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C O P Y R I G H T N O T I C E T h i s O r a l H i s t o r y i s c o p y r i g h t e d b y t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a L i b r a r i e s O r a l H i s t o r y P r o g r a m o n b e h a l f o f t h e B o a r d o f T r u s t e e s o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a C o p y r i g h t 2 0 0 7 U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d T h i s o r a l h i s t o r y m a y b e u s e d f o r r e s e a r c h i n s t r u c t i o n a n d p r i v a t e s t u d y u n d e r t h e p r o v i s i o n s o f t h e F a i r U s e F a i r U s e i s a p r o v i s i o n o f t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s C o p y r i g h t L a w ( U n i t e d S t a t e s C o d e T i t l e 1 7 s e c t i o n 1 0 7 ) w h i c h a l l o w s l i m i t e d u s e o f c o p y r i g h t e d m a t e r i a l s u n d e r c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s F a i r U s e l i m i t s t h e a m o u n t o f m a t e r i a l t h a t m a y b e u s e d F o r a l l o t h e r p e r m i s s i o n s a n d r e q u e s t s c o n t a c t t h e U N I V E R S I T Y O F S O U T H F L O R I D A L I B R A R I E S O R A L H I S T O R Y P R O G R A M a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a 4 2 0 2 E F o w l e r A v e n u e L I B 1 2 2 T a m p a F L 3 3 6 2 0
Land Use Oral History Project Patel Center for Global Solutions University of South Florida Interview with: Mr. Stephen Gran Interviewed by: William Mansfield Location: Tampa, Florida Date: June 28, 2006 Transcribed by: Wm. Mansfield Edited by: Wm. Mansfield Audit Edited by: Jessica Merrick Audit Edit Date: December 6, 2007 Final Edit by: Nicole Cox Final Edit Date: January 09, 2007 WM: We always get people to start out by having them state their name and telling us when they were born and where they were born. SG: All right, my name is Stephen Gran. I was born in Detroit, Michigan on May 19, 1967. SG: Yes, we moved down here when I was six. e in Tampa? SG: I moved to Gainesville first and then Fort Myers. SG: My job title is Manager, Agriculture Industry Development. I also serve as the agricultural liaison for the count y. WM: Tell me what you do? [What are] the responsibilities and duties of your job? SG: In most basic terms my job is to enhance the economic sustainability of local agriculture. We do that through a variety of functions. One would be actually helping th e issues in general, with their business. [Such as,] permitting issues, regulatory issues, marketing trying to identify financial resources and that sort of thing. T Then we also recommend policies, to the board of County Commissioners on agricultural related issues, as they come up. Or, proactively trying to make recommendations for new
2 policies or new programs within the cou sustainability of agriculture in the county. A lot of what we do is in the area of land use planning. WM: Uh huh. SG: Land use regulations, to have an impact on agriculture, since it is a large, probably the l argest landholder in the county. Probably about 30 percent of all the land in the county is held by farmers. Land use regulations have a dramatic impact on their ability to use their property. Then, also, we work in the area of streamlining regulations. The broad scale, like I said, making recommendations to the County Commissioners and also trying to influence changes at the regional and state level, that will meet the intent of the regulation, while in terms of their profitability. together so that th ey, in terms of We had developed an example of that [which] is a whole farm plan, a process that we went through when I first started with the county. WM: Uh huh. SG: We tried to bundle all of the environmental regulations for a given farm into a plan, a whole farm plan. Basically what it meant was, if you were operating according to that plan, the various regulatory agencies would agree that you are, in fact, in compliance with their regulations. Without having to go through the individual permitting p rocess, with each individual regulatory agency you had one document that you had to [follow]. Then you were deemed to be in compliance. WM: Uh huh. ah in fact, in complian ce with the water quality regulations that the state imposes. WM: So SC: Basically the regulation is for, BMPs [Best Management Practices] are directed towards water quality. In the traditional sense the agency would come out and test the
3 water. See wha something to correct that. agreed different way of approaching the regulation itself. WM: Would you consider yourself as an advocate for the farmer? county. And we see the continuation of agriculture to be in the best interests of the county. between people wanting to develop the land and farmers wanting to maintain it. the property rights issue. ke. When the price being offered, for a piece of property, is multiples of what the property is worth, in its current agricultural use, then many times the decision is pretty easy to sell. But nd farming. Where the conflict happens, is with new regulations that may come into place, when people are ing according to every call their state representatives and so forth, to make ah But, when those types of issues come up, the regulatory agency, they have to respond. So they have to contact that farmer. The farmer has to respond. You know, it takes time out happen again, even though they were within their rights [with] what they were doing, many times [the farmer] will adjust the way they produce their crop. It may not be the unintended consequence of having that high density popu lation base close to some of these agricultural uses. WM: Uh huh. SC: There are a lot of agricultural uses that almost have a symbiotic relationship between lower intens pasture and open space type agriculture to more of the [denser crops, such as]
