Much public comment was heard during the second public hearing to adopt an ordinance repealing the supermajority rule requirement to change the comprehensive plan. Arguments against the supermajority repeal emphasized the importance of retaining it in order to limit power grabs from those with financial influence. Also mentioned was the stability the supermajority gives to zoning. Those in favor of the repeal pointed to greater flexibility, the preservation of personal property rights and promotion of economic growth.
Terri Nichols, representing the Hernando County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors stated, “The Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors supports the repeal of the requirement of the supermajority vote on any comprehensive plan amendments. The board believes the supermajority vote is very restrictive to economic growth and basically under the supermajority rule the minority rules...”
Debra Myers who serves as the Government Affairs Chair and was the past president of Hernando County Association of Realtors echoed the sentiments of the Chamber of Commerce. “They [comprehensive plans] are intended to be flexible with time, but give a roadmap of how a community should grow. Sometimes a comp plan could have the unintended consequence of limiting an accepted exercise of property rights. There should be an extensive but fair process to remedy the situation. We believe the current supermajority requirement does not meet those standards.”
Sue Foster a resident of Spring Hill was not in favor of repealing the supermajority. She said, er “My reasons for urging you to vote against the proposal to undermine the supermajority are fairly simple. I believe that the strength and the power and the actual biggest vote is in the plan itself. The plan should be so well crafted that it’s impervious to manipulation from short term or personal gains. So changing it should be difficult. ”
DeeVon Quirolo represented Nature Coast Conservation and the Sierra Club. She explained that together they represent over 1000 of the commissioners’ constituents. “As you know we all support the supermajority rule because it requires almost unanimous consensus of the commission- 4 out of 5 votes to overturn the land use plan… When a property owner wants to the use of its property to one not currently allowed, he comes before you seeking an amendment to the plan. Oversight authority is granted to you to vet such issues. You have the power to allow use of a property for a purpose not allowed in the plan. That is precisely why it is important that most of you agree to such an exception... Everyone else affected by that land use change will have to live with the unintended consequences of something that no one anticipated under the current zoning.” She emphasized that the predictability supplied by the supermajority is important to a lot of people.
Lynn Gruber White, president of the Ridge Manor Property Owners Association urged the commission to bring this matter to the people with a countywide municipal election. She explained that some of her board members are questioning how you can repeal the supermajority vote with a simple majority 3 to 2 vote. She stated, “The Ridge Manor Property Owners Association continues to believe that the only way to protect established Hernando County Comprehensive Plan from special interests is to continue the policy of supermajority vote.”
The first commissioner to comment on the ordinance was Commissioner Nicholson. He stated,
“Mr. Chairman, you and I have discussed this for four years… in the Sunshine in these meetings. I’ve been on the record with doing away with the supermajority and I still am.”
Commissioner Champion emphasized that his conservative principles lead him to repeal the supermajority. “I ran as a conservative. I’ve been a conservative my whole life. Republican from day 1. I’m about less government and more personal property rights so from the very beginning I’ve been against this supermajority. Number 1 it’s not required by the state, not required by the federal government. Most counties do not have it. Why? Because it’s not necessary... ”
Both Commissioner Allocco and Chairman Dukes responded to citizen concerns over special interests.
Allocco said, “I think that it’s a little short sighted to think that there is only special interests on one side of the equation. We have special interests on both sides. Forty-four percent of Hernando County is protected as Federal, State or Local government owned property. We have plenty of green space in Hernando County. I don’t think anyone here wants us to have urban sprawl. That’s not what this is about… The idea that it should be 80-20 to make a change- I just don’t agree with it. I think that we have demonstrated that we are very concerned about the comprehensive plan and the next generation of it and we are very concerned about making sure that property rights are retained and that it’s a good comprehensive plan. There are very few communities that are successful right now with a supermajority. ”
Chairman Dukes stated, “I know some of you think that within 5 days of becoming elected you’re bought and paid for. Well the check must be in the mail folks because I haven’t got it yet… I don’t have any hidden agendas. They say I’m the meanest guy up here but I deal in logic and if it’s right for the people, I’ll do my best to make it happen. And to do that, I’m going to pass the gavel to my chairman and I’m going to make a motion that the majority rule go back to a 3-2 vote. ”
The ordinance to repeal the supermajority requirement to change the comprehensive plan was adopted 4-0 with Commissioner Mitten absent.