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Success Stories

Florida Sustainable Communities 
Demonstration Project 

James L. Quinn 
Chief, Bureau of State Planning 
State of Florida 
Division of Resource Planning and Management 
Bureau of State Planning 
2740 Centerview Dr. 
Tallahassee, FL 32399 
tel: (904) 488-4925 
fax: (904) 488-3309 


The Florida Sustainable Communities Demonstration Project was created by the Florida Legislature in 1996 to promote community involvement in achieving higher levels of energy efficiency and environmental protection throughout Florida.  Overseen by the Florida Department of Community Affairs, the Demonstration Project traces its history to the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida, which was exploring ways to balance economic development and environmental restoration in South Florida. The Demonstration Project was developed as a way to evaluate which initiatives are most effective for producing sustainable communities.

Twenty-eight communities applied for the designation as a "Sustainable Community" under the project, from which five communities were selected.  Each community is introducing a variety of initiatives designed to meet six goals:

  • Restore key ecosystems
  • Create quality communities and jobs
  • Achieve a cleaner, healthier environment
  • Limit urban sprawl
  • Protect wildlife and natural areas
  • Advance the efficient use of land and other resources
Each of the five demonstration communities established its own Sustainable Communities Team, in partnership with the Department, to negotiate a Local Designation Agreement for approval by the Local Government Commission and the Secretary of the Department.   The Local Designation Agreement spells out the goals of each community in light of the respective challenges each community faces.  Each of the sustainable communities has established an urban growth boundary, and any amendments to the growth management plan within this boundary are exempt from state review.  This way, the demonstration projects not only offer insight into effective sustainable development initiatives, but they help the state determine whether local communities are able to mitigate the regional impacts of development with minimum state oversight.  If so, the project will demonstrate that not only can Florida achieve environmental sustainability, but that doing so can save money by reducing the role of the government.

