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The Live Local Act poses challenges for Pasco County

Aerial of I-75 and State Road 56
Florida Department of Transportation
/
Courtesy
Looking north over I-75 at State Road 56 in Pasco County.

WUSF's Craig Kopp discusses Pasco County's approach to the law with County Commissioner Seth Weightman. The county considered a multi-family housing moratorium until problems with the law can be worked out.

The Live Local Act was passed by the Florida Legislature to increase affordable housing in the state.

But since it went into effect July 1, counties in the greater Tampa Bay region say it's blocking their ability to plan for the specific needs of their communities.

Man in suit smiling into the camera
Pasco County
Seth Weightman

Pasco County even floated the idea of a multi-family housing moratorium until the problems can be worked out.

WUSF's Craig Kopp discussed Live Local with Pasco commissioner Seth Weightman and economic growth director David Engle. Parts of this conversation were edited for length and clarity.

First, Weightman explains the challenges the act poses for the county.

"The challenges of this bill allows any property that cities and counties have zoned commercial, industrial or in mixed-use projects, those zonings can be ignored," Weightmann said. "Multifamily workforce housing can be put up on those sites with zero comments from the public, zero review from planning commissions, zero approval from city councils or county commissions and become a project for residential use. And it completely bucks Pasco County and other cities and counties — what they plan for to be in that area, how to plan for ... when folks come in, we still have to provide police and fire and all the services that folks expect.

"So it challenges us from a planning perspective, monetarily from a budgeting perspective, because we tried to plan for the number of folks coming based on the projects that we have."

"Our team is actively working to providing solutions to the legislators to ask them, 'hey, let us be partners in your plan.' That way each city and county can grow affordable housing the appropriate way and not lose out on precious job-creating spaces that we intend to."
Seth Weightman

Kopp: The phrase "one size does not fit all" really seems to be applying to this Live Local Act.

Weightman: We have sites that just pop up, all of the sites have live local sites. They're not in redevelopment areas, they're on commercially zoned properties. And some of the properties that they've occurred on are places of significant public investment. For example, our new overpass road and I-75 interchange. And the intent of that site was not to become a live local site. That site was planned for job creating spaces and how people can commute from 52 south in Pasco County or they come up north from 54, 56. They can work six miles from home.

Engle: It's just not us saying it. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council conducted a study of Pasco County and had concluded in that study that we are underzoned for job creation as it is today. And we're losing precious land and precious opportunities if our zoning and comp plan are preempted.

Commissioner, I know you've heard this, what do you got against affordable housing?

Weightman: I've never been against affordable housing. I'm for affordable housing. Live local, I think, has forced Pasco County into this exercise. Where can we make real affordable housing work?

Pasco County got everybody's attention by just saying the word moratorium. I suspect that's not what you want, a moratorium on multifamily housing. What are you going to do when the next legislative session kicks off In 2024?

Weightman: I advocate to our legislative delegation in Pasco County and any member that will hear us. We're not just complaining about the live local. Our team is actively working to providing solutions to the legislators to ask them, "hey, let us be partners in your plan." That way each city and county can grow affordable housing the appropriate way and not lose out on precious job-creating spaces that we intend to.

Have you started taking the temperature in the legislature to see about what the feeling is about amending this or changing it in some way.

Weightman: My personal opinion is I am unsure if the legislature will take a look at this bill and see if there's opportunities to open it back up and make some amendments. I have not received any indication either way, but it's still early in the process.

I started my journalism career delivering the Toledo Blade newspaper on my bike.