In the upcoming Nov. 2 election, Florida voters will determine the passage of Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution. This statewide “Vote on everything” amendment will have a devastating impact on our state’s economy and quality of life and would require citizens to decide hundreds of technical land-use planning issues at the ballot box.
Most voters don’t have the time to review every proposed change to a comprehensive development plan, nor do they have the time to vote on each issue. It is difficult to know the impact our votes would have on these matters. What’s more, voters almost always vote no on issues they don’t understand. Let’s leave this responsibility to our locally elected officials.
As demonstrated in St. Pete Beach, Amendment 4-type proposals don’t work. When citizens of the city adopted a local version of this amendment in 2006 they were told that the bill would give them a say on growth, but that’s not what it has accomplished. The bill has cost St. Pete Beach taxpayers nearly $1 million in extra legal fees, caused development gridlock and economic shutdown and after approving four pro-economy changes, voters are still defending their decision in court two years later! Coveted waterfront land sits vacant, and undeveloped and dilapidated buildings are a daily reminder to the community of the devastation that issue has caused.
According to The St. Petersburg Times, “A three-year experiment in St. Pete Beach shows land planning via referendum is a messy, unpredictable business that leads to higher government costs due to litigation and a stalemate when it comes to development.”
Florida is the world’s top travel destination, with the tourism industry bringing in an annual $57 billion to the state’s economy. Tourists stay in Florida hotels, motels and rental properties; they shop in malls and boutiques; they visit theme parks, museums and other attractions and frequent our local restaurants. People planning vacations simply don’t flock to areas on the decline. They’re attracted to places that show signs of continued upkeep, growth and progress. Without our valuable tourism dollars, businesses suffer due to lost revenue, resulting in lost jobs and an overall negative impact on our local economy.
Let’s illuminate the positives. Consumer confidence is rising, and the housing industry is actively striving to regain momentum; mortgage interest rates are at nearly 40-year lows and home ownership has once again become affordable. Historically, the housing market has been a driving force in economic revitalization, and if Amendment 4 does not pass, the economy can continue to move forward with an eye toward Florida’s job, revenue, tourism and housing growth.
I encourage you to consider the negative ramifications of Amendment 4 and vote no, preserving our future and quality of life.
Sue Wolverton is regional senior vice president of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, Southwest Florida and a Longboat Key resident.
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