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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SEVAS statement on Restoration

As everyone knows by now, there is a big (with a capital B) development in the works West of I-95 and North of US 442 in Edgewater called “Restoration”.  It will be on a four mile by five mile tract of land and will contain homes for 15-18000 new residents of Edgewater, doubling its current population in just one development.  This is in addition to the 900-acre development South of US 442 called “Reflections” and all the other developments that will be conceived of and built during this time. 

The Southeast Volusia Audubon Society has been resisting Restoration for more than two years based on its impacts on the quality of life of current Edgewater residents as well as the wildlife habitat and wetlands loss that will ensue.  Meanwhile, Audubon of Florida was working behind the scenes with the developer to make the development more “environmentally friendly” regardless of the impacts on current residents.

In a recent email, Clay Henderson, President emeritus of Florida Audubon and currently involved in environmental law, made these observations: “First, something is going to be developed there.  These folks paid over $100 million for this property, the largest single price for a parcel in Volusia County, so the site is never going to be the same.  Second, the City wants this and continues to apply pressure to the developer to not "listen to the tree huggers." This city wants more there, not less.  Third, in all my years of observing developers, I've not seen a "true believer" like this guy.  He truly wants this to be a model of sustainability and the UF guys think we can make it so.”

To be fair, I am including the texts of emails from Clay and Charles Lee of Audubon of Florida detailing the environmental-friendliness of the development.

The bottom line is that if we want to have any say in what goes on there, we need to get on the bandwagon and work with the process.

Does this mean that we should forget about all our previous concerns?  Certainly not! They are important to us and to our future.  We will need to press the cities of Edgewater and New Smyrna Beach to be forward-looking to protect our rights and privileges as citizens and taxpayers and ensure that our taxes are not increased to support this doubling of our population.

Let’s look at some of these impacts.

How many of us (and future residents) want access to the beaches in NSB?  On a good beach weekend day in summer, traffic from I-95 is backed up to Home Depot on SR 44.  Despite the opportunities for acquiring land when it was less expensive, the city of NSB failed to do so.  Once these developments ( and the future ones in NSB) come to fruition, there will be little opportunity for people to access the beaches unless they live on beachside.  There will be more pressure to expand driving on the beach and that will negatively impact the birds and sea turtles.

In a recent issue of the Edgewater newsletter, the city encouraged people to conserve water “for future generations”.  The water we conserve will never make it to future generations.  It will be used to supply water for the new masses they are encouraging to live in our boundaries.

In a front page article on July 13th, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that “Florida regulators will be asked this week to approve plans by power companies seeking to develop new sources of energy, including nuclear and solar projects.  While it could be years before the projects start producing power, customers could see increases in their rates as soon as next year.”  This is yet another example of where we are paying in advance for the new folks they want to entice here.

The citizens of Edgewater voted in 2006 to restrict new buildings to a maximum of 35 feet tall.  In 2007, the city got the voters to amend this restriction to allow government structures to be higher. Now they are planning to put another ballot item to remove the restriction altogether.  I guess they think if they do it often enough they can get the answer they want.  Does it really matter what the citizens want?

Our educational facilities are already overcrowded.  Most have “temporary shelters” supplementing the hard buildings.  When will the new schools be built in Restoration?  How much more overcrowding will be required before the new schools are usable?  Will we need a new high school even though we just built a new one?

How will this development impact our taxes?  How much infrastructure will the city build with our taxes to support this development?  Among the items that come immediately to mind are drinking water, recycled water, roads.

Will the city develop building codes for minimizing fossil fuel power consumption?  If this is to be a truly environmentally friendly development, will they require solar water and heat, or geothermal heating and cooling?  Will they require sustainable houses so people don’t die of heat exhaustion during power outages from storms, etc.?

I-95 is the only major corridor into and out of the area.  Can you imagine the gridlock if we have to evacuate in case of a major disaster such as a hurricane or wildfire?  It has often been proposed that SR 442 be extended through to CR 415.  That will be a main corridor for gang elements from Sanford and the greater Orlando area into Edgewater.  So much for our quiet little town.

And what about the impact on wildlife?  The area in question is replete with bears.  There is no reason to expect that they will stay in the woods once their home ranges have been fragmented.  They will find themselves in backyard feeders and garbage cans because the bears are opportunists and can’t pass up an easy meal.  Bears will be killed because there is nowhere to relocate them to if they become “problem bears”.  Man will again demonstrate his prowess to kill animals just because they get in his way.

On their website in the Population and Habitat, Making the Connection, the National Audubon Society states: “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. That's why Audubon is committed to increasing support for international family planning and why we have worked on population and habitat issues for more than 25 years.”

While National Audubon and politicians are worried about the carrying capacity of the world at large, it must only apply to the Third World and we are expected to let Florida exceed its carrying capacity.

It may very well be that we need to get with the program if we want to have an impact. But we surely must press our city officials to look out for our interests as well as those of future citizens.  And we need to hold them accountable for enforcing the terms of the agreements, not only with the developer but also with the ultimate builders.