Program Highlights

City of Ocala

  • Urban Design.  The city is creating a plan that will restrict development and redevelopment at various densities to promote urban infill, redevelopment and environmental protection.
  • Economic Development.  The city will enhance its educational and vocational training programs to ensure a well-trained future work force.
  • Environmental Protection and Resource Conservation.  The city is expanding its present recycling program and developing a composting plan.  The city will maintain its aggressive protection of open and green space.
  • Affordable Housing.  The city is constructing a model home that will take advantage of the latest energy-efficiency and green-building technologies to provide residents with a blueprint for building an environmentally-friendly home at an affordable price.
  • Transportation.  The city is emphasizing the development of public transit and pedestrian and non-motorized transportation through the construction of a Bikeway and Pedestrian Network and a county-wide mass transit system.
City of Tampa-Hillsborough County
  • Urban Design.  The city and county are developing a plan to promote development, redevelopment and infill development within the Urban Development Boundary.  The city and county are also promoting the use of "Green Standards" in building codes to promote the use of energy conservation and recyclable materials.  Finally, the city and county are developing implementation strategies for environmental hazard mitigation projects.
  • Economic Revitalization.  The city and county will develop projects designed to attract investment, create jobs and promote economic activity to increase the downtown tax base.
  • Preservation of Agricultural Lands.  Through the Sustainable Communities Designation Agreement, in partnership with the local Agricultural Task Force, the county is working to preserve its agricultural land by providing farmers economic incentives that discourage development.
  • Ecosystem Management.  The city and county are developing a Greenway Corridor Plan to preserve riparian and green corridors and protect native habitat.
  • Affordable Housing.  The city and county are providing 1,500 affordable housing units each year within the Urban Development Boundary as well as building and renovating 2,400 houses in low-income neighborhoods.  The redevelopment of these communities will include a plan for preserving open space and public buildings.
  • Transportation.  The city and county are analyzing nearly 100 strategies for developing a 20-year transportation plan, including the possible development of a light rail and trolley system.
City of Orlando
  •  Southeast Orlando Development Plan. This 19,000-acre green field adjacent to the Orlando International Airport will feature mixed used, high-density development emphasizing the preservation of green space and the minimization of environmental impact.
  • Naval Training Center Reuse Plan. The city is redeveloping an 1,100-acre site emphasizing mixed-use development, affordable housing, generous amounts of park and civic space and the ability to walk to work and to local retail and service centers.
  • Parramore Heritage Renovation Project.  This predominantly minority neighborhood has struggled with the intrusion of non-residential structures, prevailing low incomes, high crime rates and low home ownership rates.  The city is developing zoning regulations and housing and economic development efforts to address these problems.
  • Sustainable Neighborhood Demonstration Project.  This project is exploring alternative development strategies, such as changing the mix of multi-family and lower-income housing, eliminating some non-residential development and reducing traffic volume.  The results of this demonstration project will be integrated into the planning of new neighborhoods.
Martin County
  • Environmental Protection.  The county is considering a number of options to protect the local environment, including restoring the St. Lucie River, identifying and cleaning up contaminated sites and developing a comprehensive stormwater management program.
  • Protect Wildlife and Natural Resources.  The county is considering developing and implementing a Greenway and Wildlife Corridor Plan as well as a Land Management Plan to protect and maintain greenways and other areas of ecological consequence in order to preserve natural habitat.
  • Transportation.  The county is considering studying the county's level of service criteria and providing exemptions to such criteria to promote infill development.
City of Boca Raton
  • Environmental Protection and Conservation.  The city will promote and implement energy and resource conservation programs, including the development of an irrigation reclamation system; a bicycle, pedestrian and greenways trail master plan and the acquisition of environmentally-sensitive lands.
  • Affordable Housing.  The city is considering constructing an energy-efficient adult living facility as well as introducing long-term health care, emergency preparedness and community policing to historically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
  • Transportation.  The city and county are analyzing nearly 100 strategies for developing a 20-year transportation plan, including the possible development of a light rail and trolley system.
  • Downtown Redevelopment.  In partnership with the Community Redevelopment Agency, the city is building a pedestrian walkway linking downtown commercial centers.
Florida Sustainable Communities Network
  • The Florida Sustainable Communities Network comprises the 28 local governments that applied for designation as a Sustainable Community.  The purpose of the network is to provide training, technical assistance and peer-to-peer information sharing to communities around the state to help them achieve their own sustainable development objectives.  To ensure that the Network is representative of as diverse a community as possible, the Network includes representatives from state government agencies, regional authorities, nonprofit organizations and the private sector.
Florida Sustainable Communities Center
  • The centerpiece of the Florida Sustainable Communities Network is the Florida Sustainable Communities Center web site.  This web site includes a directory of Network members; a list of sustainable development resources, including a sustainable development database produced by the Florida Design Initiative; a forum where visitors can share information about sustainability, sustainability news from the state, region and nation; sustainable development community plans; a calendar of sustainability events and the opportunity for visitors to the site to subscribe to an on-line sustainability newsletter.
Sustainable Florida Standards

The Department of Community Affairs has partnered with the Governor's Council for Sustainable Florida, which was created by the Florida Legislature in 1990 to encourage the statewide adoption of a sustainable development philosophy, to support the Department's Sustainable Florida Standards program.  The Standards program is developing criteria and measurement tools for assessing progress toward sustainability as well as working towards developing an awards program and other incentives to encourage private sector involvement in sustainability initiatives.

Future Efforts
The Department is planning on adding a small city or county to the demonstration project so that the unique sustainability challenges facing smaller communities will be addressed in the initiative as well.

Vital Statistics
  • Program Management/Partnerships: The Florida Sustainable Communities Demonstration Project is a program of the Florida Department of Community Affairs.  Partners include the Governor's Council for Sustainable Florida; numerous state agencies, including the Division of Resource Planning and Management, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Strategic Planning and Policy Coordination Unit; the Florida League of Cities; the Florida Design Initiative and the Florida Association of Counties.

  • Budget: Please contact the program for the latest budget information.

  • Community Served: Residents of Florida.

Published: August 1998

Success stories designed by Mark W. Nowak

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