Hometown Democracy could prompt growth law changes, ex-DCA attorney says

The proposed Florida Hometown Democracy amendment could lead the Legislature to substantially weaken requirements for comprehensive planning in state law, says a former state planning official and land-use attorney in Tallahassee.

The Florida Division of Elections on Monday agreed to place the measure on the ballot for the 2010 general election in November. The proposed amendment would require voter approval of changes in local comprehensive plans, which contain land-use maps and growth policies for cities and counties.

Supporters of the proposal, including the Sierra Club’s Florida chapter, say the amendment would wrest control of local planning decisions away from developers while opponents, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, say it would bring growth to a halt.

Cari Roth, who was the Department of Community Affairs general counsel under Gov. Jeb Bush until 2002, said Monday the proposal doesn’t prevent the Legislature from changing growth management laws.

“I personally think it’s the wrong way to go,” she told the group Our Region Tomorrow, a regional planning initiative spearheaded by the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. Roth is now chair of the land use and government consulting practice with Bryant Miller Olive in Tallahassee.

“I think if we were to see that amendment pass there is nothing in the amendment that binds the Legislature to the current comprehensive plan amendment process,” Roth said. “If it requires a vote on every comprehensive plan, the Legislature could diminish the amount of things that could be in the plan.”

“In that way, it probably ends up taking the public out and diminishing the planning process.”

In response, Ross Stafford Burnaman, co-founder of the Florida Hometown Democracy Inc. PAC, said, “I haven’t talked to Cari about her theory. I don’t share her view.

“Let’s face it, some communities in Florida had comprehensive plans decades before the state legislation was passed (in 1985 requiring plans),” Burnaman said. “We have local home rule in our Constitution.”

Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission.