Amendment 4 Debate Continues in Dunedin

05/24/10 Andrea Lypka
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Pinellas County residents could hear about the Hometown Democracy Amendment in Dunedin on May 21st. If this amendment is adopted, local governments will have to summarize their comprehensive land use plans for residents in 75 words, and residents will have a final veto on comprehensive land use plans in cities. Currently, city commissioners decide on the comprehensive land use.

Among the attendees are business owners, local officials, and residents. Among the concerned citizens is a travel agency owner, Kris Gray.

Well, I guess I just have to listen to both sides, and make my decision after I hear them.

Pro- and anti-amendment speakers debated about the pros and cons of the Hometown Democracy Amendment.

One of them was Kevin Hing, chair of the Beach Stewardship Committee, who said a similar amendment was passed in 2006 in St. Pete Beach.

As a resident of St. Pete Beach, the only Florida city that has enacted Hometown Democracy Amendment-like measures, I've lived through the experience of trying to implment these regulations. And I can say as a resident that these things just don't work.

If this amendment is adopted, local governments will have to summarize their comprehensive plan for residents in 75 words. Hing says that ballot language challenges have been the core of the lawsuitgs in St. Pete Beach.

There have been over three lawsuits filed against the city of St. Pete Beach for their attempts to implement Hometown Democracy-style land use regulations. And the focus of those has been the ballot language that state law requires the city to use. The city is forced to summarize complex comp plan amendments in 75 words or less. And it's horrendously difficult to do.

To justify his point, Hing asked the audience to summarize the Bible in 75 words. Hing says the out-of-control legal costs suffered by the city of St. Pete Beach will plague other cities if Amendment 4 is passed.

Every city in the state of Florida is also going to be subject to similar litigation if they are also forced to summarize their comp plans and their comp plan amendments in 75-word summaries.

Stephanie Oddo, a Belleair city commissioner, brought a comprehensive plan to demonstrate to the public that these complex plan changes cannot be summarized in 75 words as required by the law in Florida. She says these special elections will drive up costs that are ultimately passed on to the taxpayer.

If it changes the countywide user land use plan, you're now going to have everyone in the Pinellas County voting on a little Dunedin change. You are going to have all these county residents weighing in on that. One million dollars, that’s what the county attorney tells me it takes, it costs to have an election.

Christopher Giuliana serves on the Dunedin Chamber Board of Directors. He says that concerns regarding higher costs are unfounded, and citizens should have the final say.

The city of Dunedin has 25,000 people. All 25,000 would get a ballot … to say if they approve or disapprove of a proposed change in the comprehensive land use plan. Even if only half of them vote, and even if only a majority of seven thousand end up casting votes, I just say this: There is a wisdom in crowds. Seven thousand votes are a lot better than just a majority of five (the city council).

The debate on Florida’s Constitutional Amendment 4 today was organized by the Dunedin Council of Organizations (DOC).

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Amendment 4 Debate Continues

Kevin King has NO clue. This is the same old false argument that opponents of FHD use. Land speculators there tried to by-pass FL's planning process. It was developers fighting developers. It had nothing whatsoever to do with Amendment 4. King has discontinued his Blog.

Hing Blog is Not Discontinued!

Lynn: First, my blog is NOT discontinued! I created a SEPARATE blog devoted solely to the St. Pete Beach/A4 issue because it was getting mixed in with my beach preservation posts on the other blog. The blot is located at Second, this is NOT a false argument, and SPB is NOT developers fighting developers. The reason why Hometown Democracy/Amendment 4 style-regs didn't work, (and the reason why they were repealed/eliminated by a vote of the people) is because 1) the regs were overbroad and forced a vote on small, technical changes that the City's voter's didn't care about, and 2) the city was subjected to multiple, costly lawsuits because it was forced to summarize its 100-200 page comp plans/comp plan amendments in 75 word ballot summaries. A few residents have filed multiple lawsuits alleging the city's 75 word ballot summaries were "deceptive" and inadequate, yet the plaintiffs can't even describe what's missing in less than 100 words, so even they can't accomplish what they're suing the city for failing to do. If Amendment 4 passes, every city in Florida will be forced to summarize their comp plans/changes in 75 word ballot summaries, and they will be subject to the SAME sorts of legal challenges for failing to accomplish the impossible. There is a lot of stuff being said by both sides of this issue, but if you disagree with THIS argument, please post again and explain why, because this alone is enough reason not to pass this version of Amendment 4. Finally, my name is Hing, not King. However, thanks very much for caring enough about this issue to post a response.

From the Horse's Mouth...

I just wanted to add that the strongest advocate of my argument that ballot language challenges (i.e. claims that a city's 75-word ballot summary is "deceptive" or "misleading" or "insufficient")is prime focus of the St. Pete Beach litigation is the lawyer for the folks who are suing the City! In his May 18th letter to the City he said "The central issue in this litigation has been the assertion by my clients that there must be full disclosure in the ballot summaries that the voters are approving the threefold increase in height and density." These allegations are PRECISELY the same allegations that could be made against any other city in Florida if Amendment 4 passes, since it is virtually (if not totally) impossible to write a 75-word ballot summary of such a complex document as a comp plan/amendment so that all parties will be satisfied. Lynn, (or anyone else) if you have some arguments that refute this, please post them...I'd love to have a good, respectful discussion about this.

More about SPB and Hometown Democracy...

More about why St. Pete Beach proves that Amendment 4 / Hometown Democracy is flawed is at: