Former Indian Trail Improvement District Supervisor William Gotthelf led a discussion about the possible incorporation of The Acreage at a special meeting of the ITID Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, March 1.
Gotthelf, who is working with Preserve the Lifestyle of the Acreage Now (PLAN), which is investigating incorporation, was on the ITID board in 2002 when incorporation was last discussed seriously.
At that time, ITID started the incorporation effort, which was then derailed when Gotthelf and other supervisors who supported the effort lost their seats and the balance shifted on the board.
This time, the effort was initiated by the Acreage Landowners’ Association for study purposes. Since the ALA is a nonpartisan organization, the effort was spun out into an independent group. PLAN is set up as a political action committee with its own set of officers.
The special meeting was called by ITID Supervisor Betty Argue, who wanted to know more about the proposed town’s charter, specifically the part that indicated that ITID would become dependent to the future municipality.
Supervisor Carol Jacobs also wanted a presentation by staff on the difference in independent and dependent special districts in Florida, and the difference in the powers of special districts compared with municipalities.
ITID Attorney Frank Palin said Florida’s government is vested in state sovereignty.
“All local governments at every level are created by the state government, so they have the ultimate power,” Palin said. “That’s why the proponents of the town have to go to Tallahassee to get the legislature to approve a bill to create a municipality.”
He said the state has general-purpose and special-purpose local governments that have distinct powers.
“General governments essentially can operate under the concept of home rule, which is that the government can do anything… as long as that action is not prohibited by the state,” Palin said. “The state retains the basic power, but in 1968 there was an amendment to the Florida Constitution that gave local governments ‘home rule,’ which means that they can now exercise broad powers.”
Special-purpose local governments, such as ITID, operate on a reverse principal, he said.
“General-purpose governments can do anything that isn’t prohibited by the state. A special-purpose government can’t do anything other than what the state permits them to do,” Palin said.
He added that special-purpose governments have special purposes defined by the state. ITID, for instance, has been granted power over drainage, roads and recreation.
The State of Florida has defined a dependent district as allowing another level of government to have control over it, he said.
“Does any other entity, either the county or municipality, have control over who’s on your board, who’s elected to your board, who can be removed from your board, or does another entity have control over your budget?” he asked.
That is not the case currently with ITID, but it is the case with the Acme Improvement District in Wellington. Once an independent district, it became dependent to the Village of Wellington upon incorporation. Wellington Village Council members serve as the Acme supervisors and approve its budget.
ITID was created in 1957 by a special act of the state legislature, initially as a drainage district. It has been amended three times over the years, and was last substantially revised in 2002 when election procedures and the makeup of the board was revised to require the direct election of supervisors.
Gotthelf commented during his presentation that a municipality would be able to have broader powers for law enforcement, which drew a response from Argue.
Argue thanked PLAN for appearing at the meeting and for the opportunity to have it live-streamed on the district’s web site, but said that PLAN’s presentation did not go into details on the cost of police protection under a municipal government, and asked for documentation of the costs represented.
She also pointed out that PLAN’s feasibility study does not set out certain aspects of local government that will be required.
“When you incorporate, there is no municipality out there that hasn’t cost more money,” Argue said. “I do agree that home rule gives us more than we have now, but it also costs us more.”
For more information about PLAN, visit www.preservetheacreagenow.com.