Florida ballot measure would require voter approval of any change to local land-use plans
Ever since the Florida Growth Management Act
was passed in 1985, all Florida counties and municipalities have been required to enact comprehensive growth management plans.
This situation sometimes gets in the way of development, development, development.
Then again, sometimes it doesn't. The same county or city commission that enacted each plan can also, within state-mandated limits, change it. They often do.
Among the Florida ballot measures
this November will be Amendment 4:
Establishes that before a local government may adopt a new comprehensive land use plan, or amend a comprehensive land use plan, the proposed plan or amendment shall be subject to vote of the electors of the local government by referendum, following preparation by the local planning agency, consideration by the governing body and notice. Provides definitions.
This was placed on the ballot by petition signatures collected by Florida Hometown Democracy.
The concern, apparently, is that elected officials are too easily bought and too easily rubberstamp plan changes to facilitate proposed new developments.
Leading a "No on 4" campaign is Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, Inc.
From the Ballotpedia page:
The initiative is sponsored and funded by a Political Action Committee (PAC) called Florida Hometown Democracy, Inc. Florida Hometown Democracy is primarily funded by its author and president, Lesley Blackner, a Palm Beach attorney. "Mismanaged growth destroys communities," said Blackner.
Supporters argue that Amendment 4 will simply add "another layer of protection against unwanted developments." According to the Hometown Democracy website, "Rising taxes, falling home values, gridlocked roads, dwindling water supplies and Florida’s disappearing beauty are just some of the devastating consequences of Florida politicians’ habit of rubberstamping speculative plan changes. Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 changes all that by giving voters veto power over these changes to your community’s master plan for growth."
*Political columnist Ron Littlepage wrote in The Florida Times-Union: "In other words, legislators have pretty much given free rein to developers to continue building; quality of life and the state's natural resources be damned, even though there are currently 300,000 homes in Florida sitting empty." Littlepage noted that "direct democracy on land use changes may be the only way to promote smart growth in Florida."
*Dan Lobeck, a land use attorney and president of Control Growth Now, said,"Business as usual has led us to ruin, and will lead us to greater ruin if it's not reigned in. Amendment Four is a reasonable, balanced proposal to rein in over-development, but giving the voters a veto over plans that will shape the future of your community, for better or worse."
*Andrew Dickman, a land use attorney from Naples who represented Hometown Democracy during a March 2010 debate, said, "Amendment 4 will level the playing field and give citizens the opportunity to vote on plans that affect them." Additionally, Dickman argues that since the 1985 adoption of the state's Growth Management Act, "sprawl has not been contained."
* Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash said, "It's all about what is good for the place we call home" and argued that he doesn't see any harm in the measure.
* In response to the opposition Lesley Blackner, president of Florida Hometown Democracy, wrote in a March 12 editorial that Amendment 4 will not stop Sarasota County's growth, "but it will help confine growth to where it is now allocated in the county's comprehensive plan. There is enough future commercial and residential development already approved in the comprehensive land-use plan to keep construction workers building for decades. That's what the Sarasota 2050 plan is all about."
* Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard endorsed Amendment 4 in April 2010 during a Martin County rally.
Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy is the main organization leading the effort in opposition to Amendment 4. Over 280 statewide business, labor, and environmental organizations, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida AFL-CIO and 1,000 Friends of Florida - an environmental group, have expressed opposition to Amendment 4. These groups say that Amendment 4 will make Florida’s recession permanent by increasing taxes and contributing to unemployment. Mark Wilson, President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce said, "If you like the recession, you’ll love Amendment 4.” 
Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy executive director, Ryan Houck, called Amendment 4 "a stimulus package for special interest lawyers." Pointing to the interests behind Amendment 4, he went on to say that "Amendment 4 is not designed to empower voters; it's designed to empower special interest lawyers, and hand taxpayers the bill."
* In response to the initiative, some Floridians have started a campaign, Floridians for Smarter Growth. The group proposed a different take on the currently proposed Smarter Growth Land Use Initiative; to require voter approval of changes to local land-use plans only if 10 percent of local voters sign a petition calling for the referendum. However, the measure failed to collect sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot.
** Supporters of the alternate measure formed a group called Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy in opposition of Amendment 4. Ryan Houck, former executive director of Floridians for Smarter Growth, serves as the executive director of the new group. Houck argues that the proposed measure may cost the state $4 billion in lost "economic opportunities."
* The National Federation of Independent Business, Florida opposes Amendment 4, saying that "While November will be a busy election season, no issue on the 2010 ballot will be more important than Amendment 4. In this tough economy, the last thing Florida needs is an irresponsible amendment that will cost jobs, raise taxes and make it more expensive to live in our state."
* In 2007 1000 Friends of Florida said Amendment 4 "could limit responsible new development in more populated, urbanized areas, forcing development out into rural areas which have fewer people to oppose the proposed plan amendment. It could also limit efforts to pass plan amendments intended to lessen sprawling patterns of development."
* The Coalition for Property Rights opposes Amendment 4, arguing that Amendment 4 "represents a direct assault on the foundation of freedom our Founding Fathers created when they drafted the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights."
* The Florida Farm Bureau opposes Amendment 4, saying that "Florida's jobless rate is high; but it could get much, much worse with the passage of Amendment 4. At a time when many families and small businesses are struggling to make ends meet, that's the last thing we need."
* The Florida American Institute of Architects opposes Amendment 4, saying that "Amendment 4 would affect our state's economy and quality of life by requiring every local government comprehensive plan change to be approved by voters. It would result in an average of 200 - 300 plan changes to be approved every year, greatly increasing the cost of local government, place unreasonable and expensive burdens on business and property owners, and limit the ability of our communities to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century."
* The Florida AFL-CIO joined a business coalition to oppose Amendment 4. Frank Ortis, an executive board member with the Florida AFL-CIO said "Defeating Amendment 4 means protecting jobs. As Floridians attempt to recover from the worst recession in a generation, Amendment 4 threatens to drive the jobless rate higher, prolong the recession, and hurt our state’s working families."
What are your thoughts? Yea or nay? Why?