Early Floridians realized that the transportation needs for a growing territory could be managed by Special Districts with vested powers. During this time, the legislature authorized the creation of the first Special District with the Road, Highway, and Ferry Act of 1822.
By the 1920s Special Districts were created to finance large engineering projects in response to an explosion in the state’s population. Some of these districts are still in existence today, such as Florida Inland Navigation District, created in 1927.
After World War II, the baby boom and Florida’s growing popularity created the need for yet even more numerous and diverse Special Districts.
Districts created since then were involved in, among others, aviation, juvenile welfare, housing, fire control and prevention, research and development, security, beach preservation, water management, and transportation.
In 1975, the State addressed management requirements promulgated by continued growth with the New Communities Act, Chapter 163, Part IV, Florida Statues. This act created the first independent Special Districts for community development.
In response to new state comprehensive planning legislation, the Florida Legislation passed the Uniform Community Development Act of 1980, otherwise known as Chapter 190, Florida Statutes. The act recognized that there was a need for uniform, focused, and fair procedures in state law that would provide a reasonable alternative for establishment, power, operation, and duration of independent districts, effectively managing and financing basic community development services.
Special Districts provide a solution to the state’s planning, management, and financing needs for delivery of capital infrastructure in order to service projected growth without overburdening other governments and their taxpayers.
Today Special Districts are the most numerous and diverse group of local governments in this state as well as the country. In 2002, there were estimated to be over 36,000 Special Districts.
As of October 1, 2004, there were 1,264 Special Districts in Florida, 282 of which were Community Development Districts.