The first effort to form a planning and zoning organization in Florida was made in 1920 by George W. Simons, Jr., Planning Consultant from Jacksonville, and General Foster of St. Augustine, then Adjutant General of the State of Florida. These two men, along with a small group of individuals recognized the need for and pursued proposed legislation to enable cities and counties to plan and have subdivision regulations along with providing a general act for zoning. The purpose of this legislation was to provide for orderly development and growth throughout the state. After several unsuccessful attempts before the Legislature, the group, then known as the “Florida Planning Association,” became inactive, but certain members, in particular, George W. Simons, Jr. continued to press for State legislation.
The rebuff in the early 20’s would not be in vain, as some communities did benefit by this effort to establish in law, planning and zoning authority. For instance, the City of Orlando successfully operated under a special act that was passed in the 1923 session of the Florida Legislature giving the community the official, legal authorization to establish a Zoning Commission. Immediately thereafter, Orlando engaged a planning consultant to prepare their first master plan. Once completed, Orlando put into effect their plan by means of a comprehensive zoning and map. The City of Coral Gables was soon to follow under its own special act passed by the Florida legislature in 1925. A number of Florida municipalities and counties (e.g., City of Miami and Miami beach) also have special acts dating back to the 1920’s and 30’s.
By 1939, with the assistance of Senator Sinclair of Polk County and the League of Municipalities, the Legislature passed Florida’s first general zoning enabling act. As one might expect, this act was very general, with no specific guidelines. However, over the next 30 years, cities and counties in Florida relied upon the 1939 act to enact individual special act legislation to permit them to zone land within jurisdiction boundaries. As a result, each of the approximate 450 cities and counties in the State played the zoning game with a different set of rules. These circumstances have certainly added to confusion of the courts over the years.
During the late 40’s, statewide interest in planning and zoning again surfaced. In 1948, the “Florida State Federation of Planning and Zoning Boards” was established, but was active only briefly. This group would ultimately prove to be the forerunner of “Florida Planning and Zoning Association” (FPZA). Three years later in 1951, during the national conference of the American Planning and Civic Association held in Miami, Frank F. Stearns, then Director of Planning for the City of Miami, set up a special meeting for those interested in forming an active State Association.
Approximately thirty people attended that historic meeting, representing most of the populated areas of the State. During that meeting, the “Florida Planning and Zoning Association (FPZA)” was born, and the following is a quote of Fred Bair’s record of the meeting:
“The Association will furnish a medium for interchange of information and furnish mutual assistance among those interested in planning and zoning in the State of Florida.”
Over the years since the inception of the Florida Planning and Zoning Association, it has continued to support the banner raised by George W. Simons, Jr. in 1920 – “STATE PLANNING AND ZONING LEGISLATION FOR THE STATE OF FLORIDA.” From 1951 to the late 1960’s, each session of the State Legislature was confronted with a bill sponsored by the Florida Planning and Zoning Association. The Association chalked up many failures, but each time more and more people became increasingly aware of the need for such legislation. In 1967, the scales almost balanced, when the bill failed by only one senate vote. Finally, during the 1969 session of the Legislature, a bill met with success and Florida joined the majority of the states with planning and zoning legislation. This success is directly creditable to the officers, directors and members of Florida Planning and Zoning Association, in particular the following individuals: Howard Rybolt of Orlando, Dr. Ernest Bartley of Gainesville, Frank Branan of Tallahassee, and Bob Doyle now of San Francisco. These standard bearers “shepherded” this piece of legislation through the many legislative manipulations.
Since that time, the FPZA participated in and supported Florida’s increasingly sophisticated planning and development legislation which progressively included:
Obviously, the Florida Planning and Zoning Association was and is comprised of many dedicated people who have devoted many years to planning and developing a quality Florida. Most certainly, the FPZA’s persistence has paid off. The Florida Planning and Zoning Association is today active from that small group in 1951 to a membership in 1990 of over 1,000 members, planning consultants, architects, engineers, civic leaders, bankers, attorneys, realtors, appraisers, and staff members of county and municipal departments, boards and commissions. The official emblem for the Florida Planning and Zoning Association pictures a human figure holding a world over its head, and was developed in 1964.