Here in my neck of the woods in North Florida we are in the midst of a struggle with a large corporation, Plum Creek, a Real Estate Investment Trust, whose large holdings of land have been used for timber production which they now want to sell. Despite their claims to create jobs, Plum Creek's mission is entitlement, increasing the value of the land so that they can get top dollar from developers who, in turn, will do with it as they please. I've been through this before in three states and regardless of their claims, once it's done it's done and they walk away leaving the residents with the problems.
Now selling your land and having it developed on the surface is not the problem. As a Conservative I believe in property rights and freedom as much as possible, but there is an issue here with this particular endeavor that has been significantly overlooked. It's what you do with the land and whether or not it is suitable for your use that more often than not creates problems. And you are probably wondering, what could that be?
Well, like most communities, we have a County Comprehensive Plan which governs development. In the particular area of the county where I live which is now under siege, the large landholder wants the county to waive current plan requirements and give them special consideration on 65,000 acres of land. Right now the property in question allows development in five acre parcels where wetland and floodplain rules will allow, but they are asking for a change in a large part of the area to allow for multi-use permitting and the particular area in question is very low, floods easily, has many ponds and swamps, and serves as a filtering element for our watershed. The watershed, which feeds the aquifer that provides water to the area and many other portions of the state, is already under pressure, yet they want approval to build up to 10,500 homes and large retail and industrial facilities in the area. This would constitute a city in the swamp of some 30,000 plus workers in a clearly unsuitable location for such.
Our group has been courteous but active in our opposition yet we find ourselves being vilified and accused of being a political lobby group by, of all people, a local Tea Party unit. So let me get this straight. The Tea Party, a group that is normally made up of average Americans who fight big government and crony-capitalism see our little "band of brothers and sisters", all volunteering our time and energy to fight against the ruination of a portion of Old Florida as the problem. They choose to side with a large corporation who has nothing to do with the creation of jobs, dreaming of a future that will never come from this project. It never does and, in the end, the infrastructure requirements (roads, schools, medical, etc) always are significantly higher in cost than the dollars brought in. The big boys and girls get rich and the poor little boys and girls who live there watch their wells go dry, their way of life ruined with flooding and aesthetic destruction and with it the precious aquifer becomes even more depleted. And to add insult to injury, the taxes go up, usually forcing many off of their property.
Shame on the Tea Party, a group that doesn't even seem to be interested in finding out what we stand for and why. It's water, people, clean, pure water and our wonderful animals that will disappear if this is done. And it's also flooding, for when you build up a swamp, the water has to go somewhere else, unless you channel it off like they did with the Everglades. How's that working out for you, South Florida?
We aren't opposed to development per se, there are some good areas near the town of Hawthorne, the town they claim to want to help, that are appropriate for development. But obliterating the wetlands and swamps with facilities that they keep under wraps and are not yet made public at this time is like a beggar asking a rich man for a blank check. As Reagan said, trust but verify, and I add if you can't verify just say no. I wouldn't let my horses out into the pasture if I knew the pasture had no fencing. That's what giving a blank check to Plum Creek would do. Let's just make them live by the same rules they knew about when they bought the property thirteen years ago. After all, the rest of us have to live by those rules.
Ultimately, the decision will rest with the elected county commissioners, and we will speak truth to power until the end. Will David triumph or lose? Only time and energy will tell, but the "noise" that Plum Creek accuses us of making will become a crescendo as we continue to spread the world.
God gave us only one world and we are merely borrowing it for the time that we have on this earth. Let's make Him proud by exhibiting our dominion over it in a manner that he would wish. We are stewards of it, not masters. Only He is the master.