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Amendment 4

Amendment 4: Should the public vote on changes to growth plans?
Proposal would require voter approval to growth-plan changes

Comprehensive plans are blueprints that cities and counties use to lay out a vision of what their communities will look like. The plans outline specifics for future development: where, what kind and how dense.

Voters already have indirect control over how comprehensive plans are changed because they elect the city and county officials who control them. But supporters of this proposed amendment say elected officials too often ignore voters, and the rules for halting unplanned growth are not working. This proposal, they say, is a way of giving residents the power to decide where and how their communities should grow.

Opponents say the amendment, if passed, would force local governments to hold dozens of special elections or offer a giant ballot during regular elections that would overwhelm and confuse the voters.

The debate also can be framed as a challenge to the republic form of government, which is based on the premise that voters select representatives to make decisions for the good of the entire community after hearing from their electorate. If adopted, this amendment would turn land use changes over to the will of the majority voting in a particular election.

The group that succeeded in getting it on the ballot, Florida Hometown Democracy Inc, began collecting signatures for its petitions in 2003 and is bolstered by some state environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and other organizations in favor of controls on growth.

Builders, real estate agents and other business groups formed their own group, Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, and are backed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties also oppose Amendment 4.

At A Glance
Sponsor/Originator: Florida Hometown Democracy

Title on Ballot: Referenda required for adoption and amendment of local government comprehensive land use plans.

Official Summary: Establishes that before a local government may adopt a new comprehensive land use plan, or amend a comprehensive land use plan, the proposed plan or 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 and notice.

What it would do: Amendment 4 would give local voters a veto over changes in comprehensive plans.

Arguments for: Local governments have proven themselves incapable of placing the public interest before the interests of real estate developers. The people should have the final say.

Arguments against: The amendment would require votes on every change, no matter how minor. Ballots would be long and involved. Voters would be overwhelmed. Growth would grind to a halt, and the state’s economy would remain mired in recession.