<p data-src=Letter to the Editor: Commissioners should listen to the people

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Editor, The Beacon:

I live on Michigan Avenue. I have lived in DeLand since 1965. My four children attended DeLand schools and graduated from DHS. My husband and his family have lived here since before 1900. Like you, I’ve been following the climate summit and thinking there must be things we can do here.

I have a policy recommendation for the DeLand City Commission. I recommend that the commission seriously work on how to address climate change at the local, DeLand, level using local tools.

Among the short- and long-term global effects of climate change are sea-level rise, changes in weather, including rainfall patterns that result in drought or flood conditions, and increases in temperatures worldwide.

We can’t stop sea rise. Fortunately we are not currently subjected to it. We will likely be affected by weather-pattern changes. They may involve stronger storms, increase and decrease in rainfall, and storm intensity. And, temperature increases. The prediction is that world temperatures may increase by 2 to 4 degrees in the foreseeable future. We may have some ability to limit or reduce temperature increases. What can we begin to do locally about local temperature rise?

We live in a temperature zone that has already been affected by temperature increases. Unless you garden, you may not know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture rezoned us from Zone 9b in 1990 to Zone 9a in 2012. This means that we are considerably less likely to experience a killing frost than we were 30 years ago. Rezoning was based on observed increases in temperatures in DeLand. That is both good and bad — but it is a fact.

Meanwhile booming economic conditions in Florida have led to major developers operating in small communities with existing infrastructure and surrounding cheap land. DeLand is one of those communities.

Like many small towns near urban centers, DeLand is in the crosshairs of big developers who do not and never will live here. They like us because they can buy big parcels of land around DeLand at relatively low prices. They can easily deal with our development ordinances, build and flip the property, then go away. Ironically they use our Downtown images to promote their developments though they are miles away. We are a dandy small town for extractive development.

Meanwhile developers practice slash-and-burn on land to simplify development (I say cost-cut and cheapen). They strip the land they use. When development construction begins, all the trees, plants, critters and birds are gone.

They destroy 40 or 100 acres of Florida … each time they build tract housing. In the process, they remove tree canopy, along with the entire understory and the animals that live there.

Totally denuding large plots of land results in immediate increases in temperature. If we took a thermometer to one of these plots, we would measure a difference of 4 or 5 degrees between the stripped land and nearby woods. These stripped lands, like large paved parking lots and treeless suburbs, are heat islands. Collectively they serve to raise the temperature of all of DeLand.

I recently read some research conducted in Baltimore. The researcher measured summer temperatures in various parts of the city. It turned out that the more affluent parts of town where trees were most common and houses were separated on larger lots were as much as 10 degrees cooler than the poorest parts of town, where there are few trees and houses are tightly packed. If you look for heat islands on the internet, you will find many references to the topic. Multiple communities have recognized tree canopy loss and are actively working to reverse it.

I’m here to ask that the DeLand City Commission aggressively address and support processes that will require significant, measurable efforts to mitigate loss of tree canopy, to support whatever means of retaining or increasing tree coverage are possible, and to develop and increase every method available to re-tree places where trees have been removed.

This is a self-interested local approach. It takes responsible local action on climate change that reasonable people can understand. It is time to revise the rules.

Make maximum vegetative coverage a policy.

Commit to require maximum tree replacement and retention wherever feasible within the city limits.

Add tree coverage whenever it is possible.

Require trees at all parking areas. Limit the size of asphalt parking space.

Cut down on impervious surfaces, and limit paved square footage. Wherever feasible, add vegetative coverage.

These steps will begin to increase CO2 absorption and reduce reflective heat.

If DeLand’s local government takes action now to remediate tree loss, DeLand will be repaid in benefits within 10 to 30 years in positive outcomes for residents of our own jurisdiction.

I won’t predict that I’ll be here to appreciate the benefit of your foresight. My children’s children will want to be here, because we all will have acted to address the temperatures and other effects that will come.

I request that the city urgently begin a revision of its development regulations to foster these goals. Put some teeth in the revision.

Joan Carter




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