Thursday, January 25, 2024

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: Gov. DeSantis signs measure banning local voter referendums on land development. (Florida Politics, June 29, 2023)

Busy, busy, busy.  Overbearing Republican representatives and senators in Tallahassee have erased our right to voter referenda on land development.  Poof! Who knew?  Vote them out!  Fun fact: I've been attending our annual St. Johns County Legislative Delegation meetings since 2006 -- not once did any witness asked to be relieved of our rights to voter referenda on land development.  Our other-directed Dull Republican legislators are owned and controlled by developers and other corporations.  Enough flummery, dupery and nincompoopery. From Florida Politics: 

Gov. DeSantis signs measure banning local voter referendums on land development. 

Jesse Scheckner, June 29, 2023

Florida Politics

It's one of a fleet of bills lawmakers ushered to passage this Legislative Session.

Voters will soon have little say in how the areas around them change through construction large and small, due to legislation Gov. Ron DeSantis just approved.

The measure (SB 718), which goes into effect Saturday, prohibits voter referendums or ballot initiatives on land development regulation.

That means all decisions over zoning, building approval, annexations and various other pivotal matters related to a county or municipality’s streets and skylines will be left to the members of its local governing body.

Jacksonville Republican Sen. Clay Yarborough sponsored the measure, which cleared the Legislature mostly along party lines in April. Republican Reps. Alina Garcia of Miami and Jennifer Canady of Lakeland carried its House companion (HB 41).

DeSantis quietly signed the measure just before 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Proponents like freshman Miami Republican Rep. Vicki Lopez, a co-sponsor of the House bill, argue localities “should not govern by referendum” and instead operate under America’s true form of government, a democratic republic in which elected leaders make decisions on behalf of the voters who put them into office.

Critics of the change say eliminating voter approval of land development is a direct countermeasure to the will of voters. Some labeled the measure the “protect developers from citizens” bill and contend it will further shift power from the many to the few, effectively cutting residents out of decisions concerning local growth management and planning.

“We are basically taking away the ability for citizens across the state of Florida to have any input on the character of their community,” said Jane West, director of policy and planning for 1000 Friends of Florida, during a committee discussion of the issue in late March.

Voters in municipalities across the state — including many in South Florida, a hotbed for real estate development — have rejected building proposals in recent years through the soon-to-be banned referendum process.

In November, Miami Beach voters shot down ballot questions that would have allowed construction of a condo and hotel project Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross sought on the former Deauville Beach Resort site. Ross, a prolific campaign contributor to both Democrats and Republicans, is among DeSantis’ roster of billionaire donors.

Voters in some municipalities have shown they’d rather have their elected officials decide on development matters. In March, 63% of voters in Pinecrest, a small, affluent village in Miami-Dade County, said “no” to a ballot question asking whether they wanted to require supermajority approval among the local electorate for future zoning and land use amendments.

SB 718 is one of a fleet of bills Republican lawmakers ushered to passage this past Legislative Session that preempt some local control of local issues.

Among them: SB 102, a sweeping housing affordability package that includes a ban on local rent control ordinances; SB 1068, which codifies state standards for delivery drone ports and limits the say local governments have in their regulation; SB 170, which would create a path for businesses to sue local governments and stop enforcement of ordinances they believe are “arbitrary or unreasonable”; and HB 1417, which would eliminate local ordinances granting residential renters more rights in cases of rent increases and evictions.

Another proposal that would have removed local protections for historic structures in flood-prone coastal areas and allow developers to raze and replace them with far larger, denser buildings crumbled in the waning days of Session. Like SB 718, the bill was interpreted by many as a response to Miami Beach’s rejection of developments in and around the thousands of properties identified in the city’s historic preservation regulations in the aftermath of the Champlain Towers South condo collapse in Surfside.

Several lawmakers, including Miami Beach Republican Rep. Fabi√°n Basabe, say a refined version of the measure is likely to come again next year.

In addition to blocking direct voter influence over local land use, SB 718 reworks how counties and cities must proceed in expanding or contracting municipal borders. In place of a general report on the issue, local governments must produce a “feasibility study” of a proposed annexation or contraction analyzing the economic, market, technical, financial and management impacts of a city boundary change.

The local governing body — a County Commission, City Commission, Town Council or other such panel — must approve or reject a proposed boundary change within six months of the feasibility study’s completion.

If more than 70% of the land proposed for annexation is owned by individuals, corporations or other legal entities not registered to vote in an area targeted for annexation or contraction, the area may not be absorbed or excised without the consent of at least half the property owners there.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

1 comment:

Fred Booth said...

Ron DeSantis was originally on the Trump train wreck, then campaigned against him sprinkling a little bit of truth about Trump's fascism, now dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed the fascist once again. Accused prosecutors of lawfare. Big fuckin joke.