Friday, October 29, 2010

A perfect example: vote NO on Amendment 4

Today’s Naples Daily News has a front-page story titled “Golden Gate Estates: Shopping center’s future up to vote.”  It’s a perfect example of what will happen if Amendment 4 is passed. 

Amendment 4, referred to as “Hometown Democracy,” would require voters to approve by referendum the adoption and amendment of local government comprehensive land use plans.  I wrote about Amendment 4 in my post The Amendments – Part 1, and recommended a vote against it.

Here’s the story.

A developer wants to build a 41-acre shopping center on the northwest corner of Golden Gate and Wilson boulevards, which would include a 27,000 square feet grocery store. It would require a change to the master land use plan.  The issue is so controversial that the County Commissioner put the question on the ballot for the six election precincts that would be affected.  Even though it’s a nonbinding straw vote, the Commissioners figure it will give them a sense of the community’s wishes.

According to the article, the developer has spent $10 million so far purchasing parcels of land for the project – and the zoning change hasn’t even been approved yet.

By election day, the developer will have spent about $175,000 on a marketing campaign that has included direct mailers, newspaper ads and yard signs, which now dot the community’s landscape. Campaign representatives have been on hand at community events, including yard sales, to pitch the project....

Peter Gaddy, president of the Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association, which hasn’t taken a position on the project, said he’s shocked by the amount of money the developer has spent on a marketing campaign, especially since the straw vote isn’t binding.

“To spend this amount of money on a political issue like this is more than what was spent on the sheriff’s race, and that was over the entire county,” he said.

“It just seems to be a little unfair that they are spending so much money and the people who are opposed to it are walking the streets with crayons and notebook paper, trying to get support,” Gaddy said. “There is a huge disparity obviously in money here.” ...

Mark Teaters, a founder and charter member of the Homeowners Association of Golden Gate Estates, said the question about changing the master plan never should have ended up on a straw ballot.

He said the right thing to do would be to reappoint a committee to take another look at the community’s master plan and to hold public hearings to debate any changes. “It’s overdue,” he said.

If a majority of voters support the project in the straw ballot, he said, it shouldn’t mean that county commissioners say, “We are going to do it.”

I agree with Teaters, and like Gaddy, I’m shocked at the spending.  Now just imagine what it will be like if Amendment 4 passes, and every land use plan change will require voter approval. 

It’s not fair that developers can come in and spend millions to market their cause, and local community members have only their “crayons and notebook paper” to make their case.

Vote NO on Amendment 4.