The Concurrency Conundrum

Guest Correspondence

SRQ Daily Columnist Kevin Cooper is the vice president for Public Policy and Sarasota Tomorrow Initiatives for The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

The Sarasota County Commission next month will hold a public hearing to consider the adoption of a mobility fee. The fee, which is intended to address the future need for multimodal transportation improvements in the area, would replace the current roadway impact fee. The mobility plan has been noted in the media, and denounced by some critics, for repealing concurrency. Specifically, those opposed to the change criticize the County Commission for removing what is perceived to be a long-standing taxpayer protection. Absent from the conversation is how concurrency is defined in 2015 and how the mobility plan would affect it.

The idea behind transportation concurrency was simple: development shouldn’t be allowed to proceed unless infrastructure capacity is available to serve it. A highlight of Florida’s landmark 1985 Growth Management Act, concurrency was widely considered a watershed moment in attempting to address the state’s infrastructure needs. What followed, however, was a struggle to implement a costly, complex policy fraught with unintended consequences that was later extensively amended by the state legislature.

By as early as 1992, the challenges of concurrency warranted addressing. One significant unintended consequence was the policy’s propensity to discourage urban infill and redevelopment. The nature of concurrency was that it incentivized development to either move to where roadway capacity already existed or where it would be inexpensive to construct.  Neither of those are the case in densely populated urban areas. As such, concurrency not only put urban areas at a severe competitive disadvantage, but it also produced results that were counterproductive in some areas. In response, the Florida Legislature created a concept known as transportation concurrency exception areas (TECA) which, as named, allowed for exceptions to concurrency requirements. By 1998, for the reasons noted above, a TECA was created within the City of Sarasota. Unfortunately, TECAs weren’t a panacea for the capacity-chasing issues that plagued the policy.

Over the following two decades, the Florida Legislature would make a number of changes to the concurrency mandate. However, perhaps none were more significant than what was seen in 2011. Under Florida’s 2011 Community Planning Act, concurrency became optional, and not only that, but local governments opting to continue implementing concurrency would have to follow a new set of requirements. 

By 2011, government could no longer halt development under the tenets of concurrency. Quite notably, new development could no longer be responsible for correcting already existing roadway deficiencies. Furthermore, impacts mitigated by previous phases or reserved projects were to be considered fully mitigated in future analyses. 

While these policies and the subsequent changes are complex, the current state of concurrency is not. Simply put, transportation concurrency exists today largely in name only.  This is at least partially due to changes required by the complex, unpredictable, oftentimes inequitable and unintended-consequence-laden policies. There are those who might reasonably disagree with the changes that were made, but that’s hardly germane to the local conversation.  imilarly, there are those who might reasonably disagree with the calculated mobility fees or the community’s future multimodal needs. However, decrying the plan and County Commission for the “repealing” of concurrency fails to reasonably account for concurrency as it is applied today.

SRQ Daily Columnist Kevin Cooper is the vice president for Public Policy and Sarasota Tomorrow Initiatives for The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

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