4 strawberries, ornamental plants and vegetable production, some of that has to do with the value of the land. When the value of the land increases that give the farmer to ability to borrow more money in order to plant a more profitable type of commodity. Recently producti WM: What I had read is Now you know far more about this that I do, so feel free to annex more land to increase its tax base. SC: Yeah, although annexation is typically applied for by the landowner. There has been quite a bit of that here in Hillsborough County, but it is usually related to where the services you know who the service provider can be fo r a given development. WM: Uh huh. landowners see that as maybe an easier way to ge t more density for their piece of property, to then develop. WM: And that brings to mind another question. When I was taking to Mr. Carlton [See Dennis Carlton interview with Bill Mansfield 6 27 06] he was talking about, you know, zoning density. [He said ] you could zone a place for higher density that meant you could sell more lots. buyi ah the price per lot is almost constant, no matter if it is a quarter acre lot or a half acre lot. If the landowner is able to get more lots on a given piece of property that adds to their ah profitability and also the efficiency of the development. to develop at the rate that the comprehensive land use plan indicates, we would actually have less pres sure on the agricultural land to convert to other uses. Because, right now, our land within the urban service area, when someone applies for a rezoning, the underlying land use may be six units per acre, but when they apply for the rezoning, many times the y are not getting that six units. They may get four or five [units] per acre. in or der to appease the neighbors the developer will ratchet down how many units they are asking for.
5 county commissioners? SG: Well, it ultimately comes to the county comm issioners. You know, they may not we have these public hearings, the public comes in and voices their concerns. Then the county commission weighs those concerns, versus down to some give and take. WM: And how do you play into these decisions concerning agriculture? make recommendations, in ter ms of annexation; if we feel that will encourage the conversion from agriculture use to other uses, we may state that opinion. But on an What we do, in terms of the overall p olicy of the board, the comp plan itself made dramatic changes within the comp plan, about what is allowed for agriculture, in terms of it being the preferred use in the rural parts of the county. Outside the urban service area we were able to insert uses are So ah based on that policy is the understanding that when you move out to the rural you are things you should expect in the rural area. That has actually gone a long way to assisting local growers in addressing some of these conflicts, these perceived conflicts between the local residents and agriculture. WM: That brings me to my next ques tion. What are the common problems, or perhaps the most common problem that you have to deal with, in advocating for the farmer? SG: Ah like I said, I do service [as the] Ag liaison and typically a lot of the residential complaints do come through us. The WM: Uh huh. SG: Surface water, impacts. WM: Could you elaborate on that, surface water impacts?
6 SG: Ah it could b e flooding, water coming off an agricultural piece property impacting the field may not have been planned according to the specifications. Typically when a piece of prop erty is cleared or you put in a row crop, like vegetables or strawberries, or actually even citrus groves you go through a process with the Water Management District, in order to get a surface water exemption through their office. [It] says that if you are farming according to certain specifications and other certain set backs your adjacent landowners. So, if somebody goes through that process they should not have an impact on the adjacent landowners. Then the Water Management District typically takes corrective action. ah more r elated to our weather. I year rain is it the fault of the person up stream. But, you know we deal with that a lot and like I said som e of the cattle ranches used recycled chicken manure as a fertilizer, a soil amendment. As long as they are applying it according to the recommended fertilizer rate, then thing to do, both for the grass and as a waste management tool. WM: Uh huh. SG: So ah when they came up. he farmer comes to you with this complaint or the adjacent residential landowner? come from all directions. WM: Uh huh. call me to get a better feel for what the for. So it can come from all angles.
