WE WON!!!

Judge Leroy Moe, in a great victory for the voters of Deerfield Beach, upheld the constitutionality and legality of both November 2002 Charter Amendments proposed by the Original Save Our Beach committee and approved by a 75% voter plurality. The first Charter Amendment protects the main beach parking lot from an oversized garage. The second Charter Amendment protects the beach area from the overdevelopment that was seen between 2000 to present.

A legal challenge against the power of the people to protect their beach area from overdevelopment was brought. Documents discovered during the suspension of the City Manager showed that the City Manager was secretly involved in assisting the attorney suing the City.
The Charter Amendments were initiated through the referenda process begun by residents of Deerfield Beach who, in 2001, saw a distressing pattern of overly friendly developer decisions by the commission.

The history of the elimination of floor area ratio requirements came in 2000 when the then City Commission, under the over-development fervor of the City Manager and Mayor, granted excessive variances for decreased setbacks and higher density.

A neighbor objected and brought suit against the developer and the city for this failure to follow the Code. The City Manager and Mayor, knowing that the variances could not be justified and would lose in Court, as there was no hardship involved, and thus, no reason for a legal variance, urged the city commissioners to ignore the city residents and the current building codes. This was done, the commission, supporting that developer and overdevelopment on the beach, voted to eliminate the sections of the building code that covered the violations (and eliminated the grounds for the suit).


With this pattern of granting developers what they wanted and ignoring the citizens' misgivings, the previous City Commission continued to make changes in the Code to favor developers.

In response to a growing fear of what more such irresponsible overdevelopment would do to the beach area and in an effort to preserve the quality of life for Deerfield Beach residents, two referenda were initiated by Original Save Our Beach. Signatures were gathered and the matter was legally required to be placed on the ballot, despite some eleventh hour efforts to block it being put on the ballot.

In November 2002, the voters overwhelming voted in favor of the referenda, and by their vote told the city commission that they did not want massive building on beach property.

Developer friendly residents who have had close relations with the City Manager and Mayor sued Original Save Our Beach and the City to overturn the vote of the citizens. Deerfield Beach's city manager encouraged the lawsuit and even tried to solicit additional people to sue the City. The Mayor even has publicly referred to the lawsuit as a "friendly" lawsuit, meaning that the Mayor wanted the City to lose the lawsuit and the vote of its citizens to be ignored.

The voters and the residents who worked to protect the quality of life of the citizens of Deerfield Beach were vindicated. In announcing his ruling from the bench, Judge Moe said that the large percent of the voters who were in favor of the restrictions played a great part in his favorable decision.
     

 Good news: 

The city commission withdrew its application for an RAC on the beach.  That was the little sleeper that would have made it possible to have commercial development in the residential areas east of the intracoastal. It took an almost completely new commission to rescind it in response to the item placed on the agenda by our new District 1 commissioner, Pam Militello.  Pam was instrumental in the County Commission recommending banning the RACs on barrier islands.  

 We are encouraged by the positive change that is occurring as a result of the new Commission.  Early indications show that the citizens are being listened to and respected, and that the developers are being told that they must comply with the Land Development Code.  This situation is not the way it has been in Deerfield Beach for the past 4 years, and is still not the way it is in many coastal cities. 

 This is a result of voters bringing about change.  You have the power to effect change.


LAWSUIT FACTS

It might be of interest to the readers to be given the facts concerning the lawsuit in which a few people have sued our City and Original Save Our Beach (OSOB).

As many of you know, the voters voted by 75% of the vote in favor of two Referenda in November, 2002.  One Referendum was to try to protect the beach area from over-development that has been going on.  It mandates that certain development requirements, such as height and floor area ratio, be at least as strict as are in the referendum now a part of the Charter.  The reason that they are part of the Charter is so that the Commission cannot allow over-development without voter approval.  This Referendum was partially a consequence of the previous Commission's changing the Land Development Code by eliminating floor area ratio and there being a desire by some developers to increase the height of buildings.

The other Referendum was to put restrictions on the Main Beach parking area, so that it would not be developed as a massive structure to benefit commercial development.  It protects this city owned property for the public's safe and convenient access to the beach.

A very small group of pro over-development people sued both our City and OSOB to have these two Referenda declared a nullity, to have our vote declared as invalid. This litigation has progressed so that the final hearing is tentatively scheduled for this August.

