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Date of Issue: November 29, 2007

HB officials oppose comp plan referendum

Holmes Beach’s mayor and city commissioners are expressing their opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment requiring citizens to vote on changes to their municipal comprehensive land-use plans.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger and Commissioners Sandy Haas-Martens, David Zaccagnino, Pat Morton, Pat Geyer and John Monetti have endorsed a resolution against the amendment, which will be placed on the November 2008 statewide ballot if enough signatures are collected.

The Holmes Beach resolution states, “Voters would be required to approve or disapprove complex amendments based on ballot information described in 75 words or less without the benefit of public debate and legal counsel.”

The resolution also states that managing growth is a complex process that current laws provide for public input on changes to comprehensive plans and the state’s review of those changes provides “another level of checks and balances.”

The primary proponent of the amendment is the 4-year-old Florida Hometown Democracy.

The Florida Legislature in 1985 passed the Growth Management Act, which set forth the rules for municipalities in drafting the original comprehensive plans and developing a planning process.

Comp plans, developed in 1985-89, documented the present conditions in a municipality and set forth the vision for the future. Holmes Beach recently received a state OK on changes to its evaluation and appraisal report, part of the planning process.

The proposed constitutional amendment would change Article II, Section 7, of the state constitution, which applies to the “natural resources and scenic beauty” of Florida. The amendment would state, “Public participation in local government comprehensive land-use planning benefits the conservation and protection of Florida’s natural resources and scenic beauty, and the long-term quality of life of Floridians. Therefore, 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.”

Florida Hometown Democracy, which describes itself as a “grassroots, non-partisan group,” maintains that putting comp-plan votes before citizens would make it more difficult for developers to win plan amendments for problematic projects — high-rises by the Gulf of Mexico shore, McMansions on agricultural land, timeshare motel units in commercial districts.

Presently, if a developer proposes a project inconsistent with the municipality’s comp plan, the government can simply amend the plan. But, with voter approval required, a comp-plan change would first need to be placed on an election ballot and then be approved by a simple majority of voters.

Backers of the amendment include a number of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club of Florida, whose leadership argues that Florida’s pro-growth policies have jeopardized the state’s natural resources, as well as contributed to overcrowding and traffic gridlock.

Opposition to the ballot initiative is growing, especially among business groups, including the state’s chambers of commerce and builder associations.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce, which represents 160 chambers, including the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, has launched a “Stop the Scam” campaign, calling the Florida Hometown Democracy group a “special interest” and the proposed amendment a “vote on everything initiative” that “would imperil Florida’s prosperity and quality of life.”

Hometown Democracy is still conducting its petition drive and needs 611,000 signatures by Jan. 31, 2008.

 

On the Web

For more information about Florida Hometown Democracy and the proposed constitutional amendment to require voter approval for comprehensive land-use plan changes, go to www.floridahometowndemocracy.com or www.flchamber.com.