ARE DEVELOPMENT APPROVALS BY POPULAR VOTE – “ENTITLEMENT REFERENDA” – IN OUR FUTURE? FLORIDA’S PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT 4 ADDS ELECTIONEERING AS A NEW TASK IN THE COMMUNITY PLANNER AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPER JOB DESCRIPTION.

Amendment 4, if approved will establish the right of voters to grant “entitlements” – permission to develop homes and other land uses – by adding to the Florida constitution “that before a local government may adopt a new comprehensive land use plan, or amend a comprehensive land use plan, the proposed plan or amendment shall be subject to vote of the electors of the local government by referendum, following preparation by the local planning agency”.      

 

Author note –   the proposal failed in the         November 2010 election.

                                          click article to enlarge      

FLORIDA – A TESTING GROUND FOR NEW LAND USE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT THEORY

As a Midwest trained land use planner who practiced land use planning and economic development in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois, I too went south in the 80’s seeking better job opportunities.  I didn’t want to be last Michigander “to turn the lights out” according to the humorist quote of the day.

In Florida for a few years, I had the opportunity to work with the Local Government Comprehensive Planning and Land Development Regulation Act – also known as Florida’s Growth Management Act. 

Since the early 70’s, Florida has been a national testing ground for advanced land use planning theory since adoption of the 1972 Environmental Land and Water Management Act, in part addressing preservation of areas of critical state concern – wetlands and open space for aquifer recharge needs to assure potable water availability to support future population increases.

Concurrency – a provision in Florida’s Growth Management law that requires facilities and services to be available concurrent with the impacts of development – was first tested and formulated into a statewide system including the adoption of a state comprehensive plan consistent with comprehensive regional policy plans prepared by regional planning bodies governed by representative local governments in their sub state districts. The goal being each local government plan would be coordinated with county, regional and ultimately a statewide plan which in combination assure public and private supplied infrastructure availability before needed by private development.

Concurrency theory holds that a comprehensive planning process can forecast the timing, location and intensity of development and stimulate both government and private investments, especially infrastructure, to meet future development needs.

In a “perfectly planned society” concurrency works.  However, in Florida the effectiveness of concurrency is being questioned due to the “ability of local government and planning bodies to change local growth plans” undermining their effectiveness according to the September 18-19, Wall Street Journal Article “Builders Fighting Florida Proposal”  where Amendment 4, if approved, would require submission of all new development proposal to a popular vote.

Amendment 4, is a reaction to overdevelopment and is designed to control the “construction and supply of new homes and other development” by allowing voters  to grant “entitlements” – permission to build. Supporters claim, according to the Wall Street Journal article, Amendment 4 gives “voters the check and balance instead of politicians who want to rubber stamp every development that comes their way”.

GLOBAL IMPACT OF AMENDMENT 4

For planners and economic developers the outcome of the November ballot is important.

First, we must recognize that Florida, a testing ground, will transport the concept of “entitlement referenda” to other states including Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.

Second, it obvious from recent experience in the Midwest that voter initiated referenda challenging zoning matters succeed overwhelmingly – the anti-development folks vote while supporters stay at home along with the non-impacted vast majority who remain silent.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO PLANNERS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPERS

Our profession will change and this change will be significant. Professional planners and economic developers will be subject to greater pressure to address “concurrency” matching future growth with both public and private sector needs – balancing the political need for tax base with the private sector need for real estate development profit opportunities in anticipation of future growth.

Regardless of whether you believe “entitlement referenda” is good or bad, it’s time for planners and economic developers to get out the crystal ball – dust it off – as we will be asked to look more carefully into the future – and begin thinking of a new role in the development process, one that will require us to become actively engaged in electioneering if we are to retain our role in implementing future plans.

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2 Responses to “ARE DEVELOPMENT APPROVALS BY POPULAR VOTE – “ENTITLEMENT REFERENDA” – IN OUR FUTURE? FLORIDA’S PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT 4 ADDS ELECTIONEERING AS A NEW TASK IN THE COMMUNITY PLANNER AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPER JOB DESCRIPTION.”

  1. Joyce Tarnow Says:

    Chuck:

    I would like to e-mail you an endorsement statement by a retired professional planner who has served in a number of roles both in government and in academia. His name is Dr. Earl Starnes and he co-authored with Dr. Richard Rubino the book, “The History of Planning in Florida”. It responds to your statement above.

    I am a seven-year volunteer in the effort to get this citizen’s initiative on this November’s ballot. We had to overcome a number of roadblocks put in our way by the legislature and the development industry.

  2. Barbara Says:

    Clhuck: What an interesting, informative article on the Florida Entitlement Referenda. I’m forwarding your blog on to the chair of the county planning commission.

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