Letter: The Problem Is In The ULDC

Editor’s note: The following letter is in response to the letter “Affordable Housing Unattainable in Florida” by County Commissioner Paulette Burdick, published last week.

There may be a better use for the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund revenue. While County Commissioner Burdick has a point about the need for affordable housing, which the fund was meant to provide, I have little faith that the Florida counties and cities in need of affordable housing will use the money wisely. Perhaps the state should take some of the funds and conduct a study of how these counties’ and cities’ local ordinances and codes, specifically the Unified Land Development Codes (ULDC) hinder the affordable housing market and road-block the formation of small, start-up businesses.

As more cities are incorporated, these problems will only worsen. The ULDC, by design, favors big developers and big corporations who can afford the cost to comply. These developers and companies spend a lot of time and effort lobbying for code changes that favor them. This places the little gal or guy at a very big disadvantage.

The ULDC limits certain uses of privately owned property by omission. There are no options for private land owners to fill the need for affordable, year-round housing. Small start-up businesses also suffer due to the omission of affordable land use options. Furthermore, the code is permissive and not restrictive. This means that unless a land use option is spelled out in the code as allowed, it is prohibited and requires that a land owner or small business endure the costly process of obtaining a variance.

First and foremost, how did these counties and cities get into the business of telling everyone what use is allowed. Big developers and big corporations can be very persuasive in their lobbying efforts. Let’s just leave it at that. The elected officers of counties and cities, in their efforts to court big developers and big corporations, must remember their first responsibility, and that is to serve all of the people in their jurisdiction. Smaller land owners should not have to beg and jump through hoops to gain approval for innovative and creative out-of-the-box projects.

Ordinances and codes should focus only on those land uses that should be restricted because they may cause harm to the public or surrounding land owners. Instead, codes like the ULDC permit only what the planners envision. This is why, when you travel from one county or city to the next, everything looks the same, like homogenized milk. Fixing the ordinances and the ULDC will bring back innovative and creative projects that will lift us up and fill the needs of all the people, not just the persuasive and connected few.

Anne Kuhl, The Acreage