Builders Keep No-Growth Proposal Off Florida Ballot
Culminating a hard- and long-fought battle by NAHB, the High Production Home Builders Council, the Florida Home Builders Association and other coalition partners, the Florida Division of Elections on Feb. 1 announced that Florida Hometown Democracy — a potentially disastrous anti-growth initiative — failed to qualify for the November 2008 ballot.
The proposed constitutional amendment would take the responsibility of planning away from planners and local elected officials and require the voters to decide on each and every amendment to comprehensive zoning plans.
“Florida’s Hometown Democracy movement is an assault on housing and an assault on common sense,” said NAHB President-elect Sandy Dunn. “It is a threat to our industry not only in the state of Florida, but with reverberations that can be felt around the country. Fighting this challenge has been a rallying point for all of us who believe in advancing housing opportunity. That we have succeeded in turning this measure back is a tribute to the power of our confederation in defending our values when they come under attack.”
“Ultimately, defeating Florida Hometown Democracy has long been a top priority for NAHB,” said Steve Gallagher, NAHB’s staff vice president for government affairs. “Our recent success shows the strength of our federation and the might of our state and local organizations in Florida.”
Defeat of Hometown Democracy has been viewed as absolutely essential for the future of the business and home building communities in Florida. It would have devastating consequences for the state’s construction industry, which employs more than 470,000 workers and generates more than $62 billion in economic activity, making it the second largest growth engine in the state. The proposal would have costly consequences for general taxpayers in the state, as well, analysts said.
For nearly five years, Florida Hometown Democracy (FHD) proponents have been attempting to collect enough citizen signatures to put the notorious initiative on the ballot, and throughout that period the NAHB alliance has been there to fight them every step of the way.
This year, FHD no-growth advocates fell short by more than 65,000 valid signatures in their petition drive — or by more than 10% of those needed to qualify for a place on the November ballot.
If the initiative had been successfully placed before Florida voters in the current presidential election year, it was conservatively estimated that campaign costs to defeat it on Election Day would have run as high as $50 million. And even then, given unfavorable polling data, there were no absolute guarantees of victory.
Under FHD, cities and counties would be required to hold elections for each comprehensive plan amendment, including not only major changes but small technical details. The state of Florida estimated that the cost of these “elections” would run into the millions, while internal calculations derived figures approaching a staggering $1 billion.
In the last four years alone, the amendment would have required an average of more than 10,599 additional local votes per year in Florida. Last year alone, in Carabelle, a small town in Franklin County, voters would have had to decide 840 separate ballot questions.
Under FHD, every city and county in Florida would be burdened with the time and cost of holding additional elections to vote on proposed changes to comprehensive land use plans. With smarter growth stalled, analysts predict, Florida’s robust economy would taper off to a recession, while property taxes would skyrocket to pay the bills.
While Florida Hometown Democracy has failed to make the ballot for the third consecutive try, it has a good chance of making it in 2010 because petitions in Florida stay valid for four years. With the presidential election out of the way, however, observers believe that it will now be significantly less costly to defeat this far-reaching, extremist-led petition drive.
FHD opponents — led largely by NAHB and other building industry allies — are also much better positioned through their ground organization, Floridians for Smarter Growth (FSG). “The strong alliance that now makes up Floridians for Smarter Growth will continue to remain vigilant, and continue to fight through November 2010,” promised David Hart, vice president of governmental and legislative affairs for the Florida Home Builders Association.
The FSG campaign is comprised of 27 local executive committees capable of reaching more than 80% of Florida’s voters. To supplement this extensive field operation, more than 100 state and local groups have joined to take formal positions against Hometown Democracy.
Volunteers from these opposition groups have contributed to a 107-member speakers bureau and a 70-member “Visibility Team.” In turn, these teams have generated dozens of speaking opportunities, editorials and local policy forums.
Over the past year, FSG has participated in more than 150 meetings across Florida to tell the state’s residents why Hometown Democracy would be so destructive to the state’s economy and its quality of life. Through this effort, more than 25,000 Floridians have joined the grassroots movement to defeat the amendment.
For more information, e-mail Gideon Lett at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8585.