Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Sky Won’t Fall In Cooper City If Amendment 4 Passes

Opponents of Florida Hometown Democracy’s Amendment 4, developers and land-speculators, have been successful in scaring many local governments with misinformation.

Unfortunately, many local governments aren’t even researching these bogus claims. They’re just accepting them and passing resolutions saying that the sky will fall if Amendment 4 is passed.

Overdevelopment helped crash Florida’s economy. We currently have over 400,000 vacant dwellings. Local governments helped create the building boom by charging artificially low impact fees to builders, and not requiring them to fund the needed infrastructure (roads, schools, water, sewer, safety). In spite of what politicians tell their constituents, development doesn’t pay for itself, as numerous studies have proven (Jacksonville, Sarasota, Hillsborough, etc.). It costs government more to provide infrastructure and services for new development than it receives in new tax revenue. [Note: Some in the form of impact fees, or even 'donations' of fire trucks]

Our State-mandated long-range growth plans are meant to place services and population in an organized and efficient manner so as to improve our quality of life, prevent sprawl, and keep taxes lower. But these well-thought-out plans are constantly being changed, every time a developer wants to build something that conflicts with existing plans. Instead of asking developers to conform to our plans, our politicians quickly cave-in and approve the plan changes.

This is occurring everywhere at an alarming rate because our politicians can’t seem to say no to developers. If you look at most politicians’ campaign-contribution records, they receive a sizable amount from development interests (sometimes more than 50%). Is it surprising that they approve most of the plan changes submitted by developers? As an example, the Hillsborough County Commission approves over 92 percent of submitted plan changes.

Most counties are in dire straits because of overdevelopment and inadequate infrastructure. Do the Legislature, local politicians, chambers of commerce offer a solution? No, their solution is more of the same. They say, “Don’t change anything … we like it this way … we need to make it easier for developers so they can quickly build still more homes … we’ll have to raise your taxes to add and widen roads and provide basic services, but it’s worked well for us politicians, and our developer partners love it, too.”

What will Hometown Democracy’s Amendment 4 do?

• It’ll provide a simple and balanced approach to planning for our communities.

• It adds only one step – your vote -- to the existing process for changing growth plans.

Citizens will have a say in the future of their communities. Shouldn’t we residents have meaningful input in deciding where the next 3,000-home subdivision will go, or the next airport, or the next supermall?

• It’ll help force business interests/developers to stick to a community’s plan.

• Local governments will be more cautious in approving developer-initiated changes because citizens will veto bad-growth decisions.

• As the number of privately-initiated changes is reduced, process costs will decrease, and governments will be able to do more long range planning.

• The approval of plan changes will still be in the hands of elected officials and their staffs as it is today. The only difference is that voters can agree or disagree with the officials when the item reaches the ballot, as the last step in the process.

The only changes that residents will vote on will be major land-use changes to their growth plans. Voters will not vote on zoning, rezoning, variances, building permits, etc. Depending on the size of the city or county, the estimated number of ballot items would be from one to five per election.

• Amendment 4 won’t stop anyone from building. Florida is “shovel ready” as we speak. It does not require a change in any growth plan to build a building. Current land-use designations already in place allow enough home-building to accommodate another 100+ million people, without ever making another change. More than 1.3 billion-square-feet of additional commercial floor area (13,000 Walmarts) is already approved on our growth plans. Pre-approved land is everywhere. When the market rebounds there’ll be nothing to stop business from building. Amendment 4 will simply assure that building occurs in these pre-approved, appropriate, rational places.

Look at your own community. The bad growth decisions that we have to live with are all too obvious. Amendment 4 is needed. We need a seat at the table on land-use decisions that can directly and irreversibly harm our pocketbooks and our quality of life.

George Niemann (813) 662-7100
Tampa-area Amendment 4 regional coordinator
Hillsborough County

Reprinted with permission


  1. Development Crowd Panicking Over Amendment 4


    If money is the mother’s milk of politics, the Broward Workshop is bringing together some of the biggest mothers for milking.

    These political donors will gather at an upscale east Fort Lauderdale restaurant next week to raise money to block Amendment 4.

    That’s the constitutional amendment which says that you, taxpayers and average Floridians, should have a say in what is built in your neighborhood.

    If it passes, voters would have to approve any land use change.

    Sounds democratic to me. But the Amendment reads like Karl Marx to the build-at-all-costs crowd of developers, lobbyists and business owners in the Broward Workshop.

    The way it works now, the Broward Workshop types buy and sell tame politicians with campaign contributions. Then these politicians approve new construction.

    Amendment 4 would even the playing field.
    The most interesting name on the invitation below is Mayor Frank Ortis of Pembroke Pines. He’s the chair of the fund raiser.

    Does that mean that the Strip Mall Capital of The World –Pembroke Pines – is the template for these anti-Amendment 4 folks?

    The Broward Workshop are the self-appointed leaders of the county.

    As leaders, they’ve failed.

    Broward has too many second-rate schools and clogged streets.

    We have a 1950s tax base, an aging infrastructure and a directionless, weak political system wracked with corruption.

    The Workshop’s answer is to Build Baby Build.

    Don’t they realize that their Pave-Over Everything policy hasn’t worked?

    The invitation below is enough to convince me to vote for Amendment 4.

    If that crew is for it, I’m against it.



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