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Florida Legislature Passes Bill Increasing Acreage for “Small-Scale” Comprehensive Plan Amendments

May 26, 2021

By: Tara Tedrow & McGregor Love

On April 29, 2021, the Florida Legislature passed HB 487, which increases the maximum acreage of a small-scale comprehensive plan amendment from 10 acres to 50 acres. It also increases the maximum acreage for a small-scale comprehensive plan amendment within a rural area of opportunity from 20 acres to 100 acres. 

This bill would reduce the approval time for projects that were otherwise considered large-scale future land use map amendments and would be a win for the real estate and development industry. Unless vetoed by the Governor, the bill will become effective on July 1, 2021.

So what exactly is a comprehensive plan and why does this even matter?

The comprehensive plan is essentially a blueprint for development, establishing a specific local community's policies and priorities regarding future growth. The Community Planning Act governs community and land development in Florida by providing how local governments create, adopt, maintain, and amend their comprehensive plans, which in turn impact property rights and land uses within their respective jurisdictions. The Act requires each local government to adopt a comprehensive plan to provide for orderly and balanced future economic, social, physical, environmental, and fiscal development while taking into account projected population growth, public facility needs, development over a five-year and 10-year period, comprehensive plans of adjacent local governments, and future land use.

Comprehensive plans contain future land use designations, which set forth the land use types and intensities and densities of development that a local government has determined to be the most compatible for a particular area. Future land use categories can include designations such as residential, industrial, commercial, planned development, agricultural, etc. Zoning, which is established by local codes, more narrowly define the allowable uses on a specific property and the development standards (such as parking ratios, building heights, setbacks, etc.) that apply.

Comprehensive plans can be amended if an applicant or local government submits an application to change to the future land use map and/or the text of the comprehensive plan itself. HB487 applies to amendments of the comprehensive plan’s future land use map.

Currently, a comprehensive plan amendment may be classified as a small-scale amendment if the amendment to the future land use involves less than 10 total acres of land, does not impact land located in an area of critical state concern, preserves the internal consistency of the overall local comprehensive plan, and does not require substantive changes to the actual text of the comprehensive plan. Small-scale plan amendments typically take less time to be processed since they do not require a transmittal to and review by the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

A large-scale comprehensive plan amendment, however, is currently for any development over 10 acres and must be transmitted to the DEO for review before a second and final hearing by a local government’s city council or board of county commissioners, which increases the review time by at least 45 days. Some local governments run their large-scale comprehensive plan amendments on cycles, meaning applications are only accepted at certain intervals of the year, which can significantly delay the process of approvals and impact contractual deadlines for development.

Thus, this bill has the ability to significantly reduce the approval time and expense for projects that were otherwise considered large-scale future land use map amendments.

Our highly-experienced land use attorneys routinely help clients successfully navigate comprehensive plan amendments and other complex zoning changes. Contact us today if you have any questions or concerns regarding a land use or planning matter.

This article is informational only. You should consult an attorney before acting or failing to act. The law may change rapidly and no warranty is given. LOWNDES DISCLAIMS ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES AND WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. ALL ARTICLES ARE PROVIDED AS IS AND WITH ALL FAULTS. Consult a Lowndes attorney if you wish to establish an attorney/client relationship.
Tara Tedrow is a shareholder in the firm’s Land Use, Zoning & Environmental Group and serves as chair of the Cannabis & Controlled Substances Group. She brings years of experience handling an array of complex legal matters for multi-billion dollar valued companies and entrepreneurs alike.
With a significant portion of her practice devoted to land use and development, Tara regularly advises clients on entitling projects for commercial, residential, industrial, office and mixed uses. She works with local governments and regulatory agencies to address the needs of her clients related to environmental permitting and compliance, zoning, comprehensive plans, concurrency, site plan approval, variance and waiver requests, due diligence and property rights.

Often sought out for high-profile and high-stakes land development projects, Tara has delivered positive outcomes for clients ranging from large multi-national and U.S.-based companies to high-net worth individuals seeking land use entitlements. With over 15 years of competitive debate experience, she is uniquely suited to handle complex and controversial projects and public hearings that present a myriad of political and legal challenges.

Tara has provided developers and clients with legal counsel and representation in Section 70.51 mediations. Her experience in land use and environmental dispute resolutions offers a unique benefit to clients navigating the alternative dispute resolution process following denial of a development order, zoning approval and other land use matters around the state.

Well-known for providing legal and lobbying representation for a wide range of cannabis clients, Tara and her team work with physicians, lenders, real estate developers, landlords, ancillary service providers, banks, licensed adult use and medical marijuana companies, cultivators, processors, retailers and license applicants, helping them to navigate the ever-changing regulatory landscape of marijuana and hemp regulations. She also assists clients in the national hemp industry in obtaining licensing and approvals for processing, retailing, cultivation and other forms of secondary byproduct monetization. Her deep knowledge of regulatory laws and understanding of operations and logistics for cannabis companies, along with her ability to make connections and build partnerships, bring strategic value to her clients. 

Tara is the only person in the state of Florida to be appointed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to both the inaugural Industrial Hemp Advisory Council created under Senate Bill 1020 and to the state’s Hemp Advisory Committee, which she currently chairs. A prolific presenter and speaker at industry seminars and conferences, she has served as the keynote speaker on industry regulations at over 60 events in the past two years. In the fall of 2018, Tara became the first professor in the state of Florida to teach a law school course on marijuana law and policy at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she continues to teach today.

Prior to joining the firm, Tara worked as a legal extern for the University of Florida General Counsel and Office of the Vice President as well as for the Orlando Juvenile Public Defenders Office. For over a decade, she has also worked professionally as a private speech and debate coach and taught at multiple national debate institutes, including the National Debate Forum at Emerson University, the National Symposium for Debate at Grinnell College and Victory Briefs Institute at UCLA.

Tara is a contributing writer at the Orlando Sentinel and has spoken about various real estate topics on Fox News.

To view Tara's information specific to Land Use or Cannabis, click the corresponding links below. 

Land Use

McGregor Love assists clients with entitling projects for commercial, residential, industrial, office, and mixed use.

McGregor works with local governments and other regulatory authorities to address the needs of clients related to environmental permitting and compliance, zoning, comprehensive plans, concurrency, site plan approval, variance and waiver requests, due diligence, and property rights. As a member of the firm’s Renewable Energy Group, McGregor assists clients with permitting and development in the growing renewable energy industry. 

With a background in land use and business litigation, McGregor previously worked for other law firms where he focused on the representation of Florida businesses and business investors.

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