As the election season heats up, many existing residents are letting it be known that they consider ‘too much, too soon’ overdevelopment the seminal issue of our time.
Last November, during a West Volusia town hall forum on growth management hosted by Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower, it became evident that a growing number of residents support a temporary moratorium on development until public infrastructure catches up and land use regulations amended to help conserve community resources and protect our limited water supply.
At the time, I equated a potential ‘tap of the brakes’ to a hotel that reaches maximum occupancy and hangs a “No Vacancy” sign to alert potential lodgers that the property has reached its limit.
Because packing guests like cordwood in every nook and cranny, placing cots in hallways and ballrooms, overburdening recreational amenities, gridlocked parking lots, and overcrowding facilities is unsafe and unsanitary.
In short, people living on top of one another is not sustainable over time.
Letting potential customers know there is no room at the inn is a short-term measure that protects the property from excess and overuse, frees staff to meet current needs, and ensures existing guests have a quality experience.
It also allows management time to plan and improve infrastructure to accommodate more customers so that expansion does not infringe on neighbors or detract from the unique character of the place that attracted visitors to begin with.
Unfortunately, our ‘powers that be’ 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 communities and once rural areas 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 to represent our interests continue to ignore the fears of their constituents?
When you consider that $1 of every $5 in recorded campaign contributions in recent Volusia County elections originated from real estate developers and the building industry – you begin to understand just how cozy (and incredibly lucrative) that symbiotic relationship has become – resulting in the approval of every want and whim of speculative developers, to include rubber stamping land use and density changes, while perpetuating a ‘hurt here/help there’ environmental mitigation strategy.
In my view, the quid pro quo effect of these massive campaign donations to malleable candidates is exemplified in the erosion of water quality and quantity, traffic congestion, unsightly cookie cutter subdivisions, “roads to nowhere” that facilitate future development, and the continued suppression of impact fees and concurrency regulations.
Recently, in an excellent article by Charles Guarria writing in the Hometown News, “More warehousing, more houses, just more in Daytona,” we learned of a gargantuan 893,000 square feet of warehousing, cold storage, and retail space collocated with some 400 apartments and townhouses to be built on sixty-five acres at the northwest corner of US-92 and Tomoka Farms Road.
In his informative piece, Mr. Guarria aptly described the enormous development as a “monster project.”
In my jaded view, it is more accurately the Monster that ate our Quality of Life – and now the voracious beast is getting too big and unruly to ignore – even for those elected officials who facilitated his lycanthropic transformation. . .
During their July 6 meeting, the Daytona Beach City Commission – after approving another 352 housing units near Municipal Stadium off LPGA Boulevard (with some 800 more on deck) – discussed a building moratorium for “New Daytona” along Boomtown Boulevard and areas west of the City’s Monument to Mediocrity at the Tomoka River pinch point.
I was surprised how little the elected officials seem to understand about their collective authority when approving new development – an almost strategic ignorance of their vital role in growth management – and I found it interesting that Mayor Derrick Henry appeared in complete agreement with Commissioner Ken Strickland on the topic of a moratorium.
Let’s face it, during this period of explosive growth, little consideration has been given to the quality of approved projects – as evidenced by the overall lack of character and appearance of those zero-lot-line behemoths that sprout from slash-and-burn moonscapes – with no consideration for developing a comprehensive sense of place and community.
More important, with no end in sight, why is no one looking out for the interests of existing residents?
According to reports, the Daytona Beach City Commission will hold a workshop to discuss the proposal on August 24.
With thousands of new homes and apartments already built – and thousands more approved and waiting to break ground (some 9,000 along already overwhelmed LPGA Boulevard alone) – many Halifax area residents are saying a temporary halt is too little, too late.
Of course, some developer shills are already crowing about how a moratorium will stifle the city’s ability to attract “jobs” and “affordable housing.”
The very thought of a temporary slowdown to allow infrastructure to catch up with demand will go through the real estate development community like an ice water enema – because anything that disrupts the boom/bust cycle of rapid growth and quick profits in favor of a measured strategy is anathema to those hauling cash out of what remains of our threatened pine scrub and aquifer recharge areas west of I-95.
Unfortunately, if history repeats, I don’t think those uber-wealthy insiders who are actively preparing the playing field with massive campaign contributions to likeminded candidates have anything to worry about.
In Volusia County – greed always prevails.
During this election season, I hope you will take this unique opportunity to identify those candidates who share your values and concerns, demand answers to the tough questions regarding how we plan, prepare, regulate, and execute future growth.
Then hold their feet to the fire politically by demanding concurrency and managed development.
Regardless of where you fall on the issue of growth management, we can all agree there is a lot at stake.
It appears the City of Daytona Beach is finally coming to the realization that We, The Little People are rightly concerned about increased density, traffic congestion, and the environmental impacts of unchecked sprawl – those things we see with our own eyes – something many believe will have a drastic impact on local elections.
This one bears watching. . .