Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

After Amendment 4 rally the developer-politician hijinks begin

A protest and rally in Bradenton on Tuesday originally had a happy ending for opponents of a controversial project. But the day turned out to be a textbook example of why Florida needs Amendment 4, as a developer won a land-use change just hours after a vote that denied him the request.

TV coverage:
Channel 8  -   NBC News

More than 40 opponents of the Robinson Farm project rallied with Amendment 4 officials before the Tuesday vote, garnering coverage across the news media.

 After the Amendment 4 rally, county commissioners voted 4-3 to deny the controversial Robinson Farm land-use plan change.

End of story, right?


The TV cameras left and opponents went home, and then Florida's growth politics took over, as the Bradenton Herald reported today:

But long after opponents left the chambers, Commissioner Gwen Brown rescinded her vote. The commission then revoted, and the plan change passed 4-3.

“What happened today was politics as usual,” said resident Katie Pierola, who watched the end of the meeting on television. “I never knew they could do things like that.”

The commissioner who changed her vote admitted she did so after being approached by a representative of the developer during a break in the meeting:

Twenty-one of the 49 acres included in the Robinson Farms property is considered a high hazard area under the current county comp plan map. The entire area is high hazard in the new map.

Brown said Betsy Benac, of Neal Communities consultant WilsonMiller, approached her during a recess after the vote and showed her a hurricane evacuation map that featured the phrase “not to be used for land-use decisions” at the bottom.

 Brown then asked county Planning Director John Osborne if the statement at the bottom of the map was accurate. Osborne said it was but that planners use the same type of map for land-use deliberations.

"This kind of re-vote shows the power of developers to get their way, even after the public has spoken and votes have been taken," said Yes on 4 campaign manager Mitch Kates. "It is disgusting, but it happens all over Florida every week. And Amendment 4 is the only solution, to give voters veto power over such bad developments that are approved only because of undue special interest influence."

Ironically, Tuesday was among Brown's last meetings as a county commissioner; she was defeated in the Democratic primary by an opponent who supports Amendment 4.

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