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Letters to the Editors

Elected officials should block housing project

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002

Editor: Re: Hundreds attend meeting about affordable housing, April 9 Times:

I had the misfortune to attend the Seven Hills Community Center meeting regarding the construction of one of the three "affordable housing projects," this one on Mariner Boulevard near the Seven Hills community.

I listened to several hours of inane questions by residents, i.e., "Where will the sewage go?" "Are the background checks of proposed tenants statewide or nationwide?" and "Why is there only one entrance on Mariner Boulevard?"

Wake up, people! If the project had three entrances, would it then be okay to construct it next to an upscale community like Seven Hills (or Regency Oaks, or Pristine Place or Silverthorn)?

No one addressed the most important reason of all that the project should not proceed to construction, and that is because we, the taxpayers and voters of these communities, do not want it.

No one asked the most important question of all: Commissioner Chris Kingsley, what can you and our other elected officials do to stop this project?

No one asked whether the county will be prepared to defend itself against a class-action suit to reduce the assesments of the hundreds of homes that will be affected when property values drop in response to the construction of these projects.

There are thousands of acres in this county where the only neighbors are cows. Does it make sense to mandate this type of housing adjacent to our most desirable communities? We expect our elected representatives to act in our interest and solve these problems.

Fellow residents, we are thousands strong. Let us make a pact that if we must bear this burden, we will leave no incumbent in office after the next election.
-- John Campbell, Brooksville

Issues of rights and property at heart of housing dispute

Editor: First thing upon reading your letters to the editor Thursday, I was caught by the headline Don't shove affordable housing down our throats. This seemed, at first, to be a rather sarcastic statement. After all, who would want affordable housing? As consumers, don't we all want to pay more for less?

However, the first letter would have been laughable were it not representative of an all-too-common and deplorable attitude. Brooksville resident Charles J. Friedman replies to an earlier Times editorial, Stereotyping complexes is misplaced and divisive.

Like so many, Mr. Friedman is concerned that underprivileged housing in his neighborhood will drive down property values (something that has done nothing but go up since this country was founded). However, I should think that if my property's value were diminished, so would my taxes on it.

Mr. Friedman reveals just what the more important issue is -- money, not housing. Who cares whether the less privileged have a place to live, when what really matters is whether I can sell my house for more than I paid in the event I choose to move. I get all choked up with civic pride thinking about all the Mr. Friedmans out there. I especially like the reference, "Please give consideration to the opinion of those affected by this issue," as if to suggest that existing property owners are the only ones affected, or whose opinions matter.

The attitude, at first glance, is understandable. After all, what do hard-working taxpayers and property owners owe to the less privileged? After a little thought, however, (go ahead, give it a try) we might find that rights and property are not pre-existing things for which governments are formed only afterward to protect.

I'm sure this seems counterintuitive. It just so happens that I've given this matter more thought than most. The difference is best understood by comparing and contrasting the differing views of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Though Locke's view is the prevailing view, it's quite possible that Hobbes was the more astute observer.

Locke is best remembered for having proclaimed a natural right to "Property," which he defined as "Life, Liberty and Estate." The fact that nature doesn't provide a natural recourse or remedy when this right is violated brings men together to form governments. Nature is somehow "defective" for Locke.

Hobbes acknowledged that people do not behave rationally in the absence of government, because of mutual distrust. Indeed, Hobbes had a rather pessimistic view of human nature. Unlike Locke, Hobbes did not view "Property" as apriori (existing prior) to any conception of government.

The two concepts are mutually interdependent. In other words, to the extent that there is no government, there is only mere possession, not property.

In our own society, competition in pursuit of the accumulation of property is based on Locke's conception of property as existing prior to, and independent of government. Government is viewed as an absentee necessary evil into which tax dollars disappear like an all-consuming black hole.

It exists only to protect and secure our property. We are each distanced and distrustful of one another by a mutual pursuit for profit and one-upmanship under the aegis of the American dream.

As Hobbes would contest, government is far more than a necessary evil. The absence of any idea of government leads to the absence of any idea of property. Eminent domain is the very essence of government, and only from it does property even exist to be distributed, secured and expropriated.

It is, therefore, our very value in limited government and limited civic participation that we find the source of civil unrest and vilify our absentee government for not being a better one.
-- Scott Potter, Spring Hill

U.S. 19 must be redesigned and access must be limited

Editor: Re: I have lived in and out Tampa Bay for almost two decades. U.S. 19 is a federal highway and major through road, and it needs to be treated that way; unfortunately, it hasn't been.

The road has not been kept limited access and has traffic lights every mile in some places, as well as numerous driveway entrances. You ought to be thankful that the sections in Hernando are not as bad as Pinellas or lower Pasco.

Lowering the speed limit won't work; it is the numerous accesses that are causing the problem. It is supposed to be ahigh-speed road. This road must be made more limited access now.

I would do the following:

The long-term plan should be to convert this road to a freeway, like what is being done in Pinellas County.

In the short-term, stop any new median cuts, start to install service roads along busy sections and cut down on the direct driveway entrances to the road.

Plan where you want interchanges now, and acquire land now, not later, when the cost goes up and more development moves in.

Identify your busy interchanges and start doing flyovers over them one at a time to keep traffic moving. Eventually you can fill in the gaps in time as money becomes available.

In the end we have to realize that U.S. 19 is supposed to be a high-speed through road, not Main Street. Part of this problem was choices made decades ago on growth management and road design. We have a road like I-75 that is supposed to be moving through traffic, but instead U.S. 19 is bogged down with too much access. We can't use traffic lights or lower speed limits to get out of this problem; it won't work. Look at U.S. 19 farther south. It hasn't worked there, either.

We have to restrict the access and change the design of the road to limited access. Long-term, it is the only thing that will ever work. Everything else is just a Band-Aid solution.
-- Stephen R. Donaldson, Dade City

Business and industry are great assets to taxpayers

Editor: CAUSE is very concerned about the black bear habitat. Its members say there is a black bear corridor on the west side of U.S. 19. Yet, if this tract of land purchased by Wal-Mart was needed as part of the habitat, I'm sure the Southwest Florida Water Management District would have purchased it.

The group's other concerns are about dangerous traffic conditions, together with crime and pollution on U.S. 19 and Spring Hill Drive.

However, I haven't heard of any concerns regarding these same dangerous conditions the new Eckerd building may cause at State Road 50 and U.S. 19, or the new big-box Publix built right across from the big Kash n' Karry at the corner of Mariner and Northcliffe boulevards, or the new Lowes across from Home Depot (two more big boxes on U.S. 19, although there is no traffic problem there).

We have lost the interest of an excellent restaurant, the Olive Garden. Was this due to adverse conditions set by our county commissioners? What will we lose next? The Sierra Club tried to stop construction of the Suncoast Parkway while it was in progress, and failed. I guess Wal-Mart is CAUSE's next project.

In June I wrote a letter to the editor on my experience up North, where little business and industry will lead to higher taxes for private homes. Business and industry are great assets to taxpayers, in general, because they pay more in property taxes than they require in government services.

In January 2001, the county administrator told the county commissioners if residential growth continues to outpace commercial development, then taxes are going to have to go up or services will go down. I'm not in favor of cluttering the county with business and industry; I think a fair amount of both should make living in Spring Hill very pleasant and the tax base more attractive. But I wonder