letter to the editor

Rule Change Would Fuel Development

by John Donnelly

Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity in conjunction with some Monroe County commissioners, staffers and state legislators and under the auspices of Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Cabinet (Florida Administrative Commission) are on the verge of approving an exceedingly destructive rule change to Monroe County’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

The rule change these officials are seeking will injure and ultimately destroy the fragile aquatic ecosystem upon which we’re dependent for life. This rule change, if approved, will allow for the leveling of the most environmentally sensitive lands in the Florida Keys.

State and county officials are seeking ways to remove the Tier 1 land protections that have safeguarded these sensitive land parcels from development. Furthermore, they desire to weaken and/or eliminate the Area of Critical Concern designation that has guarded and defended the Florida Keys from runaway development. Tier 1 properties located within our Area of Critical Concern have been shielded from scarification by this invaluable designation.

If these politicians and bureaucrats are successful in gaining approval for their sought-after rule change, there will forever be an end to the circumspect guardianship afforded the Florida Keys under our Tier1 and Area of Critical Concern protective status.

The Area of Critical Concern appellation assigned to the Florida Keys and our Tier 1 properties has been targeted for annihilation because of the greed and avariciousness of self-serving developers and corrupt politicians. Unfettered development without oversight and accountability will guarantee the Keys are forever transmogrified into a malignant wasteland.

The vulnerable geography of the Florida Keys places our tiny string of islands in the direct path of many hurricanes and tropical storms. Many communities are built at or near sea level. An extended hurricane season causes these communities to be regularly evacuated.

Expansive development on our Tier 1 properties, with its over-population and vehicular traffic congestion, will place tens of thousands of our citizens in danger when hurricanes and storms strike our islands. Cluttered evacuations, on our one and only road in and out of the Keys, will expose evacuees to additional catastrophic injuries as they seek a getaway from impending harm.

Our degraded and insufficient infrastructure, along with all the vulnerabilities associated with low-lying coastal homes, crowded boating communities and abundant flood zoned neighborhoods, cannot withstand and endure the additional stressors and hazards that will occur during hurricane season if over-development is sanctioned via the approval of a rule change that will authorize building on our Tier 1 green spaces.

Scientific evidence documents the absolute necessity for the preservation of undisturbed green and natural spaces if a community desires to remain healthy. City, county and state planners throughout the world are developing policies within their land management and growth planning teams that emphasize and advance the aforementioned scientific findings when making decisions on building, development and environmental design.

Sound minds and penetrating legal insights are coalescing together to fight against this irrational and ridiculous rule change. Perhaps, we’ll be spared an ugly end to an existence once treasured, embraced and revered.

John Donnelly, Key Largo

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