Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What is the cost of deteriorated wildlife habitats?

Reposted from the Herald Tribune -

NEW: Wildlife numbers cut in half, group says

Canada lynx
Canada lynx
FILE - In this April 19, 2005 file photo, a Canada lynx heads into the Rio Grande National Forest after being released near Creede, Colo. Canada lynx gained federal protections in New Mexico on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014, but U.S. wildlife officials again declined to designate critical habitat for the elusive wild cats in the Southern Rockies, parts of New England and other areas not considered essential to their survival. The two-part finding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service means the forest-dwlling lynx will be protected as threatened throughout the lower 48 states. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
Published: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 5:49 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 5:49 a.m.
GENEVA - Populations of about 3,000 species of wildlife around the world have plummeted far worse than previously thought, according to a new study by one of the world's biggest environmental groups.
The study Tuesday from the Swiss-based WWF largely blamed human threats to nature for a 52-percent decline in wildlife populations between 1970 and 2010.
It says improved methods of measuring populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles explain the huge difference from the 28-percent decline between 1970 and 2008 that the group reported in 2012.
Most of the new losses were found in tropical regions, particularly Latin America.
WWF describes the study it has carried out every two years since 1998 as a barometer of the state of the planet.
"There is no room for complacency," said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini, calling for a greater focus on sustainable solutions to the impacts that people are inflicting on nature, particularly through the release of greenhouse gases.
The latest "Living Planet" study analyzed data from about 10,000 populations of 3,038 vertebrate species from a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London. It is meant to provide a representative sampling of the overall wildlife population in the world, said WWF's Richard McLellan, editor-in-chief of the study.
It reflects populations since 1970, the first year the London-based society had comprehensive data. Each study is based on data from at least four years earlier.
Much of the world's wildlife has disappeared in what have been called five mass extinctions, which were often associated with giant meteor strikes. About 90 percent of the world's species were wiped out around 252 million years ago. One such extinction about 66 million years ago killed off the dinosaurs and three out of four species on Earth.
In the new WWF study, hunting and fishing along with continued losses and deterioration of natural habitats are identified as the chief threats to wildlife populations around the world. Other primary factors are global warming, invasive species, pollution and disease.
"This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live," said Ken Norris, science director at the London society. "There is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from industry."

See also: rewilding

Monday, September 29, 2014

Panel to address Fiscal Neutrality Oct. 4

Fiscal Neutrality Requirement in the 2050 Growth Management Plan: Should it be weakened?
Panelists: Alan Anderson, Executive Vice President, Manatee- Sarasota Building Industry Association
Cathy Antunes, Vice President, Council of Neighborhood Associations
Allen Parsons, County Planning Division Manager
Moderator: Ayse Somersan, President, Better Government Association
Luncheon Cost: $23 for BGA members, $25 for nonmembers
(Elevator and free valet parking available)

Registration Form
Menu Choice(s): ( ) Salmon Oscar ( ) Chicken Tuscany ( ) Vegetarian
(The above served with specialty rice, vegetable and Key Lime pie).
Make checks payable to Better Government Association and mail to BGA, PO Box 18483, Sarasota, FL 34276. For more information call Ayse Somersan at 941-343-0423.

Lyons: Still in favor of checks on builders

Reposted from the Herald Tribune:

Published: Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 6:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 6:24 p.m.
A local public relations man who used to be a newspaper reporter just set many misguided people straight, he thinks.
I’m among the misguided, and despite Rod Thomson’s best efforts, I remain that way.
Most people on this wrong path with me ought not be blamed, I’m sure. As Thomson explained in a recent Herald-Tribune guest column, people have been grossly misled by “a loud minority that is given an outsized megaphone for ill-formed views” who rail “irrationally against developers, a word often said with the dripping disdain normally reserved for Islamic terrorists beheading humanitarian workers.”
Thomson may or may not realize this is an incredibly grotesque exaggeration. But he is stridently convinced that the populace has been unfairly tricked into believing developers are evil.
“But,” he wrote, “practically everything you think you know about the evil of developers is demonstrably wrong.”
His demonstration fails to wow.
The psychic power he used to read your befuddled mind found nothing thoughtful or rational or nuanced or knowledgeable in there. He saw that you have only the most simple-minded, cartoonish notions about developers and that, as a result, certain important realities have never occurred to you.
Brace yourself for his big revelation: If not for developers, we wouldn’t have all the buildings we use.
“Do you like your house? Thank a developer,” he wrote. He repeated that dramatic admonishment for workplaces and for retail shops.
He didn’t say so, but I must add: Why not hug all the bankers, too, as even the worst and most fraudulent of banks — heck, especially those — played a huge role in financing many of those wonderful buildings.
If this amazing news about developers being the ones who build our buildings has rocked your world, no doubt it also cured your hate-mongering ways. Congratulations! Now you must hate only the real evildoers: Those who believe in green space and concurrence and land preservation and such. Those people, no doubt, want everyone to be unemployed and living in a straw hut, much as you did until you got Thomson’s message.
Now you surely realize that you were shamefully ungrateful to question or object to anything a developer wants in the way of development rights or deregulation or tax breaks or whatever. If so, Thomson has done his job.
But maybe you are still wavering. Are you unclear about how far your new understanding of the benevolence of developers — who so generously provide you with shelter and sustenance — should now take you in the direction of approving every proposal they make to local government?
That might be because Thomson slipped up a bit, aside from the part where he assumed you were totally clueless.
“There’s more,” he wrote. “Most roads to your homes were originally built by developers, as were the stormwater drainage systems, water and sewer utilities and sidewalks.”
Well, yes. And why is that? In many cases — as Thomson certainly did not say — it was because regulations that many developers adamantly groused about forced them to do that stuff. They were required to build homes that resist hurricane winds, don’t flood every year or so, don’t dump sewage straight into the nearest estuary or wetland, and aren’t creating traffic logjams because of inadequate roads serving massive numbers of residential or commercial drivers.
Some still gripe about it, and some manage to escape some of the rules. Many try. But some have figured out that most of the rules make things better.
Of course it is a simpleton’s view to assume anything a developer wants must be bad, or that anytime one gets something he asks for, it is the result of buying off local politicians. But it is equally simple-minded, and more dangerously naive, to imagine that enforcing carefully crafted regulations is destructive or that without the rules, developers can all be trusted to do right.
Even a 10-minute study of Florida’s real estate development history makes it clear why most rational Floridians — not the morons Thomson imagines — are wary of developers who gripe about being handcuffed. I can barely imagine what Florida would look like if we took the cuffs off.
As is, there are still a few unspoiled areas and intact wetlands and some wildlife corridors in between the massive and growing developments that have transformed Florida in the past half century or so.
Developers get paid in cash. It is the environmentalists who work so hard to curb them who deserve our gratitude. I just wish they would win more often.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Dan Lobeck: Love the developers, but love our county more

Re-posted from the Herald-Tribune

Published: Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 5:44 p.m.
I hugged Pat Neal at a recent meeting, at his request.
I love and appreciate developers, as public relations consultant Rod Thomson urges in his Sept. 22 guest column.
As he points out, they built my home and office and the stores where I shop. Indeed, my law practice is mainly for condominiums and homeowners' associations, all built by developers.
My father, as a minister, urged us to love all people.
But he also said we should not love everything they do.
Rod apparently wants us to ignore that some developers such as Pat Neal, Randy Benderson, Carlos Beruff, Rex Jensen and others make a very unlovable practice of controlling local politics to their benefit in ways that harm the vast majority of everyone else.

