HomeBusiness & Real EstateDeSantis signs bill to cancel public votes on zoning

DeSantis signs bill to cancel public votes on zoning

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Wednesday taking away voter rights to say yes or no to specific zoning changes for municipalities like Key Biscayne.

The law, SB 718, states “An initiative or referendum process in regard to any land development regulation is prohibited.” 

It’s another case where the state Legislature has preempted, or overridden, the ability of localities to govern themselves. 

“The state is taking over everything, baby,” said Council Member Ed London before a workshop on the 2023-24 proposed budget Wednesday night.

Proponents of the new law – like Rep. Vicki Lopez, R-Miami, who represents Key Biscayne – say it streamlines government and puts these types of decisions in the hands of council members who the public can hold accountable. Critics say the law will give too much power to developers.

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Yet, Key Biscayne voters made their will very clear last November, rejecting a proposal to give more power to the Council on zoning decisions. 

They kept in place a 2007 Village Charter provision – known as Section 4.15 – that was passed in the wake of The Oceana Condominium development. 

Voters in Pinecrest, on the other hand, decided in March to keep zoning change decisions in the hands of local elected officials. They rejected, 63% to 37%, a measure to put zoning questions before voters in referendums. 

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Key Biscayne Village Attorney Chad Friedman said Wednesday his office was waiting to see whether DeSantis would sign the bill, but will now analyze its effect on the Village’s Charter.

DeSantis had to fish or cut bait as he was nearly out of time under the Florida Constitution, which gave him 15 days to either sign, veto or to let the law go into effect without any action on his part. The clock started ticking once Legislative leaders formally presented it to him June 14. 

In May, when the Legislature passed SB 718, Lopez said voters need to have trust in their elected representatives. “You should not govern by referendum,” she said.

JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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