BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Lesley Blackner drove through a maze of condominium towers, rarely seeing any curtains in the windows, or residents, and tried to contain her anger.
“They’ve crammed as much as they can in here,” she said this month, noting that just a few years ago cows grazed on the land west of I-95. “The people around here didn’t want it — they objected. But the City Commission did it anyway.”
Even now, with about 300,000 residential units sitting empty around the state, the push to build continues. Since 2007, local governments have approved zoning and other land use changes that would add 550,000 residential units and 1.4 billion square feet of commercial space, state figures show.
So for Ms. Blackner, a Palm Beach lawyer with a Mercedes full of paperwork, the real estate crisis is not just the fault of Wall Street, Washington or misguided borrowers; it is also the back-scratching bond between elected officials and builders — a common source of frustration in weak real estate markets around the country wherever developers are still fighting to add more housing.
In Florida, at least, Ms. Blackner hopes to put an end to the chronic oversupply with a ballot initiative she has labeled “Hometown Democracy.”
Amendment 4, as it is officially called, would give Floridians a vote on changes to state-mandated plans for growth in every county and municipality. Much of the potential impact of the measure is up for debate, with important details most likely to be decided by the courts.
But if it is added to the state’s Constitution — which would require 60 percent approval on Election Day — critics and supporters envision revolutionary change.
Leaders of the Yes on 4 campaign, including Ms. Blackner, say it would end a culture of freewheeling development that began when Hamilton Disston started dredging Florida swamps in the 1880s. Critics, led by chambers of commerce, say the measure would lead to lost jobs, chaos and expensive court battles.