Implementing the Comprehensive Plan Through Land Development Regulations

From the specific use or user standpoint, the purpose of land development regulations (“LDRs”) is to regulate specific land activities. But from the other end, the broader policy oriented perspective, the purpose of Florida LDRs is to carry out the jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan. Basically, if the comprehensive plan is the “what we want to do,” the jurisdiction’s LDRs are “how we are going to do it.”

The statutes state the LDRs are to be based on, related to, and a means of implementation for comprehensive plan. §163.3201, Florida Statutes. So, in addition to whatever other reason a local government wants LDRs, the foremost reason is to carry out the adopted comprehensive plan. New language in section 163.3177(1), F.S. (2011) provides that the comprehensive plan itself is not to include the implementing regulations, but, rather, to provide meaningful and predictable standards and guidelines indicating how the land development regulations, along with other programs and activities, are to implement the plan. 

Consistency. The LDRs also must be consistent with the adopted comprehensive plan. §163.3194(1)(b), Florida Statutes. If the existing LDRs aren’t consistent with the adopted comprehensive plan (either the original plan or any amendments), the LDRs must be amended, to make them consistent. If that can’t be done immediately, the local government must adopt a schedule for bringing the LDRs into conformity and, during the interim, the provisions of the comprehensive plan control. §163.3194(1)(b), Florida Statutes.

The statute definition of consistency, section 163.3194(3)(a), Florida Statutes, is not particularly helpful in pinning down what is needed to be consistent. It states:

A … land development regulation shall be consistent with the comprehensive plan if the land uses, densities or intensities, and other aspects of development permitted by such … regulation [are] compatible with and further the objectives, policies, land uses, and densities or intensities in the comprehensive plan and if it meets all other criteria enumerated by the local government.

See Role of LDRs in Determining Consistency of Development Orders With the Comprehensive Plan for more on the definition of consistency.

Challenging consistency. If someone wants to challenge whether the LDRs are consistent with the adopted comprehensive plan, the statutes, at §163.3213, Florida Statutes, state that the administrative procedure outlined in the statute is the only way a challenge can be brought. This means a challenge cannot be brought straight to court; this procedure must be followed first.

The rules previously adopted to implement this section, published in former §9J-5.023, Florida Administrative Code, outlined the criteria the agency would use in such an administrative challenge to decide the consistency of LDRs with the adopted comprehensive plan. With the repeal of chapter 9J-5 by the 2011 legislature (Chapter 2011-139, Section 72, Laws of Florida), these are no longer the controlling rules.

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