7 One aspect, with these types of nuisance complaints is that farmers are really protected WM: Uh huh. SG: Basically that law says if a farm is operating according to generally accepte d regulatory agencies understand that so, when there are perceived problems they contact ce. And that WM: Uh huh. SG: I guess there is some technicalities there, about what the differences are. A generally accepted practice is, you know, what is typical i n the industry. Best Management Practice different, so they both apply. The ah I lost my train of thought. r shows up late at the depot. SG: (laughs) management plan? SG: Well the ah there is a State Growth Management Act, where our local Comprehensive Land Use Plan fits in to make agriculture the preferred use. We allow agriculture to continue in the urban part of the county also, as long as it wishes to continue. We try not to have negative impact on their ability to continue. Although there are always those potential, perceived conflicts between land uses. prac tices? order to be a good neighbor and not have to deal with ah having to address these them. They typically do change the way they do business. They may have a buffer area between them and their neighbors and [waste] hours of operation and trying to keep the noise s
8 same effectiveness. Typically it will add costs to them and also, potentially reduce their of business. A lot of folks out in the Valrico, Brandon area (there are [some] scattered strawberry across the street because it provides an open space and gives them a good view. But as soon as the farmer goes out there and ploughs the field to put down their cover crop in the farmer] stop. Well, you know the farmer is only doing what he needs to do, to keep the soil in place for the summer and also work that stuff back into the soil to add organic matter. So it is what those types of complaints t hat [makes] the farmer feel like he is not wanted in that area. think it is a goo Most of our development is going into the urban service area, where it should [go]. I the exact percentages but I think up to 90 percent of our population growth is set up three different levels of ah lifestyles. You can have the urban lifestyle, whe re it is highly, dense type of development; suburban [lifestyle] which is maybe four units per acre and then we allow for the rural. Rural type lifestyle is one to five acre lots. In our comp plan, in our land development code is structured in a way that w e want those three types of lifestyle to be ah some point in the future. We expect there to always be that option in the county, to have a rural type lifestyle, where agriculture typically fits i nto that. In the mid seventies, thirty years ago now, the first comp plan was drawn up for the county. It proposed, or it projected that by the year 2000 that our population would be about a million and that agriculture would no longer exist. I guess that so well, because our population did hit a million, but in the year 2000 we had about 240,000 acres of agriculture. So we were able to hold onto the agricultural use. I expect our higher intensity uses while the lower intensity uses are converting to ah development. WM: Uh huh. maybe more of the wildlife habitat and
9 wish we could hold on to it. But in terms of economic decisions, it is the most likely to convert [to non agricultural use]. WM: Uh huh. Well, the article that I read talked about people who were suppor ters of the management plan and people who were detractors of the management plan. Who would you say are the people that you think are most supportive of the management plan? The individuals and groups? any Agricultural groups are on both sides and the development groups are on both sides. It depends on the issue. WM: If it aggravates everybod y, then it must be correct. SG: It really is. There are many times where ah the agricultural and environmental groups are on the same side of an issue, but there are many times when they are on the opposite side. There is a new law that the governor jus that if a piece of agricultural land is surrounded on 75 percent of its perimeter by development and it is outside the urban service area that they are then able to apply for the comp plan change, in or der for them to be included in the urban service area and get comparable density, as their adjacent land owners. Well the environmental groups seem to think that would encourage urban sprawl. The agricultural groups say that it will actually prevent urban sprawl because it would be a continuous land use pattern. If the agricultural landowner is able to apply for the same able to apply further out and then leave these pockets of undeveloped areas that could be developed. Services could be brought in at a less expensive rate. So that is one situation where agricultural and environmental folks are on the opposite side. And aimed at supporting the economic sustainability. WM: Uh huh. That has had an impact on their ability to stay in business. So the environmental groups have agreed with us. Side 1 ends; side 2 begins.