You may have read about the City Manager secretly communicating with the attorney suing the City.  OSOB considers this behavior on the part of the City Manager to be inexcusable.  This communication, both written and oral, with the attorney suing the City was without the knowledge of our City Attorney.  The letters reflect the City Manager's efforts to assist the attorney suing the City to have your vote nullified.

OSOB respects the will of the voters.  OSOB's core principle is the empowerment of the people to have the public's voices heard by government.  We happen to believe that the majority of the people agree that there has been over-development in the beach area and threatened in other areas of the City, and that this over-development in the beach area has made safe and convenient access to the beach more difficult, and that the over-development in the beach area has created unacceptable traffic congestion.  It was because the City Commission was ignoring the wishes of the public that the OSOB sponsored the two Referenda in November 2002.  75% of the voters in November 2002 agreed with those Referenda.

We believe that when the two Referenda became the law, that the City Manager was obligated to protect the will of the voters, instead of what he did, which was to try to collaborate with the opposing attorney to have your vote declared as meaningless.

OSOB are regular citizens who care about what is best for our City.  We are not rich developers who contribute a lot of money to campaigns and who hire large out-of-town law firms to lobby the City Commission.  We are like you.  We do not have a financial interest in development projects coming before the City Commission.  But, we, like you, have an interest in preserving our quality of life from over-development.  The next time that you hear someone criticize OSOB, ask what is the financial interest that OSOB has in the outcome (we have zero financial interest), and ask what financial interest those on the other side has in the outcome.  When those questions are asked and answered, you will find that OSOB is acting from its belief that what the OSOB does is supported by the public and is for the public good.


Citizens All Across Florida are Calling For Better Communities and a Greater
Voice In Decision-Making

Deerfield Beach's Original Save Our Beach committee (OSOB) is continuously contacted by citizens and citizen groups in many of Florida's communities who are angry about the impact over-development is having on their cities and are angry that their elected officials and city staff ignore the citizens in favor of the developers. They want some direction on how to halt over-development. 

Florida's fast rate of growth has affected many communities throughout Florida and growing numbers of citizens are voicing discontent.  Traffic concerns, higher taxes, pollution, less green space, and other growth effects have left many furious with such changes to their quality of life.  Discontent with government decision-making on growth and development has caused many to band together to put greater control into the hands of the people and initiate challenges to proposed new developments in their local areas.

 Citizens have an important role to play in shaping the destinies of local communities and the quality of life for Floridians.  

 Florida Hometown Democracy Inc.'s Ross Burnaman of

Tallahassee and Lesley Blackner of Palm Beach, attorneys who specialize in growth management and the environment, came up with an intelligent plan.  They want to put an amendment on the ballot to require local governments to seek permission from voters before amending their comprehensive land-use plans.

The original Florida Hometown Democracy Petition was first proposed two years ago, and over 50,000 verified petitions were accepted by the state. However, on March 17, 2005, a sharply-divided Florida Supreme Court narrowly ruled (4-3) that the first sentence in the required "ballot summary" was an "editorial comment", (although it was a direct quote from the Florida  Constitution!), and struck the proposal.  Notably, all of the Justices found that, other than the first sentence of the ballot summary, the rest of the original Petition met all legal requirements.

 Signature collection has to start all over again.  There is now a NEW Petition identical to the original Petition except that it strikes the first sentence of the ballot summary that was disapproved by the four Justices.

 One of the best protections to the public in stopping the destruction of Florida's future is to put the voters in charge of their hometown land use plans. Florida's Hometown Democracy Amendment puts the decision concerning changing comprehensive plans in the hands of the citizens rather than the county or city commission. 

The referendum election will be held at the same time as the general election, so that no special elections will be necessary. Florida's Hometown Democracy Amendment gives greater stability and certainty to comprehensive plans by locking in existing land use categories and giving the keys to the voters.

THIS AMENDMENT TO THE
FLORIDA CONSTITUTION MEANS THAT THE VOTERS WILL DECIDE IF A PROPOSED CHANGE WILL MAKE THEIR COMMUNITY A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE. IF THE MAJORITY VOTES YES, THE CHANGE HAPPENS. IF THE MAJORITY VOTES NO, THE CHANGE DOESN'T HAPPEN.

 Go to the www.floridahometowndemocracy.com site for more information about this issue and a copy of the petition.


The Original Save Our Beach Committee exists to help preserve the quality of life in Deerfield Beach; one way that is done is through education.

