Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Florida's Growth Management Reform Prohibits Comprehensive Plan Amendment Referenda

As most Floridians have probably heard by now, Florida's 2011 Growth Management Reform legislation, the Community Planning Act, passed in the form of HB 7207.  The summary Governor Scott is expected to sign the bill into law soon. He has championed major reform in Florida's system since his campaign.

The media has had a field day with this legislation. It's been described as a repeal of Florida growth management laws and the Build Baby Build Act. Even so, they've completely missed the ball. Beyond industry-specific coverage, the only positive comments I've been able to find are in the relatively limited scope of blogs by practitioners Robert Lincoln and Rosa Schechter. For more detailed commentary, Hopping Green & Sams released a summary and analysis of the bill today. This is a great summary of the bill's 349 pages.

I hope to offer more commentary on the bill eventually, as there are some interesting provisions that have not been discussed in detail anywhere yet. Section 7 of the bill, for example, prohibits any comprehensive plan amendment referenda. Current law only prohibits a referendum if it affects five or fewer parcels. If this sounds familiar, it should. During the 2010 election cycle, Florida Hometown Democracy ran a failed campaign to require, by operation of the Florida Constitution, votes on every comprehensive plan change. Floridians wisely voted it down, but they were clearly spooked. Section 7 should provide some comfort to Floridians that we won't all have to repeat the mistakes of the referendum boondoggle in St. Pete Beach. That city also realized its solution was unworkable and did away with its referendum process this March. This is just one of a bundle of victories for small enterprise out of this year's legislative session.

June 3, 2011 - A reader commented that, as the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association points out (link downloads a word document),  "any amendment adopted prior to this act that was subject to a voter referendum by local charter can be readopted by ordinance and not subject to challenge."