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Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170; Sevas@cfl.rr.com
Dedicated to the protection of birds, other animals, and their habitats through education and activism

 

 

 
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Is AoF too close to developers?

It seems that AOF has joined the people who believe that development is going to happen anyway so we should try to manage it as best we can. 

So while we at the Southeast Volusia Audubon society have been supporting the Florida Hometown Democracy initiative and trying to stop a four mile by five mile development, four miles from the city center of Edgewater, which in itself would double the current 18000 population of our city, a development named "Restoration", AoF staff members were busy in the background trying to help the developers improve the "greenness' of the development so it could get AoF blessing on the development. 

Restoration would be on the West side of I-95 and North of US 442.  It is so large that nearly a fourth of it is in neighboring New Smyrna Beach.  At the same time, waiting in the wings are a 900-acre development named "Reflection" West of I-95 and South of US 442.  There is also another one waiting to connect Restoration with US 44 in NSB, and the Miami Corp is musing over what to do with it many square miles of forest and wetlands between Restoration and the city of Oak Hill.

Besides the 'greenness' of the developments, there are two other issues that need to be addressed:  the quality of life of the current residents of Edgewater, and the carrying capacity of Volusia county.  By the way, these same issues carry over to all localities in Florida.

First: quality of life.  There is nothing about a single development doubling the population of the city that will make me safer, more secure, lower my taxes or provide me with any other benefits.  Increased populations come with higher crime rates, higher taxes, more bureaucracy, more traffic congestion, more congestion in stores, etc.  Imagine if we had a major evacuation resulting from a hurricane or wildfire.  In addition, access to the beaches, a major reason for people to live on the coast, will be extremely limited.  On a good beach day now, traffic is backed up as far as one mile from I-95 with people wanting to get beachside.  The other day, at 11 a.m., there was no off-street parking available at many parking lots.  Imagine what it will be like in the future.  Despite our efforts, the city of NSB has not purchased land for off-street parking near the beaches.  To make matters worse, there are many smaller developments in the works and more in the planning stages within the confines of the current city limits.  A four mile by five mile addition to Orlando or Tampa , or Miami may not have much of an impact on the quality of life of the citizens, but in small coastal communities it is huge.

Second:  the carrying capacity of Volusia County.  There is nothing environmentally friendly about wholesale conversion of forests and wetlands, which take up CO2 and recharge our aquifer, into massive heat sinks of concrete and asphalt.  They put increased pressure on our already dwindling water supplies and the Indian River Lagoon.   We allow destruction of hundreds of acres of wetlands in a development and "require" the developer to take some nominal mitigation efforts.  We all know that mitigation is a sham.  Read the current issue of Audubon Magazine if you need proof.

We talk about conservation of water over searches for alternative supplies.  Edgewater and Volusia County have been in watering restrictions since 1997 with watering decreased from three to two days a week and no watering or washing cars on Friday.  The water police look for offenders.  The schedule of fines in on the Edgewater website.   Yet we still have gated communities and condos and golf courses full of St. Augustine grass.  And we are still building more as we speak.  And we are still critically short of water.  For whom  are we conserving water? For ourselves, our children and grandchildren? Or for the tens of thousands of new people that developers and city councils want to make their home here?

And then there are the agricultural lands also being converted to development.  At what point do we want to get all of our food from some other country?

Florida Hometown Democracy was an attempt to give citizens of a city or town a say in the vision for their locality.  Some of the chapters endorsed as did ours.  We had speakers and encouraged our members to sign the petition if they chose to.  AoF chose to "neither support nor not support" the movement and offered some nominal objections to it.  That was tantamount to being against it without saying so in public.  There was much public outcry including in some editorial pages of large newspapers about the tactics developers were taking in regards to FHD.  Some were putting forth plans early in case the amendment passed so they could be grandfathered in.    Others took out ads in newspapers with false and misleading statements about the petition.  And others paid people as much as three dollars a signature to get people to sign their own petition or to revoke the signatures they had already affixed to the FHD petition.  The developer's minions flooded the county voting authorities with these petitions making it almost impossible for the legitimate FHD petitions to be counted.  Where was the outcry from AoF?

On National Audubon's web page entitled "Population & Habitat:_Making the Connection" they state:
The world's forests, rivers, oceans, and wild creatures are perishing at the hands of people. Across the globe, wildlife habitat is being destroyed by chainsaws, bulldozers, and chronic pollution. Much of the destruction of the natural world we see across the globe today is "fallout" from the human population explosion that has occurred over the last 50 years. For over 100 years, Audubon has worked to preserve bird and wildlife habitat. We know, however, that no environmental victory is permanent so long as population growth remains unchecked.

Let's see what it reads like if we change a few words.

Florida's forests, rivers, oceans, and wild creatures are perishing at the hands of people. Across the state, wildlife habitat is being destroyed by chainsaws, bulldozers, and chronic pollution. Much of the destruction of the natural world we see across the state today is "fallout" from the human population explosion that has occurred over the last 50 years. For over 100 years, Audubon has worked to preserve bird and wildlife habitat. We know, however, that no environmental victory is permanent so long as population growth remains unchecked.

Is Audubon of Florida still committed to preserving bird and wildlife habitat?  Is Audubon of Florida committed to slowing population growth?
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Florida has a carrying capacity based on its resources.  We need to find out what that carrying capacity is and we need to ensure that growth does not remain unchecked until all of Florida is paved and built upon. 

We need a comprehensive focus on the future of Florida.  To fiddle with a well-known political theme:  It's the Environment Stupid!  We and the birds and animals share it and we are all connected to it by the web of life.

We need to get back to our roots and protect wildlife and habitat, not just for the environment but also for the quality of life of our citizens.  Will Audubon of Florida be a leader in that quest?