When a hotel reaches maximum occupancy, management hangs a “No Vacancy” sign to alert potential lodgers that the property has no available space.
Because the alternative – packing guests like cordwood in every nook and cranny, placing cots in hallways and ballrooms, overburdening recreational amenities, gridlocked parking lots, and overcrowding limited facilities – is unsafe and unsanitary.
Letting potential customers know there is no room at the inn is a temporary measure that protects the property from the ravages of excess and overuse, frees staff to meet current needs, ensures existing guests have a quality experience, and allows management time to plan – and improve infrastructure to accommodate more customers within set parameters – so that expansion does not infringe on neighbors, current residents, or detract from the unique character of the hotel that attracted visitors to begin with.
Unfortunately, our ‘powers that be’ in local governments here on Florida’s Fun Coast have failed to grasp (or manage) the myriad issues that occur when one attempts to shove ten pounds of shit into a five pound sack – a crude metaphor for the malignant growth that is rapidly metastasizing along the spine of Volusia County from Farmton to the Flagler County line – sprawl that is now threatening quaint communities like DeLand and rural West Volusia with high-density development and its detrimental impacts to our environment, infrastructure, and quality of life.
With evidence mounting that unchecked growth is the principal concern of residents across Volusia County, why do those we have elected and appointed to represent our interests continue to ignore the fears of their constituents?
I have a theory. . .
When you consider that $1 of every $5 in recorded campaign contributions in recent Volusia County elections originated from developers and the building industry – you begin to understand just how cozy (and incredibly lucrative) the relationship has become – resulting in the approval of every want and whim of speculative developers, to include granting nonsensical land use amendments, our hurt here/help there strategy of environmental mitigation, the erosion of water quality regulations, squandering limited transportation infrastructure funds for “roads to nowhere” to support future development, and the suppression of impact fees.
Earlier this month, Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower hosted a town hall meeting in DeLand where the bulk of the participant led discussion focused on the devastating impacts of the out-of-control growth that is threatening our water quality, destroying our natural places, taxing essential services, and placing increased pressure on our inadequate transportation and utilities infrastructure.
Some in attendance told horror stories of the direct impact of rapid growth on their quality of life while calling for a moratorium on development – including requiring low-impact strategies to help stem flooding, conserve community resources, and protect our limited water supply.
Real estate developers crow that building control measures should not take the place of land use and planning studies to determine a proper balance between growth and its negative impact on existing residents – claiming that moratoriums send the wrong message, curb “economic development” opportunities, and restrict inventory, which increases the price of residential and commercial space as demand continues to grow.
What passes for “planning” is almost non-existent – and regulations that protect the quality and quantity of our water, natural places, and wildlife habitat have been gutted – sacrificed on the altar of greed – while Florida lawmakers continue to limit external state-level reviews of proposed projects while restricting the ability of local and county governments to raise impact fees to help growth pay for itself.
The deck is stacked – and not in our favor.
In my view, the problem with that wink, wink/nudge, nudge time-buying strategy is that while compromised politicians and government officials throw even more of our hard-earned tax dollars at political insulation analysis and slow-walk land use and impact fee studies – the bulldozers continue to roar – churning our sensitive wetlands and wildlife habitat into a moonscape of black muck, all while the insatiable greed of speculative developers drives them to make hay while the sun shines – as they throw more financial support to candidates who are sympathetic to these slash-and-burn tactics.
And the cycle repeats.
Residents in Ormond Beach have serious concerns about the looming specter of Avalon Park Daytona – a massive development poised to put thousands of homes and commercial space south of Route 40 – while those in West Volusia are considering the long-term consequences of planned development at the Southridge Golf Course (the site of a former dump), hundreds of apartments being proposed near downtown, a 600-home subdivision threatening Lake Winnemissett, and a 648 unit ‘transit oriented development’ near the proposed SunRail station on 123 acres along Grand Avenue between State Road 44 and Old New York Avenue.
To name a few. . .
Add to that the churn of colossal developments already approved or underway in the pine scrub west of I-95 in Daytona Beach and you get the idea that – in the not too distant future – the limiting factor won’t have anything to do with neutered planning and zoning regulations and everything to do with our rapidly diminishing water supply – a violation of natural population limiters that has some politicians considering a “toilet to tap” scheme that will have us drinking our own recycled sewage.
As Chairman Brower recently said in a cogent social media post on the subject:
“These developments in DeLand, Avalon, Mosaic, Farmton, Latitudes, your town, they can all be beautiful developments but where is the water coming from? It is not endless. The water cycle has always had the same amount. But in any localized area, when withdraws outpace deposits, you go bankrupt. It seems few in government want to look at that ledger sheet.
Growth at all costs is not making us richer. It is reducing our quality of life and requiring tax increases. In fact, “smart” growth is outpacing our ability to sustain healthy life. That is the 1000-pound elephant in the room all the developers, lawyers, and home builders with their pictures of beautiful neighborhoods don’t talk about.
Every land has its carrying capacity. Ours is clean water.”
And what about the dearth of “affordable housing” for the thousands of Volusia County residents that are considered asset limited/income restrained – many living at or below the poverty level with only scut work or warehouse jobs to bank their hopes on – families who are quickly being forced out of the housing market where the median listing price is now $320,000?
Rather than place reasonable restrictions on this cancerous sprawl of zero-lot-line wood frame cracker boxes and half-empty strip centers – politicians at all levels of government continue to turn a blind eye – even as our waterways suffer a painful death from development-related pollutants and runoff, our fish and wildlife vanish in a deadly guacamole of algal blooms, and our already overstretched infrastructure groans to a gridlocked halt.
I often say that people can forgive what they see themselves doing.
If you were responsible for planning the future of Volusia County – to ensure that everyone has adequate roads, natural resources, utilities, amenities, and essential services – is this how you would go about it?
I didn’t think so.
Now is the time to let your voice be heard.
Next year, thanks to redistricting, apart from Chairman Brower (a staunch advocate for low-impact growth and our sensitive environment), Volusia County voters have an opportunity to select new representatives in every district – with various seats up for grabs in many municipal elections on both sides of the rapidly diminishing Palmetto Curtain.
In my view, we shouldn’t put the same foxes in charge of the hen house and expect a different result.
I hope you will take this unique opportunity to identify candidates who share your values and concerns, demand answers to the tough questions regarding their stance on the way we plan, regulate, and execute future development, find where their true loyalties are centered by monitoring which industries and interests finance their campaigns – then hold their feet to the fire politically – demanding accountability and responsiveness on growth issues.
It is time to let our elected officials know there is some shit we won’t eat.
Let’s take a bold stand to protect our unique quality of life while there is still something worth worrying about.
Like many of you, I will be taking a few days off to enjoy time with family and dear friends this week, reflecting and giving thanks for the many blessings we have been gifted in this beautiful place we call home.
Angels & Assholes will return for your listening and dancing pleasure next week.
From my family to yours, here’s wishing a very Happy Thanksgiving to all loyal members of the Barker’s View tribe, the tens-of-thousands who read these often-irreverent screeds – regardless of whether we agree or disagree on the political issues of the day – who add so much to the ongoing discussion of our life and times here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast!
A special thanks to our law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS first responders, medical professionals, and dedicated government officials and public servants who put it all on the line and give so much of themselves to protect and enhance our lives every day.
May God bless each of you with joy, peace, and happiness.