Earlier this month, Wayne Garcia walked across a stalled housing development in Land O' Lakes, Florida just north of Tampa. "It's an outrage," he said as he strolled past dozens of empty home sites. "This should never have been approved. This should never have happened."
Five years ago, architects promised "Connerton" would become the largest city in Pasco County. Today it looks like a graveyard of unfinished and unoccupied homes.
"There were supposed to be 15,000 homes here," Garcia explained as he stepped over the unhooked plumbing of one side street. "Today's there's 233." And Connerton isn't alone. Florida now has hundreds of stalled building sites. It also has a record 300,000 vacant homes.
"This is all because of unchecked development," said Garcia who represents Florida Hometown Democracy, Inc., an environmental group that's trying to control growth in Florida.
In fact, Hometown Democracy now has an initiative on the November ballot that some call the farthest reaching anti-growth measure in the country. "Amendment 4 will finally address the problem," he said.
"The problem," according to Garcia, has been the state's local community boards, which approve or deny large developments. He says these boards in the last ten years simply approved everything put before them, basically caving to the powerful construction interests. "It's because the public didn't have a vote and didn't have a say in the matter." Amendment 4, he says will give the public that say, mandating a local public vote for every proposed large development in the state.
Garcia calls it "Democracy." Developers call it a "nightmare."
"If you like the recession, then you will absolutely love amendment 4," says Ryan Houck, a spokesperson of Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, the main opponent of the amendment.
Houck says Amendment 4 will create a bureaucratic blockade that will make it impossible of any future development in the state. And he doesn't stop there. "Amendment 4 is going to cost tens of thousands of jobs," he said, "raise taxes on working Floridians, and make it more expensive to live in our state."
Garcia obviously disagrees, "I say that the opposition and the system that they want to keep going, is what got us in this recession in the first place."
Florida law requires the amendment to receive 60 percent of the vote to pass.