It is no secret that southeast Florida is overdeveloped. Unlike other parts of the state that have managed growth in a more responsible fashion, the entities that run the three southeast Florida counties have been far from responsible in their weighing of issues related to growth. For years, the region’s infrastructure was lacking relative to the amount of new developments being built. As open space quickly dwindled in the 1980s in Miami-Dade County, 1990s in Broward and 2000s in Palm Beach, the demand for services in the new developments finally began to catch up with the fast rate of growth.
This week the Palm Beach County Commission approved more building in the Ag Reserve and the Acerage threatening the limited remaining green space in the county as well as having a potentially devastating effect on the local ecosystem. The Commission in Palm Beach has only two Republicans, so the Democrats on the Commission as they have been prone to do for twenty years were the driving force behind the expansion of development in environmental sensitive areas.
The critical nature of the Ag Reserve to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refugee and Everglades is confirmed by Palm Beach County government itself on this webpage. Yet local Government seems willing to sacrifice this land to cash in on developers promises. This has been a recurring theme in the region and is a bi-partisan problem.
Broward County’s most explosive and un-managed growth took place when almost every relevant county office was held by a Democrat. In fact, the growth was so overbearing on existing resources and infrastructure, activists in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast began warning of the “Browardization” of their areas. At the same time Big Sugar was making bigger and bigger contributions to political candidates in the region trying to slow down the pace of the Everglades Restoration plan that had been mandated by the Federal Government.
A few lonely voices in all three counties stood in defiance of the reckless out of control development. Some of the voices were those of otherwise conservative Republicans who understood our natural resources and water supply were in grave danger with continued poor growth management, and ultimately economic growth would be curtailed if the Everglades were destroyed. As time went on and awareness about the fragility of the Everglades ecosystem became more apparent, the once lonely voices became leaders of a great movement. But unfortunately, despite the masses that assembled for the cause, the money on the other side more often than not trumped common sense when local governments voted on projects and development.
Florida’s environment and natural scenic beauty is perhaps the greatest economic driver the state has. Through tourism, agriculture and eco-friendly industries the state depends on a clean water, clean beaches and green space more than other highly populated states. Florida’s elected officials are custodians of this environment. Too often they have shifted positions on issues of importance to satisfy short term political considerations or have approved projects because of the lobbying influence of certain development companies. All of this puts a greater strain than ever on Florida’s environment as we move forward, clean drinking water and the ability protect our preserved areas for tourists and generations to come will become more prominent issues in statewide campaigns.
Many (but certainly not most) Democrats in Florida have a poor record on environmental protection. Let us hope going forward progressives can apply enough pressure that those in office change their ways.