NIMBY’s and BANANA’s and CAVE’S oh my!  (Not In My Backyard, Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything, Citizens Against Virtually Everything)  They are on the loose in the great state of Florida with the proposed Amendment 4 to the Florida constitution – slyly labeled the “Florida Hometown Democracy Land Use Initiative,” this bill is about “democracy” like North Korea is the “People’s Democratic Republic of North Korea.”  I first learned about this initiative in a short piece over at Builder Online, but a little digging brought out the real nasty bits of this legislation.

Basically, acting on the theory that sprawl is bad and we don’t want sprawl, this bill would require public referendums for any changes to local comprehensive land use plans.  One could argue that that type of participation is pure democracy – everyone gets a say!  Balderdash!  That type of participation lends itself to chaos – this is why our Founding Fathers (reverent pause with Bach note strains in the background) developed the type of government we have.   In the words of Benjamin Franklin responding to a woman who asked just that question: “A republic madam if you can keep it.”  Long time readers of my screed know that I would put more faith in a random selection of 435 names from the Nashville phone book than the entire House of Representatives, but land use policy is – ahem – dare I say it, more complex and requires some genuine expertise.  To continue my analogy, the House actually acts like a referendum force…with short terms they have to constantly go back to their constituency and do the will of the people, however passionately misguided that might be.  The Senate is there to temper the passion and provide reason.  In the combination of these two bodies, in theory, good legislation emerges.

Going to a referendum system gets you all the passion that can be whipped up by environmental groups, anti-growthers, population control kooks and the like coupled with the natural disinclination towards change that homeowners (myself included!) feel.  Here’s a partial list of groups that are supporting this thing:

Alliance To Protect Water Resources, Inc. Big Bend Biofuels Clean Water Action Clean Water Network of Florida Coalition of Concerned Citizens Concerned Citizens of Flagler Beach Concerned Citizens of Wakulla Concerned Friends of Fernandina Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County Control Growth Now Corridor 44 Civic Association Eagle Crest Civic Association East Polk Government Watch Committee, Inc. Eastern Surfing Association – Palm Beach County District Eco-Action, Inc. Environment Florida Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Inc (ECOSWF) Environmental Council of Volusia – Flagler Counties Eric Fricker – (past) Vice Mayor, City of Cocoa Beach EverGreen, the Tree Treasurers of Charlotte County F.E.A.R., Inc. (Floridians for Environmental Accountability and Reform) Flagler Beach Environmental Preservation Council, Inc Florida Bi-Partisan Civic Affairs Group Florida Consumer Action Network Florida Native Plant Society, Pinellas Chapter Florida Open Beaches Foundation,Inc. Florida Panther Society Florida PIRG – Florida Public Interest Research Group
…and a partridge in a pear tree!  The Builder article I referenced earlier identifies some of the creepier supporters of this bill including:
Among Hometown Democracy’s more controversial supporters is the anti-immigrationist Floridians for a Sustainable Population, whose founder, Joyce Tarnow, once operated an abortion clinic. In 2004, Tarnowwas quoted in the Broward Palm Beach News as saying “fertility is an environmental issue. That’s why I try to get as many people sterilized as are in my way.”
Look, Florida real estate is in the tank right now.  Worse than most other locations, especially South Florida.  But this has not been because of poor land planning.  It has been due to the collapse of second home purchases, declining immigration along with all the other suspects that the rest of the nation has been enduring.  This bill will do nothing to prevent this from happening again.  What it will do is drive up the costs of doing business in Florida.
There is this wonderful myth perpetuated by environmentalists and the media that all developers are enormously wealthy, greedy cads who want nothing more than to turn the trees into asphalt.  There are some like that out there to be sure, but the vast majority of the developer population are hard working, decent entrepreneurial types who really want to do the right thing.  I have said many times that I would never want to develop something that I wouldn’t be proud to take my children by in twenty years…that’s a standard that many of my fellow developers share.  Developers take on huge personal risk to achieve their dreams.  This type of legislation will add substantially to that risk and encourage the good guys who don’t have uber-deep pockets to go elsewhere.  The only companies that can survive this process will be the ones that can afford huge legal bills and costly delays.
It’s up to you Floridians!  This turkey is on your ballot for November 2, 2010 – if it passes, God help us.  It will serve as a model for interest groups that want to see us living like the Industrial Revolution never occurred.