Since beginning a 3-year experiment in Amendment 4-style rule, St. Pete Beach residents have seen endless lawsuits, higher taxes and widespread economic turmoil. In recent elections, the citizens of St. Pete Beach voted to scale back their local version of Amendment 4 so that only certain land use changes require a referendum.Â With Florida voters set to soon decide the fate of Amendment 4 â€“ a statewide Vote on Everything initiative â€“ it is telling that St. Pete Beach voters chose to rein in their own local experiment by a decisive 60-40 margin.
More telling still are the words of Ward Friszolowski, former St. Pete Beach Mayor who retired in 2008.Â “St. Pete Beach residents are tired of voting on everything, especially issues that don’t even relate to development,” said Friszolowski. “This amendment doesn’t work. It has resulted in chaotic, confusing and expensive elections driven by sound bites rather than sound planning.”
No other state in the union has adopted an amendment as heavy-handed and extreme as the one now being sold to Florida voters as Amendment 4.Â Even the type of planning by sound bite that takes place in California would pale in comparison to what is being proposed in our state.Â However, we can draw lessons from the story of St. Pete Beach, the first community in Florida to adopt a local version of Amendment 4.
The St. Pete Beach TIMELINE:
November, 2006: St. Pete Beach narrowly adopts a local version of Amendment 4, requiring a referendum for all changes to the local comprehensive plan. Amendment 4 supporters promise that they just want to give “the people a right to vote.”
June, 2008: St. Pete Beach voters approve a new comprehensive plan at the ballot box.
June, 2008: After losing the election, Amendment 4 supporters in St. Pete Beach file a string of legal challenges to invalidate the will of the people.
September, 2008: Numerous administrative challenges are subsequently filed by Amendment 4 co-author and co-founder Ross Burnaman.
June, 2009: The St. Petersburg Times reports that St. Pete Beach has exhausted its legal budget months before the end of the fiscal year.
September, 2009: Amidst rising legal bills, St. Pete Beach raises taxes.
October, 2009: Court-ordered mediation collapses when Amendment 4 supporters refuse to join the City and the business community in supporting a compromise.
St. Pete Beach is proof positive that Amendment 4 is not designed to give the people a say on growth. It is designed to give anti-growth lawyers another legal avenue to stop commonsense progress, even when voters approve it. In St. Pete Beach, the taxpayers’ legal bills continue to mount. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight.
Floridians for Smarter Growth leads opposition to Amendment 4. To date, more than 170 organizations throughout Florida have opposed Amendment 4. More join the fight every day.Â For more information, please visit www.florida2010.org.