibility for
that funding to the local, regional or state lbvel requires
further assessment, but it is clear that the present level of
funding is not adequate.
4. Added Functions Assigned to The New RPCs
A number of other functions which involve the regional level
should be "folded in" to the RPCs immediately, and the long'
range goal should be to devise a system in which almost all
regional agencies are either merged into RPCs or are linked closely
to them, e.g. Water Management Districts. MPOs, regional Health
Planning agencies, and regional Criminal Justice agencies are
examples of regional agencies that should be merged with RPCs.
No doubt there are many others who are ripe for a similar merger.
The aim would be to move toward common sub-state district
boundaries for most state functions.
The present bewildering pattern of regional agency boundaries
cannot be justified on any rational grounds. It is wasteful in
a dollar sense, and it does not support the kind of integrated
regional decision making process needed to serve the nation's
fastest growing large State. It is far past the time when the
legislature should grasp this nettle and make the tough decisions
that will assure an effective regional level for Florida's
growth management system.
5. Water Management District/Regional Planning Council Boundaries
Water Management District Boundaries should be conformed to
county boundaries, and all RPCs boundaries should fit within a
Water Management District.
The present practice of drawing WMD boundaries strictly
according to ground or surface water patterns is confusing,
makes close RPC/WMD coordination and communication harder, and
is not necessary to the effective planning and management of
the state's water resources. Conforming the WMD boundaries to
county lines is an important and needed step in linking land
and water planning and management much more closely.
6. Regional Comprehensive Policy Plans
These plans were mandated by the 1980 legislature, but
their preparation has not been funded, and no RPC has a plan
in place that has been reviewed for conformance with state
standards. Approval of the Governor's budget request for funds
to assure that the plans are completed should be supported, but
it is equally important that state standards be developed as the
measure for the adequacy of the regional plans. The need for
such plans, and the state standards against which to review and
approve them, will increase greatly as the responsibilities of
the new RPCs are broadened.