PHOTO COURTESY MARTIN O’CULL GROWTH, GROWTH, GROWTH — Trees are clear-cut and burned at a housing-development site on the west side of DeLand.

When a hotel reaches maximum occupancy, management hangs a “No Vacancy” sign to alert potential lodgers that the property has no available space.

Mark Barker

The alternative — packing guests like cordwood in every nook and cranny, placing cots in hallways and ballrooms, overburdening recreational amenities, gridlocking the parking lot — is unsafe and unsanitary.

Unfortunately, our powers that be in local governments have failed to grasp the need for a “no vacancy” sign in the form of development moratoriums that could give us time to plan.

They seem to ignore the myriad problems that come along with the sprawl that is now threatening quaint communities like DeLand and rural West Volusia.

With evidence mounting that unchecked growth is the principal concern of residents across Volusia County, why do those we have elected and appointed continue to ignore this?

When you consider that $1 of every $5 in recorded campaign contributions in recent Volusia County elections originated from developers and the building industry, you begin to understand just how cozy (and incredibly lucrative) the relationship has become, resulting in the approval of every want and whim of speculative developers, to include granting nonsensical land-use amendments, our hurt-here-help-there strategy of environmental mitigation, the erosion of water-quality regulations, squandering limited transportation infrastructure funds for “roads to nowhere” to support development, and the suppression of impact fees.

What passes for “planning” is almost nonexistent, and regulations that protect the quality and quantity of our water, natural places and wildlife habitat have been gutted — sacrificed on the altar of greed — while Florida lawmakers continue to limit state-level reviews of proposed projects and to restrict the ability of local and county governments to raise impact fees to help growth pay for itself.

The bulldozers continue to roar — churning our sensitive wetlands and wildlife habitat into a moonscape of black muck, all while the insatiable greed of speculative developers drives them to make hay while the sun shines.

Residents in Ormond Beach have serious concerns about the looming specter of Avalon Park Daytona Beach — a massive development poised to put thousands of homes and commercial space south of State Road 40 — while those in West Volusia are considering the long-term consequences of development at the former Southridge Golf Course (the site of a former dump), hundreds of apartments proposed near Downtown, a 600-home subdivision threatening Lake Winnemissett, and a 648-unit “transit oriented development” near the proposed SunRail station.

As County Chair Jeff Brower recently said in a cogent social-media post:

“These developments in DeLand, Avalon, Mosaic, Farmton, Latitudes, your town, they can all be beautiful developments, but where is the water coming from? It is not endless. The water cycle has always had the same amount. But in any localized area, when withdraws outpace deposits, you go bankrupt. It seems few in government want to look at that ledger sheet.

“Growth at all costs is not making us richer. It is reducing our quality of life and requiring tax increases. …

“Every land has its carrying capacity. Ours is clean water.”

Now is the time to let your voice be heard.

Next year, apart from Chair Brower, Volusia County voters have an opportunity to select new County Council representatives in every district, with more seats up for grabs in many municipal elections.

We shouldn’t put the same foxes in charge of the henhouse and expect a different result.

I hope you will take this opportunity to identify candidates who share your values and concerns, to demand answers to the tough questions regarding their stance on the way we plan, regulate and execute future development, and to find where their true loyalties are by monitoring which industries and interests finance their campaigns.

Let’s take a bold stand to protect our quality of life while there is still something worth worrying about protecting.

— Barker writes a blog, usually about local government, at A retired police chief, Barker says he lives as a semi-recluse in an arrogantly shabby home in coastal Central Florida, with his wife and two dogs. This is excerpted from his blog, lightly edited (he swears a lot) and reprinted with his permission.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here