Ray Porter: 2050 Didn't Cause Housing Bust

Re-posted from SRQ


Born in Jacksonville in 1958, I became familiar at an early age with the strong east coast ocean waves, the vast size and diversity of the big city, and the Southern sensibilities of that enormous old community. It wasn’t until many years later vacationing in Sarasota in the early 1970s that I discovered the quieter, idyllic, peaceful ambiance and culture of the community that became my home after graduating college in 1980. 
The issue that has emerged front and center this election cycle has clearly been growth planning and the process of amending the 2050 Plan—the optional planning document that allows developers to build denser villages and hamlets in the eastern farmland beyond Interstate-75 and the Urban Services Boundary.
Early in my campaign, I pushed for compromise between the development industry and advocates for the environment and existing neighborhoods over the 2050 Plan amendments. I thought there was room for rational negotiation—a reasonable, centrist approach that would slow the rush to rapidly eliminate timing protections and sensible design standards at the heart of the 2050 Plan. Unfortunately, I underestimated the power and influence of those pushing for these changes. I have now concluded our eastern farmlands could be dramatically altered and eventually plowed over and lost in short order unless we are able to place at least one person on the current board who will represent the voices of environmentalists, neighborhood advocacy organizations and those insisting on smart, sensible growth. 
Some have been fooled into believing 2050 Plan rules and regulations were the cause of the virtual lack of development in the eastern region. In fact, the Great Recession and its lingering aftermath, which had no connection to 2050, were clearly responsible for the residential building slowdown. While there are certainly proven difficulties and complexities inherent in the 2050 Plan process, it would not require the massive overhaul now in process to correct these stumbling blocks.
But we live in the recent aftermath of a difficult and tragic time for our nation, and our local economy. The fear of yet another wave of unemployment and the loss of future economic opportunities has driven this current push toward a new building boom out east. It appears justifiable to many on its face. After all, the first big wave of Sarasota growth was seen in the building boom of the early 1920s. But if we are students of history, we should also understand most if not all unsustainable local economic booms have been followed by costly and damaging busts.
In the 2003-2006 period, we saw housing prices and unsustainable real estate building demand skyrocket only to come crashing down under the national recession. We are only now achieving a sense of normalcy in the market.
The final amendments to the 2050 Plan could ironically create yet another false bubble—this time a rush to develop the eastern farmlands in rapid and dramatic fashion. While my opponent in this race has minimized these amendments, they will clearly create a domino effect, which will be difficult if not impossible to slow down.
Focusing on just one damaging change, dropping the requirement for a 15-year gap between village applications would allow developers to line up at county offices with any number of village proposals. One developer even publicly encouraged Sarasota farmers to sell him all their land so he can build thousands of houses stretching to the DeSoto County line. This scenario is a far cry from the goals and desires of the community that created the 2050 Plan compromise in the first place.
It has been six long years since I dipped my toe into local politics and ran a shoestring campaign in 2008 for a seat on the county’s Charter Review Board. That unsuccessful experience, coupled with six failed attempts to gain appointment to the Sarasota County Planning Commission, sent me into the background of local politics.
I was almost convinced that those in power were right when they said Democrats could not get elected to higher county offices.
Now that I have spent over four months on the campaign trail, talking with hundreds of citizens and dozens of community leaders, I believe those in power are mistaken. Democrats with the courage to stand up to the Republican machine and talk truth to power can and will win. It could be this year, but I’m certain it’s only a matter of time.   
Ray Porter is the Democratic candidate for Sarasota County Commission District 4