Recently members of the Committee attended a meeting of the Nature Club in Century Village and presented a program on preserving our reefs. Marti McGeary was the speaker and stressed the importance of the coral reefs.

She told how Florida's reef tract is composed of outer barrier reefs and patch reefs and is the only living barrier reef system in North America. Our coral reef ecosystem is complex, consisting of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds. Each of these communities plays an important role in the life and health of the reef, from providing nurseries for young reef creatures to filtering water and trapping sediments.

The delicate marine environment of the reef itself relies upon the interaction of many different forms of life: hard and soft corals, algae, fish, sponges, crustaceans, worms, turtles, dolphins and other sea life. Corals typically grow only one-half inch per year. Soft corals such as sea whips and sea fans lack the rigid exoskeleton of the hard corals and they sway in the ocean currents, but are comprised of living animals as well.

Coral, for all its sturdy appearance, is extremely fragile. The lightest touch with fins, hands or equipment can crush or destroy the living coral polyps, leaving the coral vulnerable to disease and bleaching. Coral bleaching occurs when stressful conditions occur and the zooxanthellae leave the host coral and the coral then appears white, or colorless. Coral reefs need clear, clean, nutrient free waters to thrive.

Florida's delicate coral reefs are literally being destroyed by cumulative impacts-from declining water quality from agricultural runoff and inadequate sewage and storm water treatment, to physical impacts from accidental boat groundings, anchors, marine debris, fishing gear and even the careless touch of a diver or snorkeler. Add to that the global impact of sea temperature change and global warming and you can understand why it's said "We are loving our reefs to death." Marti also showed a video which depicted the different stages of the reefs.

Another way the OSOB committee champions Deerfield Beach is by supporting its youth. Recently committee members attended the Deerfield Beach High School football playoffs. The Deerfield Beach team put on a gallant effort, supported by the cheerleaders who were an extremely enthusiastic and engaging group, they cheered throughout the entire game tirelessly! The marching band was superb, the music was upbeat and the half-time show was a joy. They are all truly champions indeed.


     

EDITORIAL BY BETT WILLETT

The Broward County Charter has voter-approved Countywide Land Use Provisions.  Provisions voted for in 1974 because of concerns of residents over rapid uncontrolled development.  Every six years a Charter Review Commission reviews proposed revisions, and some minor changes have been made.  But, not one municipality proposed any changes in the Land Use Provisions during the last review in 2000.   

Granted, the county has approved most city-proposed projects, the voter-hoped-for rein on development was late in coming.  Content that the county would continue to rubberstamp it’s bloated proposals, the cities enjoyed the benefits of the Land Use Provisions with county monies used for: acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands and open spaces, the county regional park system, protection of rural ranch communities, collection of $100,000,000 in school impact fees, over $50,000,000 in road, transit and park impact fees, developer land dedications and developer funded road improvements, preservation of the rights-of-way for the regional roadway network saving millions of land-acquisition dollars, and many other county to city perks. 

Over a year ago, the County Office of Urban Planning and Redevelopment Staff was given a charge to study the Land Use Provisions for a state mandated Evaluation Assessment Report (EAR).  Workshops and public meetings were held, attended by community elected officials, staff and the general public.  After taking a long hard look at Broward county, researching, listening to the concerns of all representatives and consulting with various experts the report was presented.  It included population projections, compatibility review changes and density recommendations.  One of the recommendations was, due to increased density and emergency evacuation problems, to ban Regional Activity Centers (RACs) on Barrier Islands. 

Seven of the thirty Broward County cities (Davie, Ft. Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Miramar, Pompano Beach and Weston) reacted exactly as a spoiled chubby child does when his candy is taken away.  They whined and they cried.  Then they got together, formed a coalition and hired expensive lawyers.  (Deerfield Beach has since joined this “EAR Coalition”)  Trying to justify their continuing plans to over-densify the beaches, they pretended not to understand the accuracy of the report and that the county was doing what the Charter demanded - enforcing the smart growth planning demanded by voters.  Each of the cities in their EAR Coalition is paying about $5,000 per month of taxpayer dollars to fund the effort.  A coalition that is trying to do the exact opposite of what most taxpayers in the cities want. 

The cities wailed that their “home rule” was being usurped.  Nothing was being taken away from the cities; the County was finally doing its job.  BUT, with fears of reduced tax and developer dollars, and again ignoring the wishes of their residents these few cities started a smear campaign against the County and began a drive to grab all land use decisions for themselves.   

During each meeting between the Ear Coalition and the County Commissioners, the cities stubbornly refused to budge on many issues including compatibility review, increased density, and RACs on the Barrier Islands.  The County, knowing that these issues are vital to Broward’s effort to control over-development and protect the county as a whole wisely would not give up oversight of these countywide important-to-smart-growth issues.   

What will happen if the cities succeed?  Remember when Enron wanted its diesel burning, pollution belching power plant in Deerfield Beach and offered $1,000,000 to the city to grease the way?  The Deerfield Beach mayor, commission and city manager lapped it up like eager puppies, paying absolutely no heed to the concerns of residents or neighboring communities.  The county responded to the alarm from the adjoining cities and Deerfield residents and prevented the power plant from being built.   

If the County looses the checks and balances of oversight, the cities will have free rein to change land use at a developer’s whim, build high-rises, or commercial developments wherever they want, without regard to how compatible they are to the neighborhood or neighboring communities.  Keeping the Barrier Islands from added density and over-development is crucial to the quality of life to all residents in the county.  However, adding development on the islands will generate millions of dollars for developers who will spend what it takes to get their way, offering inducements to each city until the islands are completely paved, traffic is worse than ever and tourists flock elsewhere.  If you doubt this will happen, take a drive up A1A from South Beach to Bal Harbor.   

Broward County needs county oversight as the population swells.  Our current 1.7 million residents may soon be 2.5 million if projections prove correct.  Cities are demanding land use changes with greater densities to accommodate this growth.  Current residents have environmental concerns, traffic considerations, infrastructure and water supply concerns, overcrowded schools, lack of affordable housing and open space retention worries all which are multi-city not just one-city concerns.  They rightly question whether Broward County should or can build housing for this influx. 

Residents are demanding limits and voting for representatives who will control growth.  However, in reality, developer friendly officials can do a lot of damage before they are voted out and getting good people to run for office is very difficult.  Pro-development candidates get fat checks for their campaign coffers from realtors and developers, and buy their way into office at the city, county and state level.  

The appeal of the Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment which would give voter approval, statewide, to any changes in local land use plans, and County Commissioner John Rodstrom, Jr.’s proposal to put to a vote a similar measure in Broward County is understandable and given the past record and public distrust of elected officials, logical.   

Whether the cities succeed in this power grab from the county or not, given the behavior of the officials, the voters will, almost certainly, take measures into their own hands and pass referenda which will put land use change requests in the voters hands.    

Uncontrolled Growth

Local governments are making lots of money from over development. Their campaign chests swell with contributions while they are royally wooed by development's lobbyists and, as a result, have entered a state of denial about the future.

If the county control over land use is eliminated, each city will be at the mercy of city managers and commissions whose tunnel vision on land use may well lead to destruction of any green or open space left and massive over-development, under the guise of re-development.

A generation ago, planners and scientists concluded that Florida's fragile natural resources ideally could sustain a population of 6 million to 7 million. Today Florida has 16 million residents and tens of millions of visitors. The resident population has doubled every generation since 1940 and is projected to do so again by 2030.

The current 16 million is twice what we should have, BUT local governments and state planners have already approved developments under existing laws for a population exceeding 100 million - even if everything stopped now, 100 million - already approved and in the works!

This wasn't supposed to happen. The state mandated Local Land Use Plans. Cities were expected to reject proposed developments that didn't fit within required land-use designations or didn't show a favorable public cost-benefit return or didn't protect open lands important to water supply, wildlife and agriculture.

It could have worked, and for a while in the late 1980s it seemed to be working, with the state watching over the local governments. But the understaffed Department of Community Affairs, became overwhelmed by amendment requests, and got a not so subtle message from Tallahassee about biting the hand of the housing industry. As a result the oversight gradually became little more than a wink and a nod.

Local governments recognized the shift and soon began rubberstamping growth, while shrugging as if helpless to say no to bad development.

Most current local politicians and city managers have no intention of protecting Florida's quality of life or future from bad development, they are making too much money today for the future to matter.

So uncontrolled, willy-nilly growth continues unabated, even though our schools can't take it, our roads can't take it, our water supply can't take it, our remaining beautiful places can't take it and most locals don't want it, as witness every recent election where anti-over-developmentcandidates and save-our-beaches referenda were overwhelming supported.

We the people are saying STOP, no more givebacks, no more winks and nods.

Not only do we want the local governments to consider quality of life in our cities and the protection of our precious natural resources, and safeguard the few bits of green and open space we have left - above all profit, and tax base gain, - but we insist that the county and state governments make this abundantly clear by enforcing the protective laws, not by introducing bills such as Senator Geller's which take away the role of the county in land use decisions of cities.We need holistic oversight; we need protection.

Politicians, who have a track record of voting in favor of granting developers favors and allowing public lands to be used for private gain should be afraid. It may take a few years, but the people are speaking, shouting, and voting.

     

 

YES for 4

For The Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4

Florida Hometown Democracy Inc.'s Ross Burnaman of Tallahassee and Lesley Blackner of Palm Beach, attorneys who specialize in growth management and the environment have come up with an intelligent plan.

They have succeeded in getting the measure on the 2010 ballot to require local governments to seek permission from voters before amending their comprehensive land-use plans.

The Datona Beach News-Journal, in an editorial on July 20, 2003 stated:"This state doesn't manage growth; it plays it, staking finite resources on a Ponzi scheme's final payoff. Those who condone the lie with their silence are letting land speculators profit on the subsidy of public infrastructure and buy off this state with the pauper's wages of a tourist economy while trumpeting the empty promise that growing bigger will bring everyone prosperity. Author-activist Edward Abbey warned us otherwise when he wrote, "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." The cancer gets bigger by destroying the host. A generation ago…planners and scientists concluded the state…could sustain a population of 6 million to 7 million. Today Florida has 16 million residents…The resident population has doubled every generation since 1940 and is projected to do so again by 2030. But that's not the worst of it. Local governments and state planners have already approved developments under existing growth management laws for a population exceeding 100 million."

If this amendment does not pass, Florida will be destroyed, one comprehensive growth plan change, at a time. The developers and politicians who benefit from the status quo will try to stamp out the amendment drive with bribery and bluster.

With this amendment they would have to prove to the community that their land-use changes were for the community good. Go to The Florida Home Town Democracy site for more information about this issue.

 


 

TOD - Too Bad for Deerfield

Deerfield Beach voted a zoning change and designated the approximately 8 acre parcel immediately east of the Tri-Rail Station on Hillsboro Boulevard as a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) area, changing the zoning from an allowable 25 residential units per acre to 75 units of mixed use per acre.

Before the area was even voted on a developer already had a plan for 372 apartment rentals, 282 condominiums, and a 200 room hotel.

A TOD Workshop was held to discuss the new zoning. Literature was handed out which said that a "TOD is the creation of compact, walkable communities centered around high quality train systems. This makes it possible to live a higher quality life without complete dependence on a car for mobility and survival."

It also stated that factors driving TODs are "mind-numbing traffic congestion …desire for more walkable lifestyles… and smart growth"; it goes on to reemphasize the traffic congestion problems.

The Deerfield Beach TOD area does not have a high quality train system, and even if in the next five years or so Tri-rail improves, it still does not go east/west. What it does have is massive increased density along a corridor which cannot handle the traffic it now has.

Very few things in the planned Deerfield Beach TOD will be walkable. Schools will not, doctors will not, supermarkets will not, shopping centers will not, in short the massive increase in density will increase traffic congestion radically.

A city representative defended the project saying that the transportation will eventually come to meet the need, but agreed in the short term, 10-15 years, the traffic will be a problem. Hillsboro Boulevard is already an F (worst traffic rating) rated road. We cannot afford to wait, we must not add to the congestion and pollution.

First supply the transit, then the housing, not the cart before the horse. TODs are designed to provide livable affordable workforce housing, not second homes for snowbirds or upscale housing for the wealthy.

The TOD handout also said that a TOD will have: "Reduced household spending on transportation, resulting in more affordable housing." Not likely here, each household will most assuredly have the usual 2 cars increasing the already nightmarish traffic, not to mention the increase in traffic caused by trips to the beach and Flamingo Gardens and Lion Country from the 200 room hotel.

Working people will not be able to afford the rental units or the prices of the condos. The developer said that the already high projected prices might have to go up depending on construction costs.

Unlike the ideal TOD, the Deerfield Beach TOD is not designed to upgrade a deteriorating urban area which already has stores, schools, markets, jobs, and multiple modes of transit. Additional density is allowed in this type of TOD to make it possible for a developer to build housing and make a profit while keeping prices of homes affordable for working people.

The additional density in the Deerfield Beach TOD will make massive profits for the developer and massive traffic and pollution problems for Hillsboro Boulevard.

     

 

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