Amendment 4, the Florida Hometown Democracy Land Use Initiative is a proposed amendment to our State’s Constitution which voters will be asked to approve on November 2, 2010.
The overall effect of this amendment, whether good or bad, is going to ultimately depend on the particular proposed individual land use issue at any given time and whether a particular association is in favor of or in opposition to that new development or change.
Amendment 4 requires that before a comprehensive land use plan is adopted by a local government it must go before the electorate as a referendum. According to the ballot summary, the goal of such a requirement is to encourage “public participation” in decisions regarding Florida’s natural resources and surroundings that may impact the lives of our citizenry. Actually, it may be argued that it all but precludes any change in land use classification without voter approval with the intent to make such changes difficult if not altogether impossible.
The positive aspects of Amendment 4 include:
•The public would have a direct role in passage of land use plans that impact their communities
•The proposed amendment will protect the public from land use plans that are unwelcome and pose quality of life or environmental concerns.
•Government corruption in the land use arena would be much more difficult and end the notion of “pay to play”.
The negative aspects of this amendment include:
•Economic development would be stalled at a time that the State can least afford it.
•The proposed amendment undermines the whole proposition of electing public officials to vote on behalf of their constituencies as it takes away their discretion in many instances with regard to land use.
•The costs of conducting elections for every proposed land use plan would be huge.
•It will be nearly impossible for voters to approve such changes and government officials to approve such elections absent the most extraordinary circumstances, essentially freezing current land use.
In many respects this proposed amendment is really a backlash against some of the political scandals we’ve seen over the last few years involving local commissioners and their voting records on land use changes. However, this amendment pushes the pendulum too far when attempting to deal with that problem.