John Wesley White on impact fees and economic incentives

A comment from former Sarasota County Administrator John Wesley White:
One of my pet dislikes is the policy of offering "economic development” incentives to private companies.  In general, I believe incentives are a fraud and are used to extract money from state and local governments for things the businesses plan to do anyhow on their own.  The link below to a Los Angeles Times article states the case better than I could.  For many years, Sarasota County held the line and did not offer cash incentives for business expansions or relocations.  That policy has now been turned on its head and Sarasota businesses are cashing in to do what they already plan to do.  Even good companies like PGT cannot resist the temptation to play the game.  Of course, sports franchises perfected this art a long time ago.  Read the article for a persuasive case.
The same misguided reasoning involves the reduction of impact fees.  I recall developer advocates approaching the County Commission when I worked for the County, requesting that we lower our impact fees because businesses were choosing Manatee County over Sarasota County.  Of course, doing so would simply mean that other taxpayers would have to subsidize those who realized lower impact fees.  We did a staff study of the matter and demonstrated that the reason some businesses were choosing Manatee County was because it had more readily developable (zoning and utilities) land and lower purchase costs.  Impact fees were not even a marginal factor.  In fact, Sarasota County’s lower property tax rate meant that businesses of any type would recapture the marginal difference in impact fees within less than three years and thereafter enjoy a lower property tax rate indefinitely.  This point buttressed the County’s program to acquire, upgrade, and expand water and sewer utilities in order to enable businesses to locate in properly zoned areas.
It is a shame that local officials forget or ignore these incentive and subsidy lessons in order to appease/please certain interests.  Sarasota County has even compounded the matter by reversing itself on fiscal neutrality.  It is so easy to disprove the economic arguments used to work the system, but doing so requires that either County staff, local advocates, or a newspaper invest the effort and have the courage to challenge these assertions.  Of course, when it’s done by County staff, they immediately become the targets of the business community’s ire and that of their own elected bosses.  Most Administrators are more “prudent” than I was.  A newspaper, while not immune to pressure from advertisers, is in a better position to expose those who would bilk the system.  Citizen advocates are usually ignored or patronized by local elected officials because the advocates are not usually well enough organized to be effective.  Besides, economic interests speak with money in addition to words.
John Wesley White
"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and 
 a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."  
      E.B. White

Thursday, September 25, 2014

North of the Border, Walkability is hot

TreeHugger recently discussed a study that showed how most Americans wished they didn't live where they had to drive so much. North of the border, a new survey by Environics for the Royal Bank and Pembina Institute (PDF Here) finds that people in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are voting with their feet, and are trading house size for "location efficiency", defined as:
  • Walkability: the ability to walk or cycle to stores, restaurants and other amenities
  • Mixed-use neighbourhoods: a mix of residential homes, businesses and amenities all within walking distance, rather than just one or the other
  • Convenient access to rapid transit and shorter commute times, along with realistic opportunities to travel to work and other key destinations without a car

Young buyers and seniors will pay more for location efficiency.

© Pembina Institute

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Response to Rod Thomson's Praise for Developers: Bill Zoller

The first thing to say about Rod [Thomson]'s recent column is that it is mostly true. Developers did build houses, shopping centers, offices, etc. that most residents live in, work in, and shop in.  

The second thing to say about his column is, "So what?"  All of that is beside the real point, which is that the form and location of development are what become critically important as we grow. As we grow (whether more or less rapidly than other areas), how we preserve, protect, and enhance all of the things that we value and that contribute to what we call the "quality of life" become of great importance. Rod's statistics about the rate of growth here are probably true, but again, so what?

If we take away all restrictions or guides for our future growth, the result a few decades in the future will be more congestion, higher taxes (as the costs of maintaining infrastructure outstrip the income produced by the development), and loss of our rural lands and native habitats and wildlife to paving and endless subdivisions. 

One of the Guiding Principles articulated by the Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) was: "People will want to come here until we make it the sort of place that people do not want to come to." 

It is very easy to kill the goose that lays those golden eggs. . . it may be much harder to keep her alive and laying for the long haul. That is the task, really, that we, the citizens of Sarasota County (and the region) must hold foremost; how to plan for the growth while preserving what is critical in order to keep Sarasota the vibrant, diverse, community that we all treasure.  What we have had here is, unfortunately, "planning by developers". 

