Senate committee delays vote on bill that would prevent local land-development referendums

Screen shot of Christopher Parisi’s drone video montage of the threatened Tarpon Springs land.

A state Senate committee considered a bill on Wednesday that would prevent referendums on amendments to local land-development regulations.

A vote on Senate Bill 856 has been delayed. But members of the Senate Community Affairs Committee and several nonprofit representatives were still able to voice their support and opposition to the legislation. 

Jane West is the policy and planning director for 1000 Friends of Florida — a nonprofit that strives to enhance communities and protect natural lands.

She said constituents are angered by the uncontrolled population growth in the state, as Florida  is the fastest-growing state in the U.S.

West said this bill would allow Florida’s exponential growth to continue and would aid in the destruction of natural areas, like tree canopies. 

“They could now have a referendum process to ensure some protections of those tree canopies,” West said. “If you take that away, they’re not going to be able to have a say on what the character in the community looks like.”

But Senator Dennis Baxley argued that Florida already preserves a significant amount of land. According to a recent assessment by Florida’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, about 30 percent of the state’s land area consists of non-submerged conservation lands. 

“We gotta do something to accommodate the two-legged animals that are walking around on this planet,” Baxley said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a new date to vote on the bill wasn’t announced.

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