Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 12, 2009

Controversial Florida Hometown Democracy Initiative Clears Hurdle For November 2010 Ballot

Now known as “Amendment 4,” the Florida Hometown Democracy initiative cleared major hurdles on the way to the fall ballot.   In June 2006, the Florida Supreme Court held that the initiative does not violate the rule that all proposed amendments must stick to a “single subject;” and the court found that the ballot language is clear and not misleading.  This week, in and advisory opinion to the Florida Attorney General, the Supreme Court found that the revised financial impact statement as to how much a proposed growth management amendment could cost voters, now complies with State law.

The proposal, if passed, will allow Florida voters to decide on changes to comprehensive land use plans, instead of local elected leaders. Specifically, the petition language provides:


Article II, Section 7. Natural resources and scenic beauty of the Florida Constitution is amended to add the following subsection:

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, following preparation by the local planning agency, consideration by the governing body as provided by general law, and notice thereof in a local newspaper of general circulation. Notice and referendum will be as provided by general law. This amendment shall become effective immediately upon approval by the electors of Florida.

For purposes of this subsection:

1. “Local government” means a county or municipality.

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

3. “Local planning agency” means the agency of a local government that is responsible for the preparation of a comprehensive land use plan and plan amendments after public notice and hearings and for making recommendations to the governing body of the local government regarding the adoption or amendment of a comprehensive land use plan.

4. “Governing body” means the board of county commissioners of a county, the commission or council of a municipality, or the chief elected governing body of a county or municipality, however designated.

The effort, which has been in the works for more than five years, has been led by a Palm Beach lawyer who has invested more than $1 million of her own money in pursuit of the ballot initiative. The Florida Chamber of Commerce is opposed to the measure, claiming that, among other things, it will increase costs and add uncertainty to the land use approval process, and that it will negatively impact the development of new jobs. Floridians for Smarter Growth have also launched an opposition campaign with more than fifty organizations listed as supporting the opposition.

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