Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Environmental & Land Use Law: Sharing Knowledge and Collaborative Networking

By Erin McCormick and Gordon J. Schiff

     We are excited to co-chair the Environmental & Land Use Section for a second year. Last year, the section undertook quarterly programs covering a wide range of topics relevant for attorneys, law students, and affiliate members with an interest in land use, environmental, state, and local government issues. We appreciated the positive response, enthusiasm, and interest members of our section showed for these programs. We also welcomed participation from members of some of the other sections, as well as law students and affiliate members in environmental/land use-related professions who joined us for these events. Building upon last year’s events, we are looking forward to a new year of educational programs and luncheons, including providing CLE credits. We strive to make our section’s activities and events both fun and educational. We also intend to increase participation of our members in giving back to the community.

     To recap last year’s programs, the section started the year with a CLE luncheon focusing on Port Tampa Bay (formerly known as the Tampa Port Authority). Charles Klug, chief legal officer for Port Tampa Bay, Florida’s largest and most cargo-diverse seaport, gave a fascinating presentation about the history of the port, its environmental permitting jurisdiction and structure, and the past, present, and future land uses and activities at Port Tampa Bay.

     The next program featured Jim Shimberg, vice president and general counsel for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Shimberg is also the chief operating officer of Jeffrey Vinik’s real estate company, which is developing 25 acres of land in downtown Tampa, surrounding Amalie Arena. Shimberg shared the vision and tremendous progress that is occurring for this exciting project, which will transform and propel Tampa’s downtown and our community into the future.

     In February, the section hosted a presentation and social at one of Tampa’s newest and most exciting projects, the Ulele Restaurant. The program focused on the Ulele Springs restoration, the development of Water Works Park, and the next anticipated development for this area, known as Tampa Heights. The program presenters included Catherine Coyle, planning and urban design manager for the City of Tampa; Karla Price, project manager and landscape architect for the city, who oversaw the Water Works Park remediation and development; and Thomas Ries, biologist and president of Ecosphere Restoration Institute, Inc., which undertook the restoration of Ulele Springs. In addition to this tremendous program, members learned about how a vision of one of our city’s greatest leaders, Richard Gonzmart, came to fruition as the Ulele Restaurant. Our members enjoyed a unique, fun, and educational evening, including networking and socializing, within the beautiful beer garden and brewery at the restaurant.

     The finale for last year was a timely legislative update recapping the Florida Legislature’s activities regarding environmental and growth management matters, as well as other legislative developments of interest to the section. This update was provided by Linda Loomis Shelley, an esteemed Tallahassee land-use attorney with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, who has served in numerous top Florida government positions, including secretary of the former Florida Department of Community Affairs and general counsel to Governor Bob Graham. Shelley gave an overview of key legislation that passed and failed, and she discussed the 2015 special session.

     While we are very appreciative of the enthusiasm and growing support for these programs, our goal for the upcoming year is to build on last year’s events and activities and to continue to provide programs featuring interesting speakers and educational and timely topics. We thank our existing members (we couldn’t do this without you!) and look forward to new members joining our section. Finally, we will continue to promote pro bono work by our section members and encourage our members to give back to our community.

     If you are interested in environmental and land-use issues or know someone who may want to join our section, we encourage you to get involved. Thank you for this honor of chairing the HCBA’s Environmental & Land Use Section, and we look forward to seeing you.