The Coastal Star

By Steve Plunkett

On one side is Florida Hometown Democracy, the sponsor of Amendment 4, supported by what it calls a “grass-roots group of committed volunteers’’ as well as the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition, the Florida Public Interest Research Group and the Audubon Society of the Everglades, among others.
On the other side is Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, which says its ‘‘grass-roots army’’ includes the Associated Builders and Contractors; the Chambers of Commerce for Greater Boca Raton, Greater Delray Beach and Greater Boynton Beach; and the Realtor Association of the Palm Beaches.
Stuck in the middle on he amendment, which would put land-use changes to a referendum vote, are two groups more accustomed to being advocates: the Delray Beach-based Florida Coalition for Preservation and the 1000 Friends of Florida.
‘‘It’s frustrating not to take a position,’’ said Bob Ganger, the coalition’s president. ‘‘We determined if we did, we might just do ourselves more harm than good.’’
Ganger said Amendment 4 could turn out the same way the constitutional amendment on classroom reduction did.
“Now the school system runs out of money because they can’t build enough school rooms or hire enough teachers,’’ Ganger said. ‘‘Well, the same thing is likely going to happen here.’’
Another fear, he said, is that state legislators might do away with the Department of Community Affairs, which monitors land use plans now, by saying it’s no longer needed if the amendment passes. Man-aging growth without the DCA would be like a baseball game with no umpire, Ganger said.
The 1000 Friends of Florida, a nonprofit growth management watchdog group, at first opposed the measure but in mid-September shifted to a neutral stance.
“The current position is voters should educate themselves and make a conscious decision,’’ said Joanne Davis, community planner with the group’s Palm Beach County Green Initiative.
Davis said if the amendment becomes law there would be no sudden stop in development. There are enough plans in the pipeline to keep everyone busy for six years, she said.
“That’s a lot of development, and it’s already been approved,’’ Davis said.
In Gulf Stream, Town Manager William H. Thrasher said Amendment 4 could add an unwelcome $3,600 to $5,000 to land use decisions.
“Our town is very frugal, very cost-sensitive. They’re just generally against growing government,’’ he said.
In the County Pocket, residents who are unhappy over a county decision to boost density at the Sea Horse complex may vote in favor of the proposal “to make a statement,’’ Ganger said.
He said amendment supporters could get a 10 to 20 percentage point bounce from the electorate’s mood this year to ‘‘throw the bums out’’ on ballots across the country.
Davis said there was another motivation. “A lot of people feel truly disenfranchised,’’ she said. “There’s a good shot this thing is going to pass because of people’s anger.’’
What’s the right way to vote on Nov. 2?
“It’s a very tough call,’’ Davis said. “I’m not going to say how I’m going to vote because I might get in trouble on either end.’’

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