Amendment 4 is the idea of letting the people take over. Take over when governments ignore the wishes of neighborhoods when they approve developments that are good for the pocketbooks of developers, and maybe their own as well, but are destruction for the people who have to live there after the developer takes their money and runs.
The amendment would give voters the final approval after other options have expired – meaning zoning boards and city and county commissions have ignored the wishes of the people and approved controversial projects. The amendment is being opposed by business interests throughout the state, with good reason. It threatens to kill jobs, clog up the courts with development disputes and cost money for special elections and ballot items.
The worst fear is that everything anybody wants to build that somebody somewhere, anywhere, doesn’t like will wind up in the voting booth. It is a serious concern and thoughtful observers have already begun warning of the unintended consequences.
As we thoughtful observers ponder the options, it is well to note why this amendment came about in the first place. And there is a perfect example in Fort Lauderdale’s First Presbyterian Church trying to get approval for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) to get around existing zoning laws. The church wants to build a massive retail and parking garage right on Las Olas Boulevard, and a very large family center a short block away. Residents suspect a school in disguise. The church says no. But the family center will have classrooms, a cafeteria and a gym. If it isn’t a school, why are they building one?
The neighbors in Fort Lauderdale’s historic Colee Hammock section are bitterly opposed. It is a classic power structure – influence and money on both sides. We dubbed it “The Civil War on Las Olas.” Buddy Nevins, in his blog Broward Beat, was stronger. He called it “criminal” to destroy this unique neighborhood. To those who live there, it is a village within an urban area, a place with popular hangouts such as The Floridian, small shops, restaurants, a barber, a mini post office. It is the sort of place most cities are trying to create, convenience combined with relatively quiet lifestyle.
“Criminal” is a pretty strong word, but some of the stuff that has gone on behind the scenes – pressuring Planning and Zoning Board members, for instance – is close to the line.
At this writing it is obvious the politicians want the problem to go away. They ask for compromise, not wanting to suffer the consequences of a vote. In the case of Romney Rogers, the recently elected city commissioner for the area, his short public career is over if he betrays his campaign promise to protect neighborhoods against this sort of exploitation.
If he and his fellow commissioners approve this PUD, well, folks, this is being called the poster child for Amendment 4. It just may be a bad idea whose time has come.