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  • Writer's pictureFlorida Trust

Legislative Update: Call on Lawmakers to Vote against Senate Bill 1146

Immediate action needed to stop SB1146, which absorbed HB55/SB284 and allows historic property demolition without notice or regard to historical significance

Our last report of the Building Design Bill shared there was no current hearing scheduled for the bill. This week we learned the bill has been incorporated into part of a different bill and we have some alarming news. Senate Bill 1146 will remove authority of local governments to require public hearings for demolition of single-family residential dwellings located in a hazard zone and require administrative approval.

Period. There are no exemptions in this section of Florida Statute that would exempt historic properties and districts or buildings that traditionally are reviewed by a preservation commission. This bill is scheduled for hearing by the Florida Senate Thursday April 22, pending a reference review, so your quick action is needed.

Take Action Now: Contact your local lawmakers and tell them to vote against Senate Bill 1146.

There are 77 Florida communities designated as Certified Local Governments by the Florida Division of Historical Resources and National Park Service. Program requirements include a public process for reviewing demolitions of buildings that meet criteria of a community’s preservation ordinance. Other jurisdictions not designated as a CLG, areas subject to land development regulations like community redevelopment areas or conservation overlays, will also be impacted. The bill would mandate demolition permits be administratively approved and not allow regulatory oversight on replacement residential buildings not otherwise applicable to similarly situated vacant land.

The Florida Building Code Bill 1146 was introduced by Senators Brodeur and Perry in February. At that time, the proposed bill amended language in the Florida Statutes with respect to swimming pool regulations at assisted living facilities, limitations on the number of amendments to technical provisions of the Code, establishing an appeal procedure and prohibiting requirements for contracts between a property owner and a contractor prior to permit issuance. What began as a 13 page amendment is now 40 pages and has greatly expanded through the committee process. This is why it is imperative our community remains in continuous contact with their legislators because this is all part of the legislative process.

It is important to educate legislators on how these types of bills will trickle down into their communities. What has been routine and long-established for preserving historic residential properties is now at risk and Florida will stand out in the country as implementing state regulations that intervene with traditional practices first established in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

The Florida Building Code, Florida Statutes and the National Flood Insurance Program all identify historic properties and provide allowances to local authorities to exempt them from certain standards. Working with those definitions and local ordinances, St. Augustine and many other unique Florida communities recognize flooding threats and have already begun programs that address this problem.

Demolition is not the only solution and should be the last option weighed through a public process. Solutions such as building elevations, site hardening, temporary flood barriers, water absorbent plant materials and using flood-resistant materials are all options for consideration. Flood mitigation in St. Augustine is an eligible expense for the historic property tax exemption program so there are even financial benefits to the property owner for choosing to keep the building. If demolition is the only option, whether it is due to technical infeasibility or economic hardship, the public hearing process creates an opportunity for more information to be shared and documented which otherwise would have gone unrecorded

Florida’s historic communities raise property values and lure heritage tourists. Heritage tourism in St. Augustine has a value of $2.9 billion. This bill is not just anti-preservation it is anti-economic development.

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