Now don't get me wrong. I am no fanatic for stopping all development or ceasing all growth, but with the urban sprawl that we have today and the abuse that has been done to our woodlands and wetlands, we need to take a look at what the future will be like if we don't make some modifications to our way of doing business. Living in one of the most beautiful and still rural land areas in Florida, swampy and full of water yet so full of natural life and mystery I find myself now in the middle of the attempt to create urban sprawl out of a Florida watershed. I remember clearly the words of my late mother when she said, "They won't stop until they have paved the entire country from coast to coast".
Plum Creek, the huge timber company/REIT (real estate investment trust) has submitted a request for a special rezoning of 65000 acres of woodland and swamp to allow the development of what I call Swamp City. The company has used a two year campaign to gain support claiming that jobs, jobs, jobs would be the result in an area where jobs are sorely needed, just like what is found in most American communities these days. And jobs do sound good, so if you don't take the time to research and do your homework it would be easy to buy in to this proposal.
But here's the problem. Plum Creek is not a job developer; Plum Creek is a large landowner, and the current effort underway here follows in the wake of some of their other efforts, notably in Montana and Maine, where job creation was minimal and landscape was changed drastically. In Montana, the entire slope of mountains were left denuded, susceptible to erosion and adding to the danger of floods down below. Not exactly a conservation effort, is it? Yet, Plum Creek tries to represent itself as being a friend of nature and wildlife while it accomplishes just the opposite.
Plum Creek also is having some issues with its stockholders, what with the timber market being down and the return on their investment not what they would like it to be. So, in order to increase revenue and company value and please the people who keep the corporate chieftains in place, they have asked for the county to allow Mixed Use Development in a huge portion of their holdings, mostly in very low and swampy areas with streams and lakes/ponds in abundance. This way they reach their entitlement criteria, meaning enhanced value for the land and, at that point, they either sell it to the highest bidder or hold it until that offer is available. Either way their book value increases without doing anything to create those jobs that they've used to sell the issue.
At a forum sponsored by Plum Creek last night but also attended by many in opposition, they repeatedly spoke out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand they admit they are a timber company and a REIT with no expertise and actual involvement in land development and job creation. They admitted their job was to bring the land to its highest marketable value. But then, on the other hand, they turned around and said that they would be creating jobs, jobs, jobs and a quality product. Which is it? I think we know the truth.
I don't put this post up merely to highlight the plight of those of us in this area. There is a much bigger point. This situation goes on all over the nation and as it continues the most beautiful land on earth is being transformed into an eyesore. We build and then move on, leaving behind boarded up buildings and properties which then become infected by squalor and despair. Why not repair what we have first? Oh, that's right, the developers who stand to gain wealth, wouldn't be able to get rich on our dime before moving on and leaving us to deal with the outcome.
Our neighbor city, Gainesville, has a huge glut of both residential and commercial place with many businesses boarded up. So if Plum Creek is successful in gaining approval for its plan, does this mean that those negative factors in the largest city in the county only growing worse? It's almost guaranteed.
Just remember, folks, when someone comes to your neighborhood and promises something that sounds to good to be true, it usually is. And, sadly, you will usually find someone in authority with power to influence the decision lining his pockets handsomely. Do your research and background, and if it then makes sense, si b. But if you are basing your decisions merely due to the presentation by those who want it done, be very cautious. You are only getting half of the picture.
Develop we must, but if we destroy all of our wetlands and farmlands we will one day find ourselves lacking the very means of sustenance. And that day of reckoning is fast approaching here in Florida and throughout our great land.
Think about it, study it, and pray about it. God will help you come up with the right solution. God bless you all.