Florida's Amendment 4 gives citizens power in development projects

Building workers at a construction site


JEREMY HOBSON: We're just five days away from election day. And in Florida that means developers are rushing to file applications for new construction projects. That's because there's an amendment on the Florida ballot that would give citizens a say on development projects in their communities.

From WMFE in Orlando, Tom Parkinson reports.

Tom Parkinson: Amendment 4 would give Florida voters final say over any changes to their communities' land-use plans. And that has developers worried. The idea for the amendment surfaced last year. Since then, developers have filed twice as many applications for new construction.

James Miller is a spokesman with the Florida Dept. of Community Affairs, which handles all development applications.

James Miller: In our anecdotal conversations with planning officials in local governments around the state, the possibility of Amendment 4 passing was a common theme for the increase.

Supporters of Amendment 4 say it would put the brakes on suburban sprawl. But opponents argue it would cost taxpayers millions and drive away jobs.

Wayne Garcia is with Hometown Democracy, a group promoting Amendment 4. He says Florida has a long history of development with little regard for environmental damage or the need for new roads, or schools or other new infrastructure.

Wayne Garcia: The project comes down the line and goes through the entire process and it's not a good one, but because of political reasons, because of lobbyists, because of special interests, it gets approved. It's gonna have one more step and that added step is at the next election, the voters are gonna vote on it.

Supporters say local governments will still have the final say over many, if not most, development projects. Any changes to the local comprehensive land-use plans will have to go before voters.

Ryan Houck is with Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy. He says Amendment 4 would require special elections at taxpayer expense.

Ryan Houck: There would almost certainly need to be special elections due to the volume of comprehensive plan amendments. Even if there aren't, delaying vital community needs like hospitals or schools for two years until a referendum can be held is extremely unworkable.

The $42 billion a year construction business is one of Florida's largest industries.

In Orlando, I'm Tom Parkinson for Marketplace.

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Yes, construction is an important industry in Florida. Too important. But let's get one thing clear about Amendment 4 first: It will not stop construction of homes, businesses and industries where they are already planned on comprehensive plans throughout this state. Amendment 4 will give local residents veto power if their elected officials approve changes to add growth where the community has not planned it. There is already enough density to increase our population five-fold. Construction for construction's sake has created a housing bubble, foreclosure crisis, congested roads, crowded schools, increased property taxes and decreased property values. Florida needs real jobs, not just those requiring a hard hat.

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