Although I am a Conservative and certainly believe in individual property rights, I also believe that no one has the right to unilaterally come in and change the rules of the game just to suit them while not considering the unintended consequences. This company has been slick, they have talked around all the problem issues without really answering the key questions, the major one being water, and have "sold the idea" on some in the community while many more oppose. They have promised jobs, yet in their stock analyst calls they have indicated that they intend only to spend what money is needed to improve their entitlement position so that their value increases and they can sell high. It's not illegal, it's what businesses do, but it creates major property issues for those local people who live around their land holdings.
As I write this, much information is coming out about the critical nature of our clean water supply and the fact that the water management folks don't really have a handle on the situation today. The large lakes, once crystal clear, are now murky and show the signs of major algae growth from overload of nitrates.
To date, the politicians have wheedled and cajoled the entire state until we find ourselves in this situation, not just here but throughout the state which depends on the aquifer for water and one of our major tourist attractions, our bountiful springs. Public attention is finally growing to the nature of this threat and just recently a judge hearing a case involving a huge cattle processing operation demanded that the public be allowed to appear before him to voice their concerns. He was visibly moved.
Last night at a public workshop on the local "City in the Swamp" issue I presented a small discussion on property rights, for some in the business community have indicated that they see no reason to put any constraints on the use of owned property. And while I have major problems with the breadth and scope of what the national EPA often does, in fact, I think much of it might be overstepping the law, I do believe at the state and local level a sound and comprehensive environmental function should exist for the protection of all citizens. Following is a copy of my remarks; I hope it might make some think seriously about all the consequences we face as we continue to pave over land that is not appropriate for high density living. You may or may not agree with me, but we certainly have to look at the issue differently from the way we did as a tiny nation with enough land and resources to allow just about any activity imaginable. Those days are over.
I am thankful that the local planning group has tentatively recommended disapproval based upon their review prior to the public input phase which is ongoing. The process will be a long one, however, and much give and take will take place along the way. Development where it makes sense is a good thing, but to do so in a low, swampy, often water covered area (the surface land literally floats in many areas after a typical Florida downpour) with poor drainage is sure to create havoc for years to come.
THE PROPERTY RIGHTS ARGUMENT: WHY I OPPOSE THE PLUM CREEK PLAN
Since I’ve gotten involved in the fight against the Plum Creek Plan I’ve received plenty of flak from people telling me that I am violating the spirit of property rights. Being a private property owner myself and cherishing my right to property, I think it’s important to point out the weakness of that argument.
Now I agree with most constitutionalists that property rights are inalienable rights but I also know that when the Founders included them as governing principles at the conclusion of the American Revolution we were a country of some 2.5 million people in an immense land. The Founders never envisioned a land with a population of 320 million that we have today, most of which is crowded within one hundred miles of the coast. Back in their time our land resource was never an issue and there was plenty to spare for anyone.
Today, we are finding great stress on our water supply, not just in Florida but nationwide. In most cases, all it takes is a severe drought and our entire lifestyle changes. It is for reasons such as this that environmental laws are made and local governments establish ways to protect our water and design land use policies to provide balance. That’s what our local Comprehensive Plan does.
The Founders never envisioned huge corporations buying large amounts of land under pretenses not imagined when the purchase was made and then using that land to negatively impact the life of many of the neighbors around them. If the Envision Alachua Plan as proposed is approved, Plum Creek will get their stock value raised, sell the land off at a huge profit, and leave all of the problems to the taxpayers generally and the residents in the area of sale specifically. Many “neighbors” will likely see their wells go dry, face flooding, watch wildlife disappear around them and other adverse impacts not even considered yet plus taxpayer costs will soar. Property rights were never intended to give a landholder the unlimited right to the life giver, water, so needed by those in the neighborhood, for those who live in the area have a right to clean water themselves.
All of our inalienable rights are God given, and since they were God given, they certainly weren't meant to be used to ruin the life of others. But when money rears its ugly head in huge amounts, lack of concern for your fellow man sadly often follows. You can't take care of Hawthorne and East Gainesville, either in reality or just imagined, by destroying the lives of those who live in the fifteen miles between the two communities. God would have never granted that in any right. I think he would have expected this large entity to have to meet the same standards that the rest of us have to comply with daily.
Think about it. It is Plum Creek that has created the us vs. them issue in our community as a divide and conquer strategy. They have not provided answers to the many questions that have been posed and they expect us to accept their plan on faith. Looking at some of the other projects they have undertaken elsewhere in the nation shows that faith is not warranted. Their results have not lived off to their promises. If the good people of this county allow things to play out according to their wishes we will have just become pawns for them to use.
Property rights: use. Property rights without responsibility for the negative result caused to others: no.
NOTE: Many of you throughout the country face similar actions yearly. Take the time to get involved and speak up. We don't own this earth; we merely borrow it from God for the time we are here. Our dominion over it carries much responsibility. Let's live up to that requirement.