10 SG: Basically and partly because they understand that agriculture, even if it there are some things they may not like, such as pesticide use or the amount of water that sort of thing. They do understand that agriculture provides the open space and wildlife habitat that they enjoy. So there is ah it really depends on the issues, where folks team up and collaborate and where they fall on whet her the growth management plan is working or not. development. SG: Yeah? WM: And the farmer applies to have the same density? ge that would give them the same density as their neighbors. WM: Well, when you say that I take it to mean that they could put as many houses on that farmland as the surrounding development. Is that right? think that particular bill is ever going to have an impact. WM: Uh huh. SG: Maybe in other counties, where ah they may not look ah I think when our leave an empty in fill area. Our urban service area as it has changed it has seemed to be development. W M: I guess the question I have is; if you can have the same density on the farmland as land? SG: It would ah nder the they decide to sell, then yeah it would be taxed according to the value, which would increase if there was more density. WM: Okay. That clarifies it. One of th e farmers I interviewed said that they wanted to be able to have the same density on their land as the developments around them. So, when it came time to sell it would have comparable value.
11 developer would apply for you know would make a have a contract on the piece of property subject to a comp plan change. Right now, mos t of our rights than they already have. Within the urban service area our lowest category is forty units p er acre. Whether they ah if they are currently zoned [for agriculture] they have every right to apply for re zoning to whatever is currently allowed under the comp plan. That new law tly outside the property line, by basically the urban service area. peninsular fashio however far they end up moving it incorporate a whole area into the urban service area. researcher comes along to use this [interview], maybe it would be worthwhile for you to explain that, for their benefit. SG: Oh yeah. The urban service area is the boundary in the county where we expect most of the development to occur in a twenty year period and where w e expect to provide services, in that same period. And when I talk about services I mean roads, sewer and water. WM: Uh huh. even though there is a different level of response times and that sort of thing. WM: Would the urban service area, that would be within the city limits? SG: No. I here. (laughs) WM: (laughs) SG: But it certainly includes all of the cities. You know we have three cities [in Hillsborough County], Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City. But it also includes a portion of the unincorporated county. All of Brandon and it goes all the way down into
12 Ruskin, part of Wimauma and even all the way out to Valrico, past Brandon. So everything outside of those areas are considered the rural servic e area. WM: Okay and is there a tax difference between the rural area and the urban service area? SG: Well the only difference would be in terms of the values on the properties. The millage rate is the same. Now there would be some difference if you if the county in, because those ah as sub districts of the Water Management District, they also have taxing authority and so forth. So there are differences there, but the county millage is the same. state and national government gets. One of the m en I interviewed said that the actions of the county commissioner effects him more than the representatives in Tallahassee. to the local level. That probably happens more and more. WM: Moving away from the general to the specific, but how did you get into government planning? resource econom in community development economic impact issues having to do with agriculture. There was an oppor tunity to get a minor in urban and regional planning. They offered a series of courses that could give you that designation. I went through that program. Service, as an extension agent. Kind of like I did a lot of the same things with You know, extension agents, their main purpose is to help farmers. But it was more on production or a management aspect rather than overall government policy. My current position was initi ated by a group in the county. The County Commissioners formed an agricultural task force. WM: Uh huh. SG: They went out and where it was today [and] what the impact was. They did economic impac t study of the
13 them had to do with regulation and governmental relations. They proposed that a program be set up in the county government, within the Economic Development D epartment to I found out about it through a friend and thought that my educational background and other experiences matched up well. I was brought into this position eight years ago. modeled their program after ours. WM: How do you think your education pre pared you for this [work]? SG: (laughs) I need to say something good in case my [professor reads this]. em solving and communication. Even though you learn certain technical things in the University; my masters thesis and so forth that technical education may not apply to comes down to. helps you learn what you need to know when you get on the job. SG: Right. WM: You talked about communications. When I talked with Mr. Carlton yesterday he said one of the great things you did was you were able to translate, or absorb the myriad regulations and translate that so that the agricultural people could underst and what they meant. Tell me about that. regulations. But when you read land development code language, or comp plan language on one and just explain [the regulations] in simple terms what [they mean]. h Dennis [Carlton], Economical Development Council since it was formed, the first thing we did was tackle the whole comprehensive land use plan issue. We pulled out the agriculture section of the comp plan and took a look at it; it didn sense. And there was some conflicting language in there. We were able to boil it down to
