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The 2008 session of the Florida Legislature was neither a godsend nor a train wreck (although supporters of Orlando commuter rail may feel differently) for commercial real estate. With 140 of the 160 legislative seats up for election this year, we did not anticipate a tremendous amount of change.

The National Association of Industrial and Office Properties is the nation’s leading trade association for developers, owners, investors, asset managers and other professionals in industrial, office and mixed-use commercial real estate. NAIOP of Florida has more than 1,500 members in six chapters: Central Florida, Northeast Florida, Northwest Florida, South Florida, Southwest Florida and Tampa Bay. The association provides networking opportunities, educational programs, research on trends and innovations, and strong legislative representation.

Issues important to NAIOP heading into the 2008 legislative session were some of the same issues our industry has been monitoring for the past few years. NAIOP’s core issues include: commercial property tax relief, commercial windstorm insurance affordability and availability, sustainable development (green building), growth management and tax collection on Internet sales. In addition, legislation focusing on energy conservation and the extension of approved developments of regional impact, or DRIs, were very important.

The bills described below are those of importance to NAIOP of Florida that passed and are awaiting Gov. Charlie Crist’s signature:

Senate Bill 1706, addressing DRIs, is known in the Tampa Bay area as the “Pasco County fix.” This bill provides a three-year extension to all DRIs issued between Jan. 1, 2006, and July 1, 2007. This was important legislation due to the drastic slowdown in the economy. Any extension also includes all associated local government approvals. Without these extensions a DRI, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and several years to obtain, could have expired before the developer had a fighting chance to deliver his dream and realize a profit. Yes, we are in the business to make a profit!

House Bill 909 deals with ad valorem taxation and provides some other nice measures for us taxpayers. One of the primary points of this bill is that the appraiser valuing the property must consider the current legally permissible use of the property and any zoning changes, concurrency requirements, or permits needed to achieve “highest and best use.” This will help many landowners who believe their tax bills were greatly inflated because the property was valued as what it could be, instead of its existing use. This bill should help maintain reasonable tax levels for properties in their current use.

The bill also provides that no specific minimum acreage or size is required in order to achieve an agricultural assessment. Some counties had been requiring at least 10 acres be applied before an agricultural assessment could be given to a property.

Finally, the bill addresses one of our membership’s other major complaints in determining value. This was the concept that required a successful appeal to discredit all the known theories used by the property appraiser to determine value, not just the actual theory used in determining the petitioner’s property value. This change should greatly level the playing field when perfecting a tax appeal.

House Bill 7135, addressing energy conservation, was very important to Crist. The governor has been very outspoken in his support for reducing greenhouse gases. Our industry is very much in support of this, but only if it truly creates a savings for the consumer. Fortunately, the bill was amended to incorporate a test that will determine if the mandated energy efficiency standards are cost effective before they are implemented.

Legislation addressing other NAIOP core issues did not pass, including Internet sales tax, growth management changes we supported, preferred commercial insurance policies exempt from Citizens Insurance assessments and affordable housing initiatives.

NAIOP’s plan going forward will be to continuously monitor our core issues, particularly Hometown Democracy, to ensure that Florida remains a wonderful place to live and work.

The views expressed here are those of the author and not of Real Estate Media or its publications.

Stevens E. Tombrink is NAIOP of Florida president and regional vice president of real estate services with Equity Inc. in Tampa. He can be reached at [email protected]

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