Today, we move frequently. We buy a house in an area that we think is perfect, watch the neighborhood suffer the pain of overdevelopment and then move farther and farther out of the city trying to escape the urban sprawl. It just doesn't work; the sprawl keeps coming after us, gobbling up farmland, wetlands and the beautiful forest until the country looks like a cookie cutter setting identical to everywhere else.
I can remember taking car trips with my family and noticing the unique quality of towns and cities that we passed through. Today, it doesn't matter whether its Charlotte, Atlanta or even Jacksonville, they all look alike, and new neighborhoods grow up where trees have been clear cut and privacy fences block the airflow because of the postage stamp lots that remind me more of government work cubicles.
And I know that the argument of property rights is always used as the basis for the changes, for when one generation of rural folks passes on generally the younger folk aren't interested in that life style. Yet today there is a growing group of citizens who are saying "enough is enough", and I think with the proper balance they are right.
No place is a better example than Florida, a state that has grown by leaps and bounds yet, until recently, still had a beautiful green and pastoral center running from inland Northwest right down the spine of the state, excepting the major growth in Orlando and, of course, South Florida where the encroachment of coastal cities has literally destroyed the Everglades. Now even that entire central green zone is under pressure and, if lost, will be tragic.
The aquifer is already having issues, some parts of the state like South Florida and Orlando are putting more and more pressure on the upstate regions for aquifer water and even Jacksonville in the far Northeast corner is finding it necessary to draw water from the Santa Fe basin in North Central Florida. Meanwhile, large landholders even down the spine of the state are pressuring local governments to rezone more and more questionable areas for development which will quicken the draw down of water. Here in Alachua County a proposal is out to change the wetlands East five acre per home zoning to a large swath of multi-unit zoning, right on top of a primary swampy intake zone for the aquifer. I guess it is true that we won't miss the water until the well runs dry.
And there is another issue which I'm sure every taxpayer understands and it is this: the build out cost of development never pays for itself. As reported by the Tischler Report and the Field Model, the cost to the taxpayer for such development averages between $1.39 and $2.45 for every dollar taken in. It can be even higher in areas lacking any significant infrastructure such as the heavy woodlands and swampy areas. So taxpayers are paying out more and more as they watch their personal quality of life diminish.
Oh, I know we talk about improved cultural activities and schools, etc., but in reality they never develop according to the dream of what you are promised. Instead we find just more urban sprawl, including more traffic congestion, added pollution and noise, loss of the beauty of nature and increases in crime. It happens everywhere, not just in Florida.
So I would ask all Americans to take an active role in making sure that what is left of America's beauty be better cared for and that development be reasonable, not just a blank check for a fast buck. Developers come, take the money and go; it's as simple as that and they bring with them their battery of lawyers and consultants who insure that a picture is presented just the way the developer wants. It takes people volunteering their time to call them on it where it is appropriate.
Property rights are important for sure, but they need to also be used in a way that doesn't run roughshod over their neighbors. Their neighbors have a right not to have their lifestyle destroyed by someone else. And all of us need to hold our elected officials accountable for that. Don't ever let them off the hook.
Let's allow America to retain some of its uniqueness, not just become a carbon copy of the next community over the county line. It's part of our responsibility given by God for having proper dominion over the earth. We must use it wisely or it will all be gone.