Monday, January 07, 2008

"Citizens Bill of Rights"

From the 1000 Friends of Florida web site:

1000 Friends of Florida instead supports a "Citizen Bill of Rights" to address the genuine and legitimate citizen dissatisfaction with the existing process. We will work with the Florida Department of Community Affairs to quickly implement as many of the following principles as possible, which would be applicable to all plan amendments and related land development regulations and development orders:

Mandated Citizen Participation Plan--Developers must prepare a citizen participation plan, including a process to notify impacted property owners and neighborhood associations, and conduct developer workshops with citizens to identify all issues of concern prior to any public hearing. The developer must present to the commission a list of all issues raised, and indicate if and how they were resolved. Unresolved issues then become the focus of discussion, rather than an afterthought discussed in two or three minutes of public testimony.

Neighborhood Participation--Each local government must compile a list of all neighborhood associations (with contact person) operating within the jurisdiction, and within 10 days of the filing of any applications or proposals filed for plan amendments or land development regulations the local government shall notify potentially impacted neighborhood associations.
Seven Day "Cooling Off" Period--Plan amendments cannot be changed in the seven days prior to the advertised public hearing. This will allow the citizens, commissioners, and others to fairly evaluate the document and not be subject to an endless "shell game" of last minute changes. If the plan amendment is revised within that period, the hearing will be postponed unless all affected parties agree otherwise.

"Super Majority" Vote--It shall be easier to require a "super majority" vote for many types of plan amendments that directly impact on growth and development decisions.

Protection from SLAPP Suits-- In order to promote more active involvement, private citizens and organizations shall be shielded from any developer-initiated SLAPP suits.
Improved Ability for Citizens to Challenge Local Government Decisions--Current citizen standing and legal review standards shall be improved to make the process more equitable, quicker and less costly.

"No Free Density"--The judicious conversion of rural land to urban density--in the form of compact, walkable, mixed use communities in appropriate locations--shall only be undertaken in fair trade for significant public benefit. This shall include the permanent preservation of natural and agricultural lands and open spaces.

Florida's population and developed land are projected to double over the next 50 years, and the state faces many uncertainties due to the impacts of rampant sprawl, the loss of urban lands, and climate change. Now, more than ever, Florida needs a visionary and workable planning process. The key to better growth management is more active and effective citizen involvement in the process, as outlined in the Citizen Bill of Rights.

While we appreciate the sincerity and dedication of those involved with the FHD amendment, we do not see it providing this better role we all desire for the public at large. In our judgment, it will produce results with many unintended consequences to the detriment of a sustainable quality of life we all seek.

1000 Friends will work to flesh out and expand the Citizen Bill of Rights, and work with the Department of Community Affairs and the 2008 Legislature for successful implementation.
Save Our Sarasota notes that Sarasota has adopted several of these within the city and county already. We believe there is merit in all these items and support 1000 Friends of Florida in their efforts to change Florida's development rules to move toward this "Citizen's Bill of Rights."

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