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FLAT AND TREELESS — As land is turned from woods to ‘hoods, as here in the Lincoln Oaks development off West Plymouth Avenue in DeLand, often the trees are removed and the land made flat for easier home construction. Our writer notes the environmental impact — from air conditioning to water and fertilizer — made necessary by such construction methods. BEACON PHOTO/NOAH HERTZ

BY GENE RODDENBERRY

DeLand Mayor Apgar recently noted that city officials “hear a lot about concerns in the community about sprawl.”

It is not sprawl in and of itself that is the problem, but rather the nature of the sprawl that is permitted. A perfect example may be found on West Plymouth Avenue at a new subdivision near the hospital.

The site contained the rolling countryside and dense forest canopy that make DeLand so attractive. That dense forest of native vegetation was watered by nothing but the rain and fertilized by nothing but the natural soil fertility.

The developer sought to improve on nature by knocking down nearly every tree, shrub, bush and blade of grass. It is doubtful that even a remnant of the birds, mammals and reptiles could have survived.

Upon completion of the first phase, we were left with an expanse of wasteland that would have made the Sahara Desert blush with envy.

It then became necessary to flatten those dunes so the area exhibited the endless monotony of a scorching, windswept Nevada salt flat.

All of this was necessary to reduce the cost of building “affordable housing” on 40-foot-wide lots. To make those lots attractive, it was necessary to sod them and plant various bushes and shrubs.

These shadeless lots will be filled with humming air conditioners continuously consuming fossil fuels, which will further degrade our atmosphere.

The broiling summer sun will desiccate these treeless yards, which will then require water from our ever-diminishing aquifer, and the application of chemical fertilizers, which will further pollute that aquifer.

Perhaps “affordable housing” is not so affordable if the costs to the environment and the community are factored into the equation.

When that project was announced, no neighbor could possibly have foreseen the abominable travesty about to be foisted upon them. Most people, while vaguely aware that a new development might be coming near them, have no idea of the character of that development.

A modest proposal is in order. New developments, upon the initiation of the application process, should be required to declare whether they are proposing a Thoughtful Development, an Average Development, or a Hideous Development.

The Thoughtful Development will, for example, retain more than 50 percent of its tree canopy, be creatively planned, and take into consideration its impact on its immediate neighbors and the community.

The Average Development will retain between 25 percent and 50 percent of its tree canopy, and may take the impact on its neighbors and the community into account.

The Hideous Development will retain little, if any, tree canopy, and no consideration will be given to its impact. The sole criteria for determining feasibility will be the amount of profit realized and the speed with which those profits are reaped. The devastation and degradation are not a concern to either the developer or the planning agencies.

The advantage of making this declaration at the outset will be that the news media will have the opportunity to forewarn the community. The Beacon could run a “Desolation of the Week” column. The community at large and nearby residents will then have the opportunity to organize and express their displeasure by appearing at the doors of City Hall brandishing flaming torches and pitchforks. Perhaps someone will listen.

Should the torrent of hideous development not be better controlled, the end product will be a DeLand transformed into something unrecognizable and undesired by none but the rape-and-run developers.

While it is probably not their goal, the next mayor and City Commission face the prospect of being remembered as the politicians who presided over DeLand’s destruction.

— Roddenberry is a retired mediator who graduated from both the University of Florida and the University of Miami. He had the misfortune to witness the destruction of the Treasure Coast by rampant overdevelopment and thoughtless planning. He now lives in DeLand.

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