Amendment 4 Will Cripple and Delay Any Economic Recovery in Florida
Amendment 4 was originally proposed in 2003, during the height of Florida’s development boom and strongest economy in decades. It was designed to slow growth or stop it completely by requiring that every amendment to local comprehensive plans would be put to a vote of the public. Regardless of whether you viewed Florida’s direction in 2003 as good or bad, it is indisputable that the economic climate was substantially better than it is in 2010.
Today, the national and international economic environment has effectively restrained and stopped development in Florida. The Florida Constitution does not need to be amended to even further suppress growth. So why do Amendment 4 supporters continue to fund it and press for its adoption?
3 MYTHS ABOUT AMENDMENT 4
Myth #1: Amendment 4 will increase public participation in the land use planning process.
Florida already has one of the most open and public participation oriented planning processes in the nation. No less than 2 to 3 public hearings are required for every comprehensive plan amendment, and for those comprehensive plan amendments that would permit individual zoning or developments to occur, that may also require earlier public hearings and sometimes community meetings in addition to the required comprehensive plan hearings.
Myth #2: Amendment 4 will benefit conservation, natural resources, scenic beauty and the long-term quality of life of Floridians (since it amends the Natural Resources and Scenic Beauty Section of the Florida Constitution).
If Amendment 4 passes, it will require a vote on every change to a comprehensive plan, including those intended to protect the environment. As much as Amendment 4 will stifle growth, it will also stifle preservation efforts to take advantage of low land values. In the same way, efforts to make comprehensive plan changes that could reduce existing urban sprawl will be just as unlikely to be approved.
Myth #3: Amendment 4 will improve the planning process.
Amendment 4 will only snarl both good planning and the election process. It requires each plan amendment to be put on the ballot. Established case law requires “single-subject” amendments to individually appear on the ballot. That means separately listing every single routine plan amendment. It does not distinguish between approval of large private development projects like golf course communities compared to routine approval of public capital improvement elements for roads, parks, libraries and other public facilities. For the average citizen, important improvements will be lost among the routine and will probably be indistinguishable from the controversial proposals.
Direct fiscal impact of Amendment 4 has not been estimated precisely, but what is clear:
- Taxpayers will pay more for advertising costs and conducting the referenda required by Amendment 4.
- Publishing costs alone will be substantial. Merely six constitutional amendments being considered in 2010 take up one entire page of the local newspaper. If there are annually 100 – 250 plan amendments (not unlikely for all 4 cities and Lee County) notices might take up 15 – 40 full newspaper pages just to meet the minimum legal requirements for publishing the Ballot Titles, Summary and Text.
- Then, realistically, how many voters are likely to read through even 5-10 newspaper pages with those ballot summaries?
- How effective will it be to require voters on one side of a county to vote on plan amendments or projects in a different, outlying area of the county?
- More practically, how long will voting take as every person pages through scores of routine comprehensive plan amendments?
None of these costs has been able to be even estimated by Amendment 4 supporters, but each has a significant financial impact on the voters, and taxpayers in every jurisdiction.
NEW BUSINESS IMPACTS
Finally, what about new businesses or industry considering relocation to Florida, bringing needed jobs and investment to our local communities? If Amendment 4 is passed, new businesses and industry will avoid Florida for years to come. Instead they will favor other states whose environment is conducive to business, not one that has added more time and uncertainty to the process. Amendment 4 will delay improvement in the Florida unemployment crisis, and delay stabilization of falling property values. The result of Amendment 4 will be increased costs for public services and higher taxes borne by Florida businesses and homeowners already struggling to keep their doors open and their heads above the water. In 2003, Amendment 4 was intended to increase public input. In 2010, Amendment 4 will only increase bureaucracy, taxes, and confusion at the polls, in an economy that needs to be stimulated, not stagnated.
VOTE NO ON 4!