|The President’s Hoot|
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
Are you as confused as I am about how to vote for Amendments and Judges? I usually do not know anything about Judges except to stay away from them locally. But when amendments are strongly supported for or against by developers and politicians, I take notice.
Opportunity knocks. Amendment 4, also known as the “Florida Hometown Democracy” Amendment has been on the PIAS radar screen for some time. It simply states on the ballot “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.”
Amendment 4 only applies to changes to the comprehensive land use plan (the overall growth management blueprint) and not to the more frequently decided individual development approvals, re-zonings, or variances. This means that before any change can occur in the current land use of our county and city lands, the voters will have a chance to approve or deny that change.
The Fl. League of Cities, the Fl. Association of Counties and the Fl. Chamber of Commerce are opposed. According to the New York Times, the opposition has raised $12 million to defeat the amendment. KB Homes and Pulte Homes gave more than $1 million. However, there are over 100 organizations supporting it including many Audubon chapters, Sierra Club of Florida, Save The Manatee Club, and Native Plant chapters, Friends of and taxpayer groups, and many other environmental organizations.
Amendment 4 vote: Should the people have a say in determining whether their government’s comprehensive land use plan could be changed with a simple majority vote of commissioners or city councils? If you think not, like most developers and politicians, then vote against Amendment 4. If you think you want more of a say in crafting our county and city land use changes, then vote Yes to Amendment 4. If Amendment 4 is enacted, we could have more careful planning from staff and politicians if they know that all voters will be reviewing and approving major changes in our comprehensive land use plans, not just developers.
Contrary to some who think our county’s comprehensive land use plan includes other things than land use, Amendment 4 is very clear, that only if the land use part of the comprehensive plan is changed will it require a referendum vote. Why should changes be made to the comprehensive land use plan without voter approval? This is our community!
Critics of Amendment 4 say it will just be another layer needed for approval and that it will be costly to get the voters’ view. I say, based on experience, we do need another layer of approval and the cost will be less than all the poorly funded and unfunded inadequate infrastructure and impacts (crowded schools, roads, police, libraries, and now even the lifeguards) of our out of control development. Indian River County’s over development with “backdoor subdivisions” have drained these community services. Our “busted subdivisions” with their empty houses, huge inventories, vacant lots, bankruptcies and foreclosed homes, have not paid for it. If an emergency change is needed, I am sure the community voters will approve it. In the last six years, Indian River County has had only 22 future land use amendments: Averaging less than 4 per year.
Growth management in Florida is not working. Our natural areas are being ruined and our waters polluted. Even though Amendment 4 is not perfect, it could start the process of change that is needed in the way we do business in Florida especially as the teeth have been taken out of the Department of Community Affairs (the state watchdog for development) through budgets cut to the bone, and the State Legislature may even eliminate it next year (like our commissioners recently disbanded many citizen advisory committees). The DCA has done the most to keep Florida’s growth under control, and the Florida Legislature wants to reduce its effectiveness. In addition, the Supreme Court has allowed our big corporations to pour money to candidates for elected office and thus our out of state developers will be even stronger in their influence with our local and state politicians.
We need to work together as a community…politicians, developers, environmentalists, educators, service providers, and citizens to balance population growth with sustainable resources. We need a common vision of what we want for quality of life where developers can help make our community ideal for us all, so we all benefit. A strong vote of support on Amendment 4 will at the very least send a clear message to county and state officials that we citizens are deeply concerned about balancing population growth with sustainable resources.
Conclusion: Who do you want to control our growth – you or the developers?
Please vote FOR Amendment 4.