TALLAHASSEE -- Two developers who played a role in dismantling growth management laws in Florida are getting paid by the Department of Transportation to consult on what could be the largest state road project in history.
The project is Future Corridors, a series of at least four toll roads that would crisscross the state’s rural areas to spur economic growth, create jobs and birth another generation of suburban communities.
Billy Buzzett and Chris Corr were hired in March to conduct up to 20 interviews with major landowners who own large tracts where the roads could go. After interviewing the landowners, the two would come up with a strategic memo based on the discussions. The contract is worth $106,000; potential land deals could be worth much more.
Both Buzzett and Corr have close ties to Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.
Buzzett, 53, was Scott’s head of the Department of Community Affairs, which oversaw Florida’s growth management until the agency was disbanded in 2011. Before he was tapped by Scott to run the agency he would help eliminate, Buzzett led the planning of more than 100,000 acres and the approval for 30,000 residential units as the director of strategic planning for the St. Joe Co. He’s now an attorney for the Panama City law firm Harrison, Rivard, Duncan & Buzzett.
Corr, 48, hired Buzzett at St. Joe’s in 2001 and worked with him as the company’s executive vice president and chief strategy officer before leaving in 2008. He’s now the executive vice president of AECOM, a Fortune 500 global development consulting company. Corr’s grandfather developed Apollo Beach, which Corr represented while serving in the state House in 1990-92.
Both Buzzett and Corr supported Scott’s campaign for governor and were members of his transition team.
Scott then appointed Corr to the Florida Board of Governors, the board that oversees the state’s public universities. In that role, Corr voted to approve the creation of the state’s 12th university, Florida Polytechnic in Polk County, which is near the northern end of one of the proposed corridors, the Heartland Parkway. This year, that project was awarded $34.1 million for its design.
Corr has since been appointed by Scott to the board of trustees at the University of Florida.
Corr is getting paid $15,204 to work on Future Corridors. It’s unclear if steps have been taken by Corr to avoid conflicts with landowners who may eventually hire AECOM to develop their property around Future Corridors. Corr couldn’t be reached, and an AECOM spokesman referred all questions to the state Transportation Department.
Buzzett, who is getting paid $45,724 by the state, works at a law firm that represents developers but said he likely would refuse to represent landowners he and Corr interview.
“The answer would probably be no,” Buzzett said. “I wouldn’t do anything that would be perceived as unethical. All these landowners, frankly, I’ll say, ‘no.’ I won’t work for them. How about that?”
Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad said he’s not concerned about potential conflicts because the road projects will take too long to build to benefit anyone working now.
“If they represent them later, that would be a problem for us,” Prasad said. “But [the road projects] are too far off to pose a conflict with any private-sector work.”