As Maynard Hiss has written, we need to go back to the days when planners actually planned...made physical plans...instead of writing 1300 pages of policies and regulations and telling developers to "have at it." Planning such as Nolen made for Venice, and Frederick Law Olmsted made for Louisville, Buffalo, Montreal, and other places. These plans, by the way, have provided a framework for exceptional development in those areas for over 100 years.

The current amendments to the 2050 Plan are being made at the behest of a select list of large landowners and developers, whose goal is to make the 2050 Plan "work for them." Will those changes make it "work for us?"
- Bill Zoller

Monday, September 22, 2014

Alternative Models: Seaside

A bit of background on Seaside, Florida:
Eighty acres, it turned out, was the ideal size for a small town or a quarter of a city. Leon Krier, the noted urban designer who had written so eloquently about the restoration of the traditional city had used a diagram which showed that 80 acres is the area encompassed within a quarter-mile radius. This, in turn, was the distance a person would comfortably walk on a daily basis to go to work, to shop, or to go out to eat. 
A sensibly laid out town or city would, in fact, have all of the necessities and pleasures of daily existence within walking distance of one's residence. You might have to use mechanical transportation to go to the opera, but you should not need to use a car to get a quart of milk, nor should you have to be a chauffeur for your children. 

Two houses were built in Seaside before the master plan for a town was taken beyond the conceptual stage. It was important first to test the marketplace and to see whether a house which shared a beach at the end of a street could be sold for a price almost equal to that of a beach front condominium. The conventional wisdom in 1982 was that it could not be done, and that the additional constraint of strict architectural controls on all construction would be a deterrent to sales.

A pavilion was also built as a gateway to the sea and to serve as a symbol of the neighborhood sharing of the beach. The Tupelo Beach pavilion has now evolved into an almost generic symbol for Florida's remaining unspoiled beaches. 
Initial sales in 1982 were encouraging -- better, in fact, than anticipated. Sales were also helped by early recognition, in both the architectural and popular press, that the Seaside idea was quite appealing and might be a model for changing the patterns of urban and suburban growth.

Brand Sarasota

Comments offered at the Sarasota County Commission Public Hearing on Amendments to the 2050 Plan, August 27, 2014


I’ve lived in Sarasota for nine years. Before that, I lived for 16 years in an adjacent county. That perspective taught me that Sarasota is one of the few places in Florida that enjoys the aura of a distinctive brand name.

A complete inventory of the things that make up “Brand Sarasota” is too complex to go into here -- its roots lie in its natural beauty, and in artistic, literary and architectural movements going back generations. It’s always had visionary lovers of nature and culture.

The question is, how much longer will Sarasota enjoy that brand?

At stake in the proposed changes to 2050 may be nothing less than the extraordinary market value that comes with this distinction.

Sarasota is viewed as an “intelligent” community, boasting

  • Educated and affluent retirees.
  • Hi-tech, clean businesses.
  • Creative design in public spaces.
  • A regard for art, music, theater and film -- the life of the intellect in all its forms.
  • A deep appreciation of our parks, beaches, and Conservation lands, and 
  • An active scientific concern with native plants, marine life and wildlife of all kinds.
Folks with large life-experiences have come to Sarasota because it resonates with their quality-of-life values -- these values have been part of its fabric.

Today, the aspirations of Americans are changing rapidly -- many seek a more agrarian world -- a feature of rural East Sarasota that some proposed changes to 2050 threaten to diminish, if not to eliminate altogether.

If Sarasota County acquiesces in turning its rural sector into a cliched reflection of the banal developments that have paved much of the Gulf Coast (see, for example, what has become of the land between Fort Myers and Naples) it will lose its brand. The very thing that attracted people here will have been sacrificed -- and for what?

It takes time and many multi-sided conversations for an authentically grounded, complex vision to arise. The destiny of Sarasota County should not come from tired developer templates or business models hauled out of MBA syllabi for quick bucks. Our planners and fiscal experts as well as our Commissioners need to be savvy. They -- YOU -- should not fall for trite, outdated development practices, or for gung-ho scenarios pitched by self-serving prophets of endless growth. Look deeper!

