Florida Growth group shifts stance on constitutional measure

Citing the unwillingness of local governments and the Legislature to address “serious shortcomings” in the state’s growth management process, 1000 Friends of Florida on Monday said it “refined” its position on the proposed Amendment 4 from “not supporting” to neutral.

The measure, which is on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, would amend the Florida Constitution to require voter approval of changes to local comprehensive land use plans. Supporters say the measure would wrest control from developers over local growth decisions while opponents say the measure will cost thousands of jobs.

1000 Friends of Florida, the only statewide advocacy group focused primarily on growth management, had said in March it was not supporting Amendment 4. The group said the measure would remove accountability for elected officials, create piecemeal planning, encourage high-priced media campaigns, and cause “planning gridlock” and retaliation by the Legislature.

But in a statement released Monday, the group said it had refined its position and cited state approval of development between January 2007 and June 2010. The Florida Department of Community Affairs has approved an additional 600,000 dwelling units and 1 billion square feet of commercial and office space while there are 300,000 to 400,000 vacant dwelling units available.

“The Board still believes that there are flaws with Amendment 4,” 1000 Friends of Florida Chairman Emeritus Nathaniel Reed said in a statement. “However, we also recognize that the on-the-ground results of the existing growth management system are far from perfect and need major improvement … Amendment 4 may be the catalyst that is needed to promote positive change.”

“1000 Friends certainly understands the need to create construction and other jobs for Floridians,” 1000 Friends Board President Victoria Tschinkel said in the statement. “But in light of such dramatic existing and proposed overdevelopment, this excess capacity will provide construction and related jobs for Floridians for years to come, whether or not the amendment passes.”

Ryan Houck, a spokesman for the group leading the opposition to Amendment 4, said 1000 Friends’ reasons for previously opposing the measure are still valid. He said the measure could send the biotech industry and other potential employers to other states.

“Yes, Amendment 4 would cost tens of thousands of construction jobs,” said Houck, executive director of Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy. “It would also cost tens of thousands of jobs in health care, education and tourism.”

Wayne Garcia, a spokesman for the Florida Hometown Democracy PAC that put the measure on the ballot, said the 1000 Friends statement echoed what his group has been saying.

“They know how bad the problem is in this state and they think the voters should pay careful attention to it,” Garcia said. “This is a very, very sound message indeed.”

Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting brucebritchie@gmail.com.)