Urban Fold

Managing Florida's Ongoing Growth Saga

More than 20 years after he helped the Florida Growth Management Act, Tom Pelham is back at the helm of the state's Department of Community Affairs trying to find a middle ground between residents and developers.

"During his first stint as secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs during the late 1980s, Tom Pelham earned a reputation as a "folk hero" for his zealous defense of the Growth Management Act. Now that Gov. Crist has put him back at DCA, Mr. Pelham finds himself rewriting the act he defended.

Balancing the forces for and against growth in Florida is an enormously complex task. While residents list rapid growth among their greatest concerns, and drought reveals the delicate nature of water supplies, the development pressure that transformed Florida from 20th-most-populous state in 1950 to fourth-largest today remains.

Mr. Pelham presents himself as a defender of the act, but he acknowledges his responsibility to 'accommodate' growth, not manage it or block it. Since leaving state office in 1991, he has worked as an advocate both for and against developers. While he represented GL Homes in its efforts to build 4,000 homes in western Palm Beach County, he recused himself from the issue after his appointment. His agency's opposition, however, helped to block GL's effort."

Full Story: Can state grow better, or just grow?

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