TALLAHASSEE — St. Pete Beach and other Florida cities wouldn't have the right to require elections to approve changes to land-use plans under a provision introduced on the House floor Friday.
Authored by Rep. Dean Cannon, the House plan comes in response to a growing push to require such votes by residents fed up with rampant development. The angst has spawned a slow-growth statewide ballot initiative by Hometown Democracy. The measure, which could make the ballot in 2010, would require local governments statewide to hold votes on major development decisions.
St. Pete Beach officials who support the referendum process blasted Cannon's move for stripping the public's control, as did Lesley Blackner, president of Hometown Democracy.
But Cannon, R-Winter Park, said his bill provides other avenues for public input by requiring public meetings about a proposal before it is approved and reducing the number of times local government can amend its plan from twice to once a year.
He said using a referendum can cause problems, making it harder for projects such as affordable housing to be approved. Existing state law prohibits referendums on projects involving five or fewer parcels.
"We're not taking away any power of the residents to make a preference about their quality of life," Cannon said. "We're only saying … these groups can't use the comp plan to do it."
St. Pete Beach Commissioners Harry Metz and Linda Chaney were both part of Citizens for Responsible Growth, a residents' group that petitioned for the right to vote in St. Pete Beach in 2005.
Yankeetown later joined the beach city, and places such as Treasure Island also allow votes on other changes, such as building height.
"The people have a right to vote on their comprehensive plans, and it has nothing to do with the county or the state," Metz said.
Cannon, in line to be House speaker in 2010, persuaded the House to add the prohibition in a major bill (HB 7129) heading for a vote before the session ends Friday. He has asked top lawmakers in the Senate to consider the same.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. David DeCamp can be reached at email@example.com or (850) 224-7263.