An interesting story from the Florida Keys about real estate development, where the collision of economic imperative and the need to protect fragile natural resources is like a test tube for the rest of the state.
For decades, Florida environmentalists have waged mostly fruitless battles to get at the core problem: too many people, inefficient regulations, and not enough protection for the environment. Meanwhile, growth has overwhelmed the culture and characteristics of the place that made it attractive in the first place.
The single brake on Keys development has nothing to do with the environment -- or, only in a tortured way. Decision makers decided in the 1980's that the threshold limit on growth should be pegged to the time it would take the last resident of the Keys who wanted to evacuate in the case of a hurricane bearing down. 24 hours is the legal limit.
Developers, of course, have done everything in their power to show ways and make tax dollar investments to get more people out of the Keys, within that 24 hour limit. Including, as the environmentalist said, above, "Moving the goal posts."
Moving the goal posts is exactly the tried and true technique of legislators throughout the state in order to foment more growth and more people.
Gov. Rick Scott accomplished the ultimate "move the goal posts" on arrival to the Governor's Mansion. He simply allowed the legislature to kill off growth management, under the banner of "jobs, jobs, jobs".
The anti-regulation jihad, though, waged by the radical right wrecked Florida. Places like Homestead and Florida City stand out as examples where local kingpins and big farmers couldn't wait to sell their properties for zero lot line housing, turning the potential of a gateway community to important national parks into trash.
The unions and building trades were also complicit; using their membership fees to support corrupt politicians while, at the same time, forcing their members into so-called affordable housing far from places of work, in soul-less communities bearing names of extinct animals or lost habitats. Sprawl literally took the heart out of Florida.
Miami-Dade's version of suburbia, tattered through the housing market crash, is no different in any other Florida county where land was inexpensive and the thresholds to growth knocked down by insiders: wetlands, open space, and property edging the Everglades, or the Caloosahatchee, or St. Lucie. Name your special place in Florida: it's been combed over and picked for sprawl.
Nothing could alter the formula, famously depicted by Bush cheerleader Al Hoffman. "It's an unstoppable force!", Hoffman told the Washington Post a decade ago. Not the worst real estate collapse since the Great Depression, changed the fact. Right now, plans are afoot to move the Urban Development Boundary in west Miami Dade to accommodate more growth.
Weary environmentalists are heading to the battle lines, again.
There is no 24 hour clock in Miami-Dade as there is in the Keys. But there is one goal post that no county commissioner or governor will be able to move in our not-so-distant future. Implacable seas are rising, and in Miami-Dade County they will come in from the west, first.
Well before that time, the insurance industry will step in and blow its referee whistle. ... I can hear the bitter howling even now, when suburban sprawl stops in South Florida, leaving the last man without a musical chair, standing. (read the Keys article, below)
Tallahassee meeting sets development units for Keys
BY TIMOTHY O'HARA Citizen Staff
Three Florida Keys environmental groups are opposed to a plan that will dictate how much development can occur in the Keys in the next 10 years.
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are scheduled to vote on the plan Thursday in Tallahassee.
Keys leaders and the state Department of Economic Opportunity have tentatively agreed to a plan that would give the Keys 3,555 state-issued Rate of Growth Ordinance (ROGO) units during the next 10 years. A limited number of ROGO units are allocated by the state to the Keys for issuance to property owners seeking to develop residential units.
The 3,555 ROGO units would be allocated annually to the Keys under an existing formula, with the county receiving 197 a year, Key West receiving 91, Islamorada getting 28, Marathon receiving 30, Layton receiving three and Key Colony Beach receiving six, according to County Growth Management Director Christine Hurley.
If Key West does not use its ROGO units, they would go back to the county and the municipalities.
Last Stand, the Florida Keys Citizens Association and the Florida Keys Environmental Fund argue that the 3,555 ROGO units should be allocated over 20 years, not 10 years, Last Stand Board President Naja Girard said.
By stretching out the allocations, the county and the municipalities would have more time to put "safeguards in place against takings cases (lawsuits)" and "give the county more time to purchase property (for conservation purposes)," Girard said.
Florida Keys cities and county government leaders will meet with Gov. Rick Scott and the cabinet on Thursday in Tallahassee to talk about the plan and what is known as the Keys "work plan."
The work plan monitors how the Keys are doing protecting endangered species, meeting state imposed wastewater upgrades and keeping hurricane evacuation times in the Keys to less than 24 hours.
Thursday's meeting is the first time Keys government leaders have met with the cabinet since the state Department of Economic Opportunity and local officials completed a series of meetings in the Keys last year to determine accurately the amount of time is needed to evacuate the island chain and how much development can occur in the Keys in the next 10 years.
Last Stand and Tavernier Community Association President John Hammerstrom challenged the findings and the agreements that came out of the meetings, arguing they were based on allowing more development, not safely evacuating the Keys and protecting the environment. The agreements led to the allocation of the 3,555 units.
"Every time we get close to the 24 hour mark, they move the goal post," Girard said.