14 interpreted differently, because a lot of things do c ome down to interpretation. WM: Uh huh. SG: Ah computers, or other technology, trying to boil it down to simple language that everyone can understand. nd what it means. It understand. SG: (laughs) WM: Tell me about the Ag Economic Development Counc il. SG: What I mentioned to you earlier, the agriculture task force, you know the recommendation to form the ah ag proposed to have an ongoing council, basically an advisory council. The title is called the Agricu ltural Economic Development Council. [It] would provide direction for my program, but also provide recommendations to the County Commissioners. That has been with, throu gh the council, has received unanimous [support]. So they have really chosen the issues to work on very carefully, so that they have the of the commodity groups that are represented in the county. Nine of the seats are occupied by major commodity groups in the county. Some of these groups have associations and many times it might be the executive director of that association. Other times it is an individual farmer th at has been selected to be part of the council. In addition to the ag commodity groups we have at large representatives, who are ag p). And by having some of those types of folks on the group we get some interaction and They may have an inside man on agriculture, so they can have some input and we can get
15 addition, we bring in all of the agricultural related agencies and staff people of other county agencies: Planning and Growth Management Department or our En vironmental Protection Commission. We bring in folks from the Florida Department of Agriculture, [the Southwest Florida] Water Management District, DEP [Department of Environmental Protection], the Tampa Bay Estuary Program is part of it. When we have issu es where we need technical expertise from some of those groups, its helpful to have those people involved. WM: You said that several issues have come before the County Commissioners from the Ag Economical Development Council, tell me about those. SG: A recent one is about farm worker housing. There was an issue brought forth, probably about two years ago. You know we have a shortage of farm worker housing in for farmer worker housing. in the rural part of the county where the development potential is maybe one unit per acre or one unit per five acres. A farm worker housing p ermit allows you to go above that. property, but [at that time you were] allowed to put twelve units per acre, for farm, worker housing. The process to get that approv ed involved a public hearing. [As] with any other land use decision, many times it becomes a political decision. Even if you get it approved there is no end to the appeals process, where adjacent landowners can appeal the decision. So there is no certain housing that they applied for. In the first seven years I was in this job we only had about seven or eight applications for farm worker housing. So we saw that as a problem. In addition to having no new farm worker housing approved, for a lot of our older stuff was beginning to deteriorate. So people saw low quality farm worker housing out there but there was no new farm worker housing coming out to replace it. So the planning and growth management department actually started the process with a task force, identifying the issues and this is one of the issues that we identified. The ag council came forward with recommendations to make it easier [to get permits for farm worker housing]. As l ong as the projects met certain performance criteria, [the criteria includes:] setbacks and what type of housing and density and so forth all that is incorporated. But, if it met those criteria and was in the rural part of the county, [the permit] could be approved by staff. That actually made the process easier. We were able to get nine applications in, in the last
16 units that are going to be [of a] higher quality than the older units. So we will actually have an increase in higher quality units by making it an easier process than it had been previously. That seems to be That was a specific recommenda tion that came out of the Ag council. The Ag council helped write the language itself, that was implemented into the land development code. itute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The research center was located in Bradenton. Several years ago it was proposed to be closed. Just outright closed and property sold. Well, the ag community (this is not directly related to the Ag council) but the a g community itself fought to have [the center] remain open. Actually they decided to keep it open and in the meanwhile look to relocate. The land itself, where [the center] was located was pretty valuable. When the members of the Ag council found out [ the ag community was looking for another piece property and rolling that money into a new research center] through our real estate department we were able to identify a piece of property that the county owned. We owned a 475 acre orange grove down in the s outh part of the county, that was serving as part of a purchase that was a buffer to our landfill. But this particular piece of property Ag council came forward with t he recommendation that we donate this property to the University of Florida [as a] site for that research center. And the County Commissioners University to locate that center h ere. They chose our site over another site in Manatee County. SG: Yeah. There are things that are not fully mature developed forward. An example of that is one we just got approved a couple of weeks ago. WM: Uh huh.
