FL - OPINION: Florida Lawmakers Put Developers’ Interests Ahead of Residents’ Hurricane Safety

When people talk about the great love stories of history, they often mention such figures as Marc Anthony and Cleopatra, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (not in a can), and Johnny and June Carter Cash, who got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout. But this roll call of romance leaves out one contemporary match made in Florida that I contend contains far more passion than all the rest.

I am speaking of our fine Legislature and our rapacious development industry. They love each other SO much! And they’re willing to do just about anything for each other. It’s so sweet!

Case in point: Last week, the Legislature held a special session in Tallahassee. Their glorious purpose was to further burnish the presidential credentials of Gov. Ron “I Didn’t Know It Was So Hard to Run in High Heels” DeSantis. For instance, one major drive involved banning the state pension fund from investing in companies that do business with Iran, which is definitely the No. 1 priority of every insurance-paying homeowner in Florida.

But they snuck in a little surprise gift for their developer darlings, too.


About the author

craig pittman column

Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. In 30 years at the Tampa Bay Times, he won numerous state and national awards for his environmental reporting. He is the author of six books, including the New York Times bestseller Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country, which won a gold medal from the Florida Book Awards. His latest, published in 2021, is The State You’re In: Florida Men, Florida Women, and Other Wildlife. In 2020 the Florida Heritage Book Festival named him a Florida Literary Legend. Craig is co-host of the “Welcome to Florida” podcast. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and children.


In a bill to supply aid to the victims of Hurricane Ian and Idalia, lawmakers told local governments in counties hammered by the storm that they were not allowed to make “burdensome” changes to their land-use or growth plan regulations for three years.

No learning from their mistakes and trying to avoid repeating them. No sir! The tyrants of Tallahassee have decreed that that kind of education is as forbidden as learning anything negative ever happened during Black history.

As one House committee was discussing the bill last week, one of our fine lawmakers, Rep. Bob Rommel, R-UForReal?, noted that section with approval, and then he added, “There is nothing more important than protecting private property rights.”

Yes, that’s MUCH more important than protecting people’s lives.

Is it kookypants-crazy to claim that property is worth more than human beings? Sure it is. But you say crazy stuff like that when you’re madly in love.

Do it again

I think I am safe in calling what occurred on Florida’s beaches prior to Hurricane Ian a “building frenzy” — as in “a temporary madness.”

Developers were determined to take advantage of a hot housing market and thus built soooo much stuff along the state’s fragile barrier islands, way more than they should have. They were in such a swivet to meet demand that they far exceeded the density limits in most of the state.

State law says that in coastal areas, the density of development is not supposed to exceed an evacuation time of 16 hours for a Category 5 storm.

A month before Ian hit, Lee County officials admitted in a hearing that their evacuation time was 96 hours — in other words, 80 more hours than it should have been. And they said that only nine of the state’s 45 coastal counties could claim to be faster.

Then Ian slammed into the Southwest Florida coast and killed 148 people. As NBC News noted, “Scores drowned as they fled on foot, while in their cars, or after seawater swallowed their homes. … Many residents, especially those who were new to the area, didn’t know that they lived in storm surge danger zones.”

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