Hometown Democracy vs. the Anti-Amendment
Amendment 4 will loom over all other statewide issues until voters cast their ballots in November.
" ... before a local government may adopt a new comprehensive land use plan, or amend a comprehensive land use plan, such proposed plan or plan amendment shall be subject to vote of the electors of the local government by referendum ... "
Local comprehensive land-use plans — documents typically hundreds of pages long — detail everything from allowable building heights to deed restrictions on historic properties.
On the left, in the Pro-Amendment corner, Palm Beach lawyer Lesley Blackner
On the right, in the Anti-amendment corner, Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce
[Illustration: Robert Zammarchi; photographs: Eileen Escarda left; Ray Stanyard right]
Currently, if a local government wants to change the plan, the proposal goes through the municipality's planning department, public hearings, approval by the elected board and, for a property of any size, to the state Department of Community Affairs for approval. If Amendment 4 passes, changing such plans to allow subdivisions or condo buildings would have to go before voters, but so would tiny changes. This year, for instance, a property owner in the Snake-Biscayne Canal Basin area in Miami-Dade wanted to change the land-use plan to allow tree farms and nurseries there.
Principals: Palm Beach lawyer Lesley Blackner and Tallahassee lawyer Ross Burnaman
War chest: Blackner's spent $740,000 of her own money to get the amendment to the ballot. Her group has raised $1.54 million and has spent $1.53 million of it. Aside from Blackner, the biggest contributor is Steve Rosen, owner of a Broward skin products company, who has given $585,000.
Backers: The Sierra Club of Florida, the Save the Manatee Club and a long list of smaller groups focused on the environment, neighborhood protection or population control.
Backers of the amendment say the amendment won't stop growth. But, they say, the prospect of having to face voters will force property owners and elected officials to consider fewer changes and develop within existing comp plans rather than amend them willy-nilly. Developers, says Blackner, no longer will be able to build wherever they wish without citizen approval. By one count, existing comp plans already would allow a state population of 100 million, she adds. Burnaman says voters won't have to approve every textual and plan change, just those dealing with future land uses.
"We just had a decade of giving the development industry everything they wanted, and they crashed the economy. They're the ones who drove us over the cliff. Their greedy shortsightedness is really breathtaking."
— Lesley Blackner