It’s not yet 2015. Twenty-five years ago, the Internet didn’t exist for most of us. Today it’s transforming longstanding structures of living. Shopping malls are going the way of newspapers and 8-track tapes. Automobiles will eventually be petroleum and driver-free. Drones might fly fresh milk from the farm to our breakfast tables. Just as no one saw the Internet coming, no one today can foresee what forces will shape the world of 2050. Yet the developers have the hots to build for it now, and wish to tap taxpayer money to do so?

What exactly is the rush?

When the 2050 process began, Sarasota County took measured steps to ensure that the collective instincts of those who dwell here were deeply involved. If those same instincts are now to be ignored; if we residents are dismissed with the insider attitude that we "fail to grasp the intricacies of code revision," then our governance risks being usurped by the private profit motives of the few. When the public good is pushed aside, the result is often hasty, copy-cat style and insipid inspiration, instead of organic and original creation, which matures slowly with time.

East Sarasota could be the new Bonita Springs -- a Brave New Brandon!

When you ignore the gut sense of the people, you play with fire. What’s going to get consumed is the fair name and substance of Brand Sarasota.

So, again, I ask:

What exactly is the rush?

Alternative Models: Poundbury

Not every Florida place has to have walls, deed restrictions and the same narrow series of variations on a theme.

 Poundbury is an experimental new town or urban extension on the outskirts of Dorchester in the county of Dorset, England.
The development is built on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. It is built according to the principles of Prince Charles, who is known for holding strong views challenging the post-war trends in town planning that were suburban in character. 
The development is built to a traditional high-density urban pattern, rather than a suburban one, focused on creating an integrated community of shops, businesses, and private and social housing. There is no zoning. The planners say they are designing the development around people rather than the automobile, and they aim to provide a high-quality environment, from the architecture to the selection of materials, to the signposts, and the landscaping. To avoid constant construction, utilities are buried in common utility ducts under the town. Common areas are maintained by a management company to which all residents belong.[1]

Alternative Models: Case Study - Serenbe

Americans have always loved the land. That love is coming back, and it doesn't take the form of manicured lawns mowed by hired help, and gardens that have a set list of required flowers.

Consider the portrait of Serenbe located in the semi-rural area within the city limits of Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, that you'll find here. Remarkably, it lies within the Atlanta metropolitan area:

Nature & Biophilia

At Serenbe, we believe a community is a living part of its natural surroundings, not something to be built at nature's expense. We believe in biophilia—the theory that there is an instinctive bond between humans and other living systems.
We need nature in our lives today more than ever: We need fresh air, fresh food, trees and grass around us. We need, a place to grow and restore—a place to foster deep connections and connect with living systems.
Serenbe Farms and our extensive nature trails are at the center of our health and wellbeing. Through our three farm-to-table restaurants, local CSA (community supported agriculture) program and weekly farmer’s market, our residents enjoy the freshest produce and world-class culinary experiences.
Homes and hamlets are connected by looping country roads and a network of well-worn footpaths that make walking easier than driving. At Serenbe, wellness is an everyday activity.
The community at Serenbe feeds our residents in more ways than one. We’ve created a place where people are drawn together over gardening, cooking, books, art, ideas, and even over back fences.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2050: Origins and Roots

The 2050 Archives contain documents from the formative period (1995-97) when a multi-stakeholder group (msg) of Sarasota citizens thinking ahead about the urban service boundary and lands east of I-75 reached consensus on the values and principles of a new form of urban planning.

What we offer"The multi-stakeholder group seeks to bring common sense to future land use in Sarasota County."

What we believe:
"The current trend of spreading out from the urban core creates high infrastructure costs, loses the sense of Community, significantly increases pollution from automobile trips, destroys the natural heritage of Sarasota and reduces the open space value of water and air filtration."
"Current public lands will stay in public ownership and be managed as a valuable resource for future generations."

