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Hometown Democracy to Get Vote
 Setting up probably the biggest and most expensive political battle of 2010, Secretary of State Kurt Browning’s office certified the “Hometown Democracy” constitutional amendment Monday for a statewide referendum.
The proposal would require a local referendum on changes to city and county comprehensive plans. Tallahassee attorney Ross Burnaman, vice president of Florida Hometown Democracy, said the proposal would not stifle growth and development but would give residents “a veto” when their city and county commissions want to change long-term growth plans.
”It does not apply to zoning, rezoning, variances, subdivision plats or building permits,” Burnaman said. He said business interests opposed to the amendment were distorting its purpose and effect, by warning that it would destroy jobs and halt virtually all growth.
“They said that about the minimum-wage amendment, too,” said Burnaman. “That’s a red herring.”
But Barney Bishop, president of Associated Industries of Florida, said Amendment 4 will be the hottest issue on the ballot next year. He said the stalled economy has already slowed construction of housing and commercial development, and that requiring a city or county referendum on new projects that vary from comprehensive plans would be “a depression” for the construction economy.
“It kills any future development in Florida, period,” said Bishop. “This is absolute overkill and the people proposing this are no-growthers.”
Browning’s Division of Elections said the New Smyrna Beach-based petition campaign submitted 698,562 valid signatures of voters—about 22,000 more than the total needed to get the issue on the ballot. The Florida Supreme Court recently struck down a law that would have allowed voters to withdraw their signatures on ballot petitions, virtually assuring Hometown Democracy a ballot spot next year.
Bishop said that if a local referendum is required for each major development, “the only people who are going to care, on most issues, are the fanatics who come out to vote against everything. Your average Joe and Jane Lunchbucket are not going to care, but the fanatics are going to come out every time and vote no.”
Burnaman said that if a development not permitted by comprehensive plans is needed, a city or county government could approve a growth-plan change and submit it to voters for a referendum. He said Hometown Democracy would prevent residents from having neighborhoods destroyed by uncontrolled sprawl.
As a constitutional amendment, the proposal will need 60 percent of the vote next year to pass. Burnaman said he is confident of reaching that goal and Bishop said it will be expensive to defeat the amendment.
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