17 provides [more] than just a place t o grow crops. It provides open space, wildlife habitat, aquifer recharge, wetland, you know all of these wonderful things. Well the farmer has cost of providing those themselves, and there is a cost there. While we, as a community have been the ones to benefits. There is a concept where you pay the farmer for providing those benefits. This is a concept we thought of eight years ago, when the pro easement. This was a concept we thought of eight years ago, although it never gained traction. It asked for new recommendations to protect agricultural land. So we brought that concept back out and updated it and fine tuned it a little bit more. And just a couple of weeks ago the County Commissioners approved the program where the farmer would enter into a ten stewardship payment on an annual basis for that ten year period. If w we waited for the right time and it was approved. rd) but compensating the farmer for the services he provides. WM: Uh huh. You talked about buying conservation easement, or leasing it as opposed to buying it. Could you explain the dif ference? I mean I know the difference between buying and leasing SG: A typical conservation easement is perpetual. The amount of the payment is based on production. It dep [dollars] an acre is about what ag land is worth [when it is in agriculture]. Now the market value [as real estate] the value could be twenty thousand, forty thousand [dollars] an ac re, so a conservation easement would be the difference. If the market value were forty thousand and the ag value was five [thousand] it would be a thirty five thousand dollar payment per acre for a conservation easement.
18 It would prevent the farmer from ever developing the property. The farmer would still have ownership of the property and still be able to use it for agriculture, but that would be the only use allowed agriculture. Now the lease is a little different, where it is much cheaper to accompli only a ten economics of the situation. If the farmer is able to be competitive, in terms of profits they are more likely to stay in achieve the same re sults. SG: (laughs) WM: You talked about the planning and growth management who would be a good person to talk to in there about work ing to plan the growth of the county and the activities of that office? McClendon the director. WM: Uh huh. SG: There are two arms there. The Planning and Growth Management Department kind of handle s the ah individual landowner, rezoning land development code issues. Now our Planning Commission handles comp plans. Probably the best person there would be Ray Chiaramonte I can give you their phone numbers. spell their names for me. WM: Okay. But if you give me the phone numbers and an approximation [of their names] that will get me there. SG: Okay. WM: When I was talking to Mr. Carlton he also mentioned there was a home builder he is with the Tampa Bay Builders Association.
19 WM: Okay. SG: We could p the past hour (Recorder is paused as Mr. Gran takes a phone call.) WM: But anyhow, is there anything SG: Just that, in terms of agriculture, when people approach me it is always about the demise of agriculture and that agriculture is going to be gone. I would just say that the reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated. SG: I believe that there is always going to be agriculture in the county. It may just look different than it does today. If you look at the crops that we grow and the ones that are able to maint ain themselves Tape 1 ends; tape 2 begins. SG: versus urbanization, look at aquaculture, which is tropical fish, ornamental plants, acreage but they make up about eighty percent of the dollar value. So even if we were to lose the lower intensity type agriculture, we would still have a huge economic contributor to our economy. ust yet. WM: Well I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. And I always want to remind mission for researchers to have access to this. SG: Okay. Sure. everybody I interview. So can I take your picture? WM: Well, some people have declined, s o you have that option.
20 SG: (laughs) WM: But you also said you could get the phone number for Narcowitz and those others? SG: Okay. WM: Well let me shut this thing off. end of interview
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interviewed by William Mansfield.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file ( 64 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
West Central Florida land use oral history project
Steven Gran, manager of the Agriculture Industry Development Program and agricultural liaison for Hillsborough County, talks about the work of the program and agriculture in the county. He discusses the economic sustainability of local agriculture, land use planning, surface water impacts, nuisance complaints, simplifying regulations, farm worker housing, and the future of agriculture in the county. He also argues that farmers are often unfairly blamed for nuisances, which results in their relocation.
Interview conducted June 28, 2006, in Tampa, Fla.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Land use, Rural
Agriculture and politics
Hillsborough County (Fla.)
Agriculture Industry Development Program.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS