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.
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.