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As Deadline Looms for Growth Policies, Development Near Military Bases Worries Florida Officials

The Florida Current - June 28, 2012, By Bruce Ritchie

Living near military bases with live artillery fire or falling bombs may be a headache for some residents. But some military supporters have said those house-rattling booms are the sound of freedom.

State and local economic development officials also hear the sound of cash registers: The 20 military installations in Florida have an annual economic impact of $70 billion, according to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll.

State officials say they want to ensure that nearby development -- and conflicts including complaints about noise -- don't cause the federal government to close bases. Cities and counties surrounding military installations face a Sunday deadline in state law to adopt policies addressing the compatibility of surrounding land use.

"The military likes to train like they fight," said Jim Breitenfeld, representing the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council, which is working to expand and preserve military operations at Eglin Air Force Base.

"If they have to alter their training because a community encroaches, they have a lot of options right now," he said. "There are a lot of installations and a lot of people (in competing communities) clamoring for missions."

Of the 43 local governments subject to the requirement in state law, 21 have adopted the required policies while six are proposed or are under review by the state, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The other 16 are in the process of developing the criteria.

"Everyone at this point is on track," said Ana Richmond, a DEO regional planning administrator . "They will not (all) hit that June 30 date but they are working on it."

Other recent law changes affecting military bases arose from a dispute between Clay County and Camp Blanding, a Florida National Guard training base that covers 73,000 acres in Clay County, said Rep. Ritch Workman. He is chairman of the Community & Military Affairs Subcommittee.

In February 2010, the Florida Department of Military Affairs filed a legal challenge against Clay County and state planners for approving development policies incompatible with training operations at Camp Blanding. An administrative law judge in 2011 sided with Clay County.

The Legislature in 2011 approved sweeping growth law changes that included establishing military bases as reviewing agencies of local growth policies and proposed developments on par with the Department of Environmental Protection and other state agencies.

Workman, R-Melbourne, said those changes left local governments concerned that their home rule authority was being diminished, which was not intended.

This year, HB 7075 required that comments from base commanders be based on appropriate data and analyses. The comments must be considered by local governments in the same manner as other reviewing agencies. The law takes effect July 1.

Workman said he doesn't want "dumb decisions" by cities or bases to affect one other.

"I think what I put into law was a very fair way to say, 'Don't ignore your neighbor,'" he said.


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The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.