APA Florida’s Opposition to Amendment 4
(Proposed Constitutional Amendment)
The Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA Florida) provides statewide leadership in the development of sustainable communities by advocating excellence in planning, and working to protect and enhance the natural and built environments. Our members come from both the public and private sectors, and include government planners, consultants, attorneys and interested citizens. Many belong to other organizations, ranging from environmental to economic development.
APA Florida advocates for good planning and good communities, which includes meaningful citizen participation. Amendment 4 will not ensure good planning and will not ensure meaningful public participation. Amendment 4 is presented as a single solution to shortcomings in Florida’s growth management process. However, the proposed constitutional amendment is not the best or most effective solution to address these concerns, and will have numerous unintended consequences. As described in more detail below, APA Florida does not support the Amendment 4 and advocates that people do not vote for this constitutional amendment.
What is Amendment 4?
Amendment 4 is a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution that voters will consider in the general election to be held on November 2, 2010. The proposed amendment, sometimes known as “Hometown Democracy,” will be listed as the fourth constitutional amendment on the ballot and will bear the title: “Referenda Required for Adoption and Amendment of Local Government Comprehensive Land Use Plans.” If Amendment 4 is approved, local government comprehensive plans and comprehensive plan amendments will be subject to approval by both the governing body and the voters of the local government having jurisdiction. The proposed amendment, Referenda Required for Adoption and Amendment of Local Government Comprehensive Land Use Plans, can be viewed on the Department of State, Division of Elections website.
Back to top
(see adopted APA Florida Position Paper)
It appears that Amendment 4 is a punitive reaction to rapid, statewide growth and a loss of trust in local government’s ability to manage that growth. Our population is aging, capital costs of infrastructure are increasing, and communities have expanded and grown together into continuous regions that are intrinsically connected. Amendment 4 will encourage parochial and potentially short-sighted decisions. Decisions should be made within the context of regional realities to best protect the environment and provide for the community’s quality of life.
APA Florida recognizes that Amendment 4 is a reaction to the shortcomings of the current growth management planning process and a mistrust of local government. However, public referenda are not the best or proper solution to those problems. APA Florida believes that the proposed amendment will: (1) lead to decisions that impede the implementation of policies that were adopted by local governments to achieve the vision set forth in their comprehensive plans; (2) lead to plans that over-allocate development rights; (3) lead to an over-simplification of otherwise complex land use planning issues; and (4) result in the inability of a local government to provide essential community services. In other words, the proposed amendment would hinder good planning and increase community costs.
This approach is not the answer. Public referenda are not the best or proper solution to growth management problems. Amendment 4 proposes a single solution to a complex and important set of issues that face communities on a daily basis. This simplistic approach will have numerous unintended consequences.
- It will encourage parochial and potentially short-sighted decisions.
- It will lead to an over-simplification of otherwise complex land use planning issues, as they will necessarily have to be reduced to short statements on a ballot.
- It could actually increase the influence of special interests by encouraging aggressive public relations and media campaigns to sway the electorate.
- It could reduce the accountability of elected officials.
- It will cause growth issues to be addressed on a piecemeal basis, without consideration of the number of factors that go to supporting sustainable economies which conserve and enrich property values in the long term.
- It does nothing to protect Florida’s scenic beauty or sensitive natural areas, despite its proposed placement in Article II, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution.
- It could inhibit a local government’s ability to provide essential services and facilities through the addition of expense, delay and uncertainty associated with requiring a referendum.
- It cannot guarantee better land use planning.
- It may actually dismantle successful participation processes, as the use of referenda will not guarantee meaningful public participation in the comprehensive planning process.
Amendment 4 is not the answer. Local comprehensive plans are intended to evolve over time as a community grows and matures.
Amendment 4 encourages the status quo, which in many communities and counties may mean a low density, sprawling pattern of development. We need to make it easier to identify and give people what they really want -- environmental protection, open space, community amenities, neighborhood identity, and an advanced transportation network. Amendment 4 does the opposite by making it nearly impossible to change plans to accommodate the features that people want most.
Back to top
Recommendations for Action
Citizens have the right and the responsibility to participate in their government. Florida’s current laws allow and encourage citizen participation in the comprehensive planning process, including requirements for public notice and opportunities to speak at public hearings. Can public participation opportunities be improved? Of course -- no system is perfect and despite Florida’s reputation for having some of the strongest open government and citizen participation laws in the U.S., there is always room for improvement.
APA Florida supports efforts to educate the public concerning the planning process and opportunities to participate in that process. APA Florida also supports developing more meaningful ways to ensure citizen participation and improve citizen involvement in the comprehensive planning process through local planning initiatives and legislative changes to Florida’s growth management framework. APA recognizes that the growth management process is in many ways a “work in progress” that needs continual monitoring and adjustment for better effectiveness.
Actions to Ensure Citizen Participation and Improve Citizen Involvement in the Comprehensive Planning Process
To address the concerns that led to the Amendment 4 proposal, APA Florida recommends the following actions be taken by state and local government agencies:
- Public involvement processes should be strengthened through legislation and practice at the state and local levels.
- The State should appropriately fund the implementation and administration of Florida’s growth management system.
- Since comprehensive plan amendments often have larger than local impacts, meaningful public participation opportunities should be ensured at all levels of government review.
- A more aggressive approach to community workshops should be required as a way of educating citizens and gathering citizen input earlier in the project development process, making it easier to meaningfully respond to citizen concerns and suggestions.
- Where the local elected body has designated itself as the local planning agency, an additional and independent citizen’s advisory board should be required, tasked with reviewing proposed plan amendments making recommendations to the local Commission or Council.
- Local governments should establish a process for notifying neighborhood groups, community councils, neighborhood zoning boards, etc. that an amendment has been filed.
- The Department of Community Affairs should create a model “neighborhood or citizens bill of rights.”
- Local governments should be required to hold a neighborhood meeting before an amendment goes before the decision-making body.
- The state or local government should develop a citizen participation guide and make it readily available.
- The Department of Community Affairs should provide training for local government staff in public participation techniques.
- A Governor’s Citizen Advisory Committee should be established to develop minimum public participation requirements and recommend a best practices process.
- The use of new technologies, such as internet techniques, should be fully explored to enable citizens to easily obtain information and provide input in multiple ways.
- The Department of Community Affairs should compile existing success stories in citizen participation and market their use to local governments.
Actions to Help Citizens Understand Unintended Consequences of the Amendment
APA Florida believes that Florida’s citizens should be informed of the issues related to the unintended consequences described herein in order to make an informed decision in the election booth next year. As planners, we have a responsibility to add to the public knowledge. Below are several actions that APA Florida members can undertake at the community level:
- Distribute the “Myths and Reality” portion of this paper to community-wide organizations, neighborhood associations or service groups, and offer to come to a meeting to discuss them.
- Contact major employers in your area and provide copies of this paper for distribution.
- Educate and advise employees at local businesses by giving “employee briefings.”
- Meet with local editorial boards and provide copies of the “Myths and Reality” portion of this paper.
- Collaborate with other organizations or entities on appropriate strategies and venues for getting information about Amendment 4 out to the community.
- Secretary Tom Pelham, Florida Department of Community Affairs
Daytona Beach News-Journal, September 13, 2007
- Finance Impact Estimating Conference, Complete Financial Information Statement (Revised)
- APA Florida’s Position on Amendment 4
- 1000 Friends of Florida Announces Neutral Position on Amendment 4, Florida Hometown Democracy
- An Economic Brief of the Proposed Amendment 4 on the Economic Development of Florida, The Washington Economics Group, Inc.
- Growth expert critical of Amendment 4 on November Ballot Nathan Crabbe, Staff Writer, Gainesville Sun, February 10, 2010
Back to top
Links to Related Information
- “The tyranny of the majority,” The Economist, December 19, 2009
- “Exploring The Impacts Of Ballot Box Land Use Measures On Affordable Housing” by Lucy Acquaye, Joseli Macedo, Rhonda Phillips, and Douglas White; Housing and Society, Vol 34, No 1, 2007, pp. 45-64.
- BACK TO BALLOT FOR THE BAY AREA GROWTH: East Bay voters open land to thousands of homes
San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, November 9, 2005
- Office of Economic and Demographic Research
- Florida Department of State, Division of Elections, Initiatives/Amendments/Revisions
- Official Site of Florida Hometown Democracy, Inc. (Originator of Ballot Initiative)
- Local Comprehensive Plans –Information, Requirements, Roles, Amendment Process
- Florida Hometown Democracy Offers a Roadblock to Growth and Opportunity Tallahassee Democrat, June 4, 2007