Amendment 4: Approve or Oppose?

October 29, 2010 70 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A special look into the details of Florida's Amendment 4 and guest editorials for and against this highly controversial amendment in our upcoming elections.

What Is Amendment 4?

Florida Comprehensive Land Use Plans, Amendment 4, also known as "Referenda Required For Adoption And Amendment of Local Government Comprehensive Land Use Plans," is on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment to the Florida Constitution. The initiative proposes to require a taxpayer-funded referendum for all changes to local government comprehensive land-use plans. The initiative will appear on the November ballot as Amendment 4. In order to pass, the amendment needs at least 60% of the total votes.

In practical terms, it means voters would be regularly confronted with numerous comprehensive plan changes on a single ballot -- perhaps dozens, if critics are correct. Proponents contend these would be limited to the big and easy to grasp, such as land-use designation changes to allow a new subdivision like Nocatee(1), or a new park, or a high-density, urban infill project like Jackson Square(2).

Because of imprecise wording in the amendment, however, the state Supreme Court and the Florida Association of Counties have concluded those votes would also encompass comprehensive-plan elements as arcane as infrastructure improvements, including placement of sewer and drainage lines, traffic circulation plans and community design standards. The state says about 8,000 comp-plan amendments are approved by local governments each year in Florida.

Source: Miami Herald

(1) Miami Herald's "outside of Miami-Dade County's urban development boundaries" substituted with "like Nocatee."

(2) Miami Herald's "Midtown Miami" substituted with "Jackson Square."


This is the wording voters will see on their ballots:

Title: Referenda required for adoption and amendment of local government comprehensive land use plans.

Ballot summary: Establishes 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, consideration by the governing body and notice. Provides definitions.



Supporters of Amendment 4

The passing of Amendment 4 would make it more difficult to develop large scale projects such as Rivertown.

Florida Hometown Democracy
Florida Public Interest Research Group

Florida Wildlife Federation

Friends Of The Everglades, Inc.

Sierra Club of Florida

Urban Environment League

Opposers of Amendment 4

According to one independent group, Florida TaxWatch, the passing of Amendment 4 would mean $45 million to $83 million in additional electoral costs annually for public referendums to be held for projects such as Jackson Square, a transit friendly development proposed for a blighted section of Philips Highway.

Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy

Florida Association of Realtors

American Planning Association, Florida Chapter

American Institute of Architects, Florida and Jacksonville chapters

Florida Chamber of Commerce

Florida Farm Bureau

Floridians For Smarter Growth

Florida AFL-CIO

Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce


Amendment 4—a statewide “Vote on Everything” initiative—is a grave threat to Florida’s future. This proposed rewrite of the Florida Constitution will imperil Florida’s economy and unique quality-of-life.

The amendment subverts a well-established and democratic planning process while threatening Florida’s prospects for economic recovery. With the “Vote on Everything” amendment, citizens—not the representatives they elected—are forced to regularly decide hundreds of technical land-use planning issues at the ballot box.

Much is at stake for all Floridians:

The disruption to the daily lives of Floridians will be extraordinary. Taxpayers will be required to fund elections for each proposed comprehensive plan change – not just major projects, but even minor technical details. It will not be unusual for the voters to face 200 to 300 comprehensive plan changes every year. In the last four years alone, this amendment would have required an average of over 10,000 additional local referenda per year in Florida. According to a review of state records, if Amendment 4 had been law in 2006, the residents of Carrabelle, a small Franklin County town, would have voted 617 times!

The disorder will further disenfranchise Florida's electorate. Voters will be deluged with highly technical background materials prepared by local government planning staff. The legalese of proposed comprehensive plan changes, often puzzling for expert engineers and attorneys, will further dampen voter turnout. Lines at voting booths will grow as Floridians attempt the virtual impossibility of voting on hundreds of separate and often confusing ballot questions.

The cost to Florida taxpayers will be astronomical. Every city and county in Florida will be burdened with the time and cost of holding additional elections to vote on proposed changes to comprehensive land use plans. The Orlando Sentinel notes that these costs would “soar into the millions.” And in these difficult economic times, local taxpayers will have to pick up the bill.

The result will be a system that is far worse, not better. That’s why respected environmental leaders refuse to support the amendment. They know this proposal will transform every planning decision into a political campaign, thereby encouraging sprawl and making smarter growth impossible.

The “Vote on Everything” amendment has already been a disaster in St. Pete Beach—the small Pinellas County town that adopted a local version of this proposal in 2006. Since then, residents have suffered through endless litigation, which has caused costs to spiral out of control and turned St. Pete Beach into a battleground for out-oftown lawyers and special interest groups.

Now, this amendment threatens to go state-wide. Amendment 4 will appear on the November, 2010 ballot. Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy leads opposition to this measure. To date, more than 200 organizations throughout Florida have opposed Amendment 4. More join the fight every day.
Thank you all for your time and I look forward to your support in defeating Amendment 4.

With Kindest Regards,
R. Scott Crawford, AIA, LEED AP+
Chapter President, AIA Jacksonville


Voting Yes for Amendment 4 this November 2nd is a vote for a better, smarter Florida.

Our real estate and development industry is a dinosaur; equally dull in its collective wisdom and just as extinct. Over the last 25+ years, our real estate development industry has been driven by one arrogant and fatal assumption: this is what makes us the most money therefore this is what the people really want. It’s akin to offering a man dying of thirst in the desert a shot of bourbon to forget his troubles (“oh, and here’s a Golden Calf to help you pray for help”). The dying man wants… needs water. But the profit margins on bourbon and golden calves meet the quarterly profit projections of Wall Street.

Now Amendment 4 comes before the voters this November 2nd to offer water in the desert. Predictably, the entrenched, moneyed interests in Tallahassee and town halls across the state have risen in opposition to Amendment 4. In the wilderness of the desert they proclaim, “Don’t drink the water! Water has a 100% mortality rate! Anybody who has ever tasted water has died!” But the voters know better.

Amendment 4 proposes to make amendments to local comprehensive plans subject to voter approval. And this will lead to real change in how Florida develops and grows, for better and smarter development, in the future. Once the inevitable economic recovery appears, our real estate and development businesses will still make money (a lot of money, in fact). But the “this is the way we’ve always done it” business models they have relied for the last 25+ years will have to adapt when the voters approve Amendment 4 this November 2nd.

Americans are optimists. We believe a vote can change our world. In 2006 and 2008, we voted to change direction after the Republican Party betrayed its core principles. Now, in 2010, we are once again preparing to vote for unprecedented change after the disappointment of the last 2 years. The media pundits and talking heads are pontificating about “the angry voter”, as represented by the enthusiasm of the Tea Party movement. But people don’t get angry and enthusiastically go out to vote unless they are optimists. The optimist votes because we still believe our vote matters and we can change things for the better. We stubbornly cling to our optimism despite being bombarded by the ‘conventional wisdom’ of cynics who prey on the fear we can never change a corrupt system dominated by moneyed interests, lobbyists and entitled self-serving incumbents (of both parties). I urge you to exercise your optimism by voting Yes on Amendment 4 this November 2nd for a better and smarter Florida.

Mark Major, AICP was the Chair of the First Coast Section, Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association from 2005-2008.

What are your thoughts on Amendment 4?

Article by Ennis Davis