Where we stand:  Water, wildlife, native habitats:
"A different urban form is realized for Sarasota County besides 5-500 acre single use subdivisions and string commercial." 
"A plan for the future that serves the public interests while respecting the valid, constitutional rights of affected private interests."

What we learned: Statements from members of the MSG, a map series, and an analysis of East Sarasota lands, uses and biodiversity.
"The area east of I-75 still has a future that can balance several competing but legitimate interests. There are many alternative potential outcomes."

Villages (dark blue) & hamlets (turquoise)

Waiting for the Stupid

Maynard Hiss on Facebook:

This is what we could have in the 2050 planning area, a GREENWAY NETWORK AND ECOLOGICAL INFRASTRUCTURE POCKETS OF AGRICULTURE. We could have a restored Cow Pen Slough in a way that rivals a natural river flow and floodplain. A wonderful greenway network with water supply reservoirs to moderate the flows of freshwater in the bay. We could have connections throughout the rural area to the major public lands in the Myakka Island, and to the Legacy Trail system, and large parks in the west County.
What the public will get is nothing unless we SYSTEMATICALLY plan it.
The voters voted on conservation lands for public purposes. They voted on land conservation measures for water resources, strategic biodiversity protection, fitness and nature trails. Much of the money has gone instead to land speculators for development rights that we gave them, in plans that were terrible and ill conceived. We have purchases a lot of land but at a much higher price because of extremely poor planning and lack of coordination with private developers who plan to develop in the future.
There is a big incentive for the developers to work with the County as their open space within the development will have little value without a network of open spaces and core areas. The current logic of planning greenways would be like building a road, or bike or sidewalk within the development and not allowing surrounding developers to use it, or put them together as a system.
We can never expect the developers to plan the open space, and natural resources and provide for agriculture. They have a history of doing a terrible job when left to do so in development orders. You cannot have a voluntary network, which even if beneficial to those within the development will be completely inaccessible to everyone else. Just think if there was no centralized planning of the roads and water and sewer. We even tried this and it did not work. It just cost hundreds of millions of tax payers dollars to plan to clean up the mess. A mess that extends into Sarasota Bay and creates red tide or extends on to I75 and creates gridlock.
We need to plan for the whole community. Ecological infrastructure provides services 24 hours a day. It provides it even more effectively during hurricanes and floods. It is ironic to think that this natural infrastructure actually saves development from disaster. It is also ironic that it keeps people fit with all the potential recreational opportunities. It makes it possible to not only live longer but live much better healthier lives. It is ironic that much of the natural park systems restore themselves when put on the right trajectory and provide many free goods and services such as food for fisherman and clean air and water for everyone else.
We need to move away for now from the special interest urban park planning we have in the past. Much of our urban parks are highly specialized facilities like the rowing facility or baseball stadium or golf course that are used only a few times of year by very specialized users. Much of the facilities are idle much of the year, and expensive to maintain. And they are highly subsidized, and often provide congestion and inconvenience for those not going to the events.
Sarasota's largest industry is the tourist and season visitors. The east part of the County could be a world class destination and much more accessible to the general public than the west where much of the shoreline is privatized and you have to own a boat to access the open waters of the bay and much of the gulf. We could become leader in fitness and medical tourism. And noted for a very high quality of life. A world class destination for naturalists and nature lovers.
There are some people who are philosophically opposed to the public owning land. But we have learned from the coastal development that public ownership of the land is much cheaper than public ownership of the disaster brought about by highly stupid and grossly negligent developers. For example, instead of buying more beach for the public there is a move to spend 50 million dollars to protect development on south Lido. Everyone in the County not only pays high taxes to subsidize these developments who require period pulses of Federal State and Local aid, but we also pay higher insurance rates sometimes higher than our total taxes.
Waiting for someone stupid to plan your future is not worth the wait.