Faced with seemingly never ending litigation tied to a city charter requirement that voters approve many major land-use changes, the City Commission is considering a Nov. 2 referendum to rid itself of the costly provision.
The commission is expected to discuss the issue at its July 13 meeting.
Moving forward with the referendum would make an already confusing ballot all the more complicated for St. Pete voters. That's because Amendment 4, the state constitutional amendment also known as the “Vote on Everything” amendment or “Hometown Democracy,” will also be on the ballot. Amendment 4, if passed, would require voters to approve all proposed amendments to local comprehensive plans.
And if Amendment 4 passes, it would make the St. Pete Beach referendum moot according to a local attorney familiar with the issue. If Amendment 4 fails and the city does not put its own referendum on the ballot, the city would gain voting data on how St. Pete Beach voters might respond to a spring referendum undoing their local charter requirement
At its June 22 meeting, St. Pete Beach Commissioner Marvin Shavlan, “fed up” with the legal headaches, urged the other four commissioners to consider the referendum asking voters to rescind the charter language that has led to multiple lawsuits. “We need to send a message to the voters of Florida that Hometown Democracy does not work,” the recently elected Shavlan told fellow commissioners.
The city is expected to spend $300,000 this year defending itself against suits brought by attorney Ken Weiss on behalf of several clients. The city has also tentatively budgeted $200,000 in legal expenses for next fiscal year.
The first of what could be several trials is set for Aug. 19 before Pinellas County Circuit Judge David Demers.