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Fort Lauderdale Citizens Seek Clarity On New State Development Law; Will Host Expert Forum

Stranahan House
Caitie Switalski
The Monday night forum will be held at the Historic Stranahan House Museum on The New River.

In Fort Lauderdale, how much to build – or not build – is a central question. It comes up regularly in public comment, city commission meetings and local government. 

While some people like the city's changing skyline, there are several citizens' groups that push back against the idea of over-development.

 Like some civic associations, Lauderdale Tomorrow, and Fort Lauderdale On Public Safety! also called FLOPS!  

A new state law, House Bill 7103, changes the way private citizens can challenge developers in court. It's also changing the conversations civic groups in Fort Lauderdale are having.

"Now, when a private citizen challenges, in court, a final decision on a development — they risk having to pay legal fees for the developer if they lose," Frank Schnidman said. He's a retired land-use attorney and University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University professor. 

Read More: Gov. DeSantis Signs Bill That Could Gut Growth Management Laws

Schnidman will be moderating a forum Monday night, to clear up what the law means. It's being put on by the Downtown Fort Lauderdale Civic Association at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Stranahan House Museum in Fort Lauderdale, and is open to the public.  

Schnidman said he sees the law as changing the balance of power between citizens and developers, which can hurt citizen challenges, but also prevent frivolous lawsuits and force the two sides to talk more outside of a courtroom. 

"I think it actually fosters compromise... And if both sides know their boundaries much better, they really know how to negotiate," he said. 

Other land-use attorneys will be on the panel to talk about the law's pros and cons. So will the environmental advocacy group 1000 Friends of Florida, which is legally challenging the law.

The forum will also explore impacts from other components of the law, including how it affects workforce housing and impact fees.

Stan Eichelbaum is the president of the Downtown Fort Lauderdale Civic Association, which organized the forum. He said he wanted to put the panel together so that some of his concerned neighbors, or anyone else, could ask experts questions about different aspects of the law. 

"There was great uncertainty of exactly what you could do, what the parameters are under new guidelines," Eichelbaum said. 

Marilyn Mammano is a citizen activist in Fort Lauderdale and the president of another civic association —  in Harbordale. Mammano has been outspoken against recent controversial developments, like the WAVE streetcar and the Bahia Mar project. 

She said this is just one more hurdle for private citizens.

"I lived on 39th Street in Manhattan on 3rd Avenue, and I loved it," she said.  "I love density ... in Manhattan. I did not come to Fort Lauderdale to live in Manhattan."

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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