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BEACON PHOTO/NOAH HERTZ THE FUTURE — Representatives of 1000 Friends of Florida and the St. Johns Riverkeeper guide a DeLand audience through possibilities for West Volusia’s future.

If I close my eyes, I can imagine septuagenarian Noah in the year 2070.

I’m sitting in a comfortable hover-chair on the porch of a small, solar-powered house, drinking a cup of Amazon-brand synthetic coffee (in this scenario, I am too cheap to foot the bill for bona-fide coffee, which will have risen in price due to climate change).

My robot dog brings me the latest edition of The West Volusia Beacon. (The headline: “Is it time to address overdevelopment?”) All is well.

Unfortunately, my futuristic retirement bliss may not be possible if development trends remain on their current trajectory.

The environmental-watchdog group 1000 Friends of Florida is making the rounds across the state to ask the question: “What will our state and counties look like in 2070?” I attended their recent Volusia County event, which was very eye-opening.

Volusia County is currently home to almost 552,000 people, according to the latest data from the 2020 census. 1000 Friends of Florida projects Volusia County’s population could balloon to nearly 700,000 by 2070.

A lack of proper planning to facilitate a population that’s 150,000 heads greater than our current one would spell disaster for our environment and infrastructure.

A dearth of well-paying jobs puts Volusia County’s median household income at $49,494, below the $55,600 average for the state. Couple that comparatively low household income with next-to-no affordable housing, and things aren’t too hot nowadays. Will county and city leaders work to change that?

What is hot is Florida’s warming climate. Things aren’t too bad right now, but what will our coasts look like in 2070? How many people will be forced to move from low-lying areas to higher ground, like West Volusia, where the weather is nicer and your home can be above water?

Business as usual is not working. We need a plan.

1000 Friends of Florida recognized a few different outcomes for the Florida of 2070.

There’s a projection where 20 percent more of Volusia’s land is developed and a little more than a quarter of the land isn’t developed at all.

A more optimistic scenario has only 10 percent more of our land developed, with nearly 50 percent protected.

Why flirt with catastrophic degradation of our environment and infrastructure for a few additional strip malls and ticky-tacky, overpriced housing developments?

I was pleased to see some of West Volusia’s elected representatives at the 1000 Friends of Florida event. County Council Member Billie Wheeler, County Chair Jeff Brower and Orange City Mayor Gary Blair were there. Will they put their money where their butts were and invest in protecting Florida’s land? Or will we continue to stay our course, overdeveloping and letting Tallahassee dictate what’s good for Volusia?

Most of West Volusia’s elected officials, movers and shakers and decision-makers will not be part of the decision-making process anymore by 2070. Young folks, including people who haven’t even been born yet, will be calling the shots.

Plus, I’ll be a crotchety old man by 2070, and I’d like to ensure that I have a place to be a crotchety old man.

I’ll need a place to put my feet up without having to move to the moon, where I might not be able to get delivery of The Beacon!

High Frequency

NOAH HERTZ

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