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West Pasco Realtors rally against Amendment 4, so-called 'Hometown Democracy' initiative

NEW PORT RICHEY — Dan Holback picked up as many signs as he could carry, including several that were nearly as tall as he.

"This would great in our lobby," he said of the sign with a big thumbs down and a "Vote No on 4."

Holback, who works for a title company, was among the 120 people who attended a kickoff rally Tuesday for a blitz against Amendment 4, the so-called "Hometown Democracy" initiative that, if approved, would give voters final approval over changes to a community's comprehensive plan.

Proponents tout it as a way for residents to regain control of development that has been allowed to run amok because of deep-pocketed special interests who contribute to political campaigns. It has the backing of several environmental groups.

But opponents say the measure would derail future growth.

"With our economy the way it is, we can't afford this right now," Holback said.

The rally was sponsored by the West Pasco Board of Realtors, which is following the Florida Association of Realtors in aggressively opposing the measure, to be put to voters on Nov. 2.

"We must protect our very way of life here in Florida," said Greg Armstrong, the local group's immediate past president. He compared the state's economy to a damsel in distress tied to a railroad track as the speeding train approaches.

"We must derail Amendment 4," he said. "We have exactly 28 days to do it."

Other speeches from state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and J.D. Porter, whose family owns the massive Wiregrass Ranch development in Wesley Chapel, got the crowd fired up.

They painted a nightmarish picture of $100 million in costs to hold elections statewide for all of the proposed land use changes. Ballots would be crammed with technical amendments that sound like gibberish to most voters.

Even desirable projects could be impeded. They also said the fate of developments that would profoundly affect a nearby community could then be decided by residents who live far away.

"I'm not in a position to make choices for the west side of the county," Porter said.

Fasano raised the specter of losing high-paying jobs to other states if a company such as financial giant T. Rowe Price, which plans to move to Pasco, needs a land use change.

He also said the people already have the ability to vote out local officials who approve bad projects. If the amendment passes, he said, local elected officials would be stripped of any real power and "a certain group of people would be dictating the direction of our state."

After the speeches, Armstrong invited the audience to pick up anti-Amendment 4 signs. He also urged them to use social media to tell friends to cast "no" votes.

"Everybody who's going to get signs, stand up," he said.

Nearly everyone did. Joe Rutkowski didn't.

"I'm from California," said Rutkowski, who works for Century 21. "I've seen unbridled development. I came here for the rural living."

West Pasco Realtors rally against Amendment 4, so-called 'Hometown Democracy' initiative 10/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 8:26pm]
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