In Madeira Beach Florida, a small town with 4,300 residents on a barrier island connected to the mainland by a single drawbridge, citizens formed an organization, Madeira Beach United, to oppose two development projects undertaken by their city government that would increase already congested traffic and change the small town center to a high rise urban environment.
According to the Tampa Bay Times on May 20, Madeira Beach city officials approved negotiating contracts for the Holiday Isles and Madeira Beach Town Center projects with a total of eleven buildings, all over the height and density allowed by pre-existing zoning laws. 69% of the voters voted against a referendum to approve the sale of city property to the developers. Despite this public opposition, city officials proceeded with negotiations. In response, concerned residents formed Madeira Beach United.
As a result, Madeira Beach United took legal action to ensure decisions were made by voters and placed on a ballot. Attorneys Ken Weiss and Tim Weber also instituted legal action for their clients, Jennifer McCoy Parker and Linda C. Hein with the Pinellas County Circuit Court that would nullify the city’s rezoning action (Case No. 16001524CJ).
On May 17, the Madeira Beach United Petition Committee filed a petition (Ord. 2014-8) for a referendum with the City Clerk in accordance with Section 13.2 of the City Charter. This petition requires the Board of Commissioners to reconsider the addition of a Planned Development District to the Establishment of Districts in the City and, if the Board does not repeal this action, to have it placed on a ballot for a general election by the voters of Madeira Beach.
At the same time, residents filed complaints about other alleged unethical actions by city officials with the State of Florida Commission on Ethics (petitions 16-072 and 16-079).
Venerated Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.” He put his trust in enlightened citizens.
Samuel Baker, a member of Madeira Beach United, commented, “We formed a group of citizens to ensure that or city officials act in our interests.”