Hometown Democracy is a bad idea – but why fight it?

Okay, I’m not asking why businesses should oppose the plan by Hometown Democracy to require a referendum for any and all amendments to local government comprehensive land use plan. It’s obvious. It is a bad idea. It will kill Florida’s economy. I know, I grew up in Rochester, New York. When it stopped growing, it started dying.

Hometown Democracy wants to stop Florida from growing.

It is a bad idea.

However, I want to point out something. Local governments are not required by the Florida Constitution to even HAVE a “comprehensive land use plan.” So if there is no plan, then there is no amendments to that plan. No amendments to that plan would mean no referenda.

Okay, I’m over simplifying this. Let’s take a closer look.

Hometown Democracy’s Amendment

The amendment language reads, in part:

“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 the vote of the electors of the local government by referendum…”

That’s the part that scares the bejesus out of Florida’s business community. The initiative goes on to define

“Local government comprehensive land use plan” means a guide to plan and control future land development in an area under the jurisdiction of a local government.

The Florida Constitution

Article II, Section 7 reads, in part:

SECTION 7. Natural resources and scenic beauty.–

(a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources.

So, the Constitution says it’s up to the Florida legislature to set the specific regulations to protect the environment “by law.”

Well, one of those laws is the Local Government Comprehensive Planning and Land Development Regulation Act. It is this law which requires local governments to adopt a comprehensive plan.

The answer?

Okay. Here is what I would do if I were the business community.

1. Use the law allowing signatures to be revoked to the fullest possible potential. The St. Petersburg Times says that has already started:

Associated Industries of Florida has birthed a political committee called Save Our Constitution, which will soon start handing out Florida’s first state-approved petition revocation form.

This is the best way to fight this bad idea. I don’t really think there is much of a chance to defeat this on the ballot, no matter how much they are willing to spend.

2. In the 2008 Legislative Session, file legislation that will — essentially — create a two-tier system for land use planning. The “comprehensive land use plan” can be a broad, big picture blueprint that looks ahead for, say, the next 25 years. Every two years, each local government can “tweak” the plan with a series of amendments that make the most sense. However, the plans don’t have to be parcel-by-parcel, just broad zones that can combine different kinds of zoning classifications.

3. The second tier of planning will include some kind of “limited land zoning plan” which, on a parcel-by-parcel basis specifies zoning classifications. Local governments would be free to re-zone within the various classifications provided by the “comprehensive” plan without voter approval.

Seems like this would be the best approach.

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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5 Responses to Hometown Democracy is a bad idea – but why fight it?

  1. Chris W says:

    Jim, the point y’all keep missing (or ignoring) is that HD *won’t* stop all growth in Florida. But it will make it very, very hard for a Wal-Mart or some other huge corporation to bigfoot the citizens in our neighborhoods by attaching lobbyists to politicians like sleazy limpets.

  2. Page says:

    You’re right, HD won’t stop all development, just most of the good stuff and none of the bad stuff. The point HD proponents keep forgetting, a comp plan means nothing. Jim is absolutely correct, if HD passes, a simple solution is to dissolve the comp plan law. Come on, big business already made it so they can revoke signatures, what makes you think they won’t go after the comp plan itself?

    The HD amendment is weak. It specifies a comprehensive plan, which of course, if there is none, or it’s called something else, then HD is defeated. All this money being spent (which btw, how do you suppose she got her money?) will be utterly wasted.

    If you think Blackner really cares, then maybe you should look into her history a little. For instance, she fought for two citizens in 2004 to block a Wal-Mart from going up on 44 because it would destroy 10+acres of wetland when Wal-Mart claimed it was practically nothing. But does that mean she cares? No, not really. She makes her money by filing environmental lawsuits, which you and I pay for. We paid for her salary and now she’s using it to propose this plan. If that’s ok, then also remember she built her house on a barrier island, you know, one of those environmentally sensitive areas that developers want to develop because people like Blackner want to buy property there.

    Jim is 100% right, it’s just simply a bad idea. We do need stronger land use laws, but this is definetly not the way to go. What we need instead is a redifing if urban character, it’s just a shame that there’s so many HD proponents who would freak at the idea of having to sacrifice their unique quality of life to save Florida’s environment. Or, specifically, their precious cars.

  3. Chris W says:

    Good points all, Page, but the cat is out of the bag. And can you imagine the blowback if the legislature actually *tried* to do away with the comprehensive growth plan law? Hello, Democrats statewide. Goodbye, developers. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  4. Dutch says:

    I agree that the public at large knows nothing about comprehensive land use and putting it to a referendum would be ludicrous, but I also feel like we’ve grown to much. We barely have the infrastructure and don’t have nearly enough water even for the Bay area, let alone the rest of the state.

  5. Silence says:

    Coming from the 2nd town in Florida to pass Hometown Democracy on a local level, in October of this year, I must tell you that there are some communities and citizens that feel that Growth Management has been a failure. Our resources, mainly water will not sustain the projected growth in Florida.
    A new movement is to take away your local governments’ rights, within the Comprehensive Plan process, and give them to the state and mining lobby. They’ll be able to explode tons of dynamite within 50 feet of residences, under their imposed state guidelines. Follow the link below for more info.
    It’s no wonder people want to control their destiny. http://www.dot.state.fl.us/statematerialsoffice/administration/resources/library/issues-trends/aggtaskforce/meetings.htm:

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