Florida Hometown Democracy – a Really Bad Idea

You can fool some of the people all of the time and that’s enough to pass a bad constitutional amendment.

December 11, 2007 – Palm Coast, FL – The Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment is a proposal to take responsibility for planning away from local planners and elected officials and require voters to decide on every comprehensive plan amendment. A group of activist environmentalists conceived the idea and came up with a “feel good” title. They are currently active seeking people to sign the petition required to place the amendment on the next ballot.


Florida’s statewide growth management law requires input from professional planners, two public hearings, a review and an appeals process at the state level and numerous opportunities for citizens to participate in and challenge any changes to the Comprehensive Plan. Passage of the Hometown Democracy amendment would replace this comprehensive process with ballot box planning.


Each and every change to the Comprehensive Plan, no matter how minor, would require a vote. Reportedly, there was a yearly average of over 10,000 plan changes in Florida over the past four years. Broward County would have required votes on 686 items per year.


Comprehensive Plans are living documents, requiring modifications as situations change. They often come into play when property is annexed and when new roads or schools are planned. They allow planners to intelligently create things like planned communities. In most of rural Flagler County current planning regulations allow for only one residential unit for each five acres, promoting urban sprawl. ANY change to this, such as approval for a planned community, with clustered housing, green space, and amenities would require a vote.


The extended time delay for approval, the added cost to “sell” a project and the uncertainty of outcome will combine to essentially stop any growth requiring a change to the Comprehensive Plan. Developers could have no confidence that a well conceived and desirable project would be approved by voters. If such intelligent growth is stifled, builders will take the path of least resistance by creating the urban sprawl already allowed under current land use regulations.


One of the arguments put forth by Hometown Democracy proponents is that our elected officials have let us down. I disagree with this, but let’s assume it’s true. These officials were elected by the same voters who would make the growth management decisions. If you believe that we can’t elect competent officials, how can you believe that we would make great planners?


Who would pay for the voting? We, the taxpayers would pay. Who would most likely win in any contested decision? Probably the side with the biggest advertising budget. Our forefathers created a Representative Republic, not a democracy, because they could foresee the resulting chaos of a pure democracy.


Do not be fooled. Do not sign their petition. The Florida Legislature recently enacted tough laws to more carefully manage growth by ensuring that roads and schools are in place to meet the needs of growth – before new developments can be built. We should give these laws a chance to work before resorting to extreme measures.

10 replies
  1. Bruce Van Deusen
    Bruce Van Deusen says:

    You May Have Your Name Removed

    If by chance you already signed a petition in favor of Hometown Democracy, not realizing what it meant for whatever reason, you may request to have your name REMOVED from the petition. There is a procedure which you can use. Maybe we can find out how.

  2. Jerry Carter
    Jerry Carter says:

    Another point of view

    There is a letter to the editor of the Florida Times Union(12/07) that makes a persuasive argument for an opposing view to yours.
    If the current system worked so well the general public would not be concerned.

  3. Gloria Harrod
    Gloria Harrod says:


    Reply to Toby: You’re dead wrong. Apparently, you, the Chamber of Commerce and the developers are all in bed together. By the way, your guys are paying plenty to collect signatures in opposition to FHD. Apparently, you are terrified that the people might finally have a voice. It’s not our fault that the money machines give us candidates that are in the pockets of developers. This is our only chance to save what is left of Florida. Those of you who have signed the petition, don’t be fooled by these alarmists. They are very afraid.

  4. sandra walters
    sandra walters says:

    Let’s Only hear from people who don’t stand to mak

    the fact that you make money selling real estate takes you out of the running as somebody with a fact-based point of view.

  5. Bruce G
    Bruce G says:

    Be fair, sandra

    I find it ironic that a supporter of DEMOCRACY would suggest that another person is not qualified to have an opinion. Please refer to the GoToby.com TESTIMONIALS page to see what Toby’s readers think of his objectivity.

  6. BB
    BB says:


    This is truly an awful idea. Maybe someone can dig up the number of land-use actions have taken place over the past years in this area and relate it to people and make them understand that they will actually have to come out and vote on these. Look at how poor our turnout is for the elections we already have. Many people who are closely related to real estate are not even qualified to make land-use decisions-much less Joe Public. This will be mob rule and the people who have the time and inclination (i.e.-rich, retired, and powerful) will make sure that those who don’t (i.e.-lower/middle class, working, and too busy to get involved) get the short end of the stick. Bad idea any way you slice it.

  7. Jan Reeger
    Jan Reeger says:


    While I can appreciate SOME of what prompted this movement, it is absolutely not a good solution. It would be extremely costly, logistically hideous and have disastrous long term results. WE will grow but WE do need to grow beautifully! This amendment is not the answer. I am again counting on the wisdom of the majority of voters to defeat this.

  8. John Adams
    John Adams says:

    Good article

    I think that most of the people who favor Hometown Democracy are aware that the process that would be created as a result would effectively eliminate any opportunity to bring new industry and job creation to Florida. These are people who have decided, for one reason or another, that they are here now and it is a good time to close the door at the borders and prevent anyone else from coming in. As a native of Florida, I can understand where you are coming from. However, as someone who was raised locally and educated locally, I think that ending all new development is a dire error. The fact of the matter is that our children and grandchildren will continue to be forced to move from our home town as a result of the lack of good paying jobs that result from a no-growth strategy (if you doubt that FHD is a no-growth strategy you are fouling yourself). Our future, and the future of the brightest of our youth depends on the continued development of our area. I agree that we don\\\\\\’t want to see our natural areas destroyed and that we don\\\\\\’t want unchecked development. I just find it incredibly without foresight to consider ending it all with a strategy like the one being presented. Further, as a third generation native, I find it insensitive to those of us who are raising families here with the hope that future generations will continue to prosper in our area.

  9. Jason Gambone
    Jason Gambone says:


    I agree with Toby on all points. We have a great example at hand of why HTD is a bad idea…Please consider that the City of Palm Coast is currently processing several comp plan amendments for land that they are annexing. These amendments are simply taking the land from the County \\\”Industrial\\\” future land use designation to the City \\\”Industrial\\\” future land use designation. Under HTD, this would have to be decided by referrendum. The time and money wasted on a referrendum notwithstanding, imagine the disaster that could potentially be created if what should basically be a ministerial act act of government became politicized. In theory, uninformed nimbys would be able to rally, spread heresay and false rumors, and get something like this defeated at the ballot box. I do agree with Gloria that this is in fact, a scary proposition!

  10. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to Jerry

    Jerry, My position is not that the present system is perfect, only that the Hometown Democracy solution is outrageously bad. It is like trying to solve the healthcare problems by making everyone become a doctor. Further, if the general public were seriously concerned, the advocates for Hometown Democracy would not have to pay solicitors to get petitions signed. Nor would they be having trouble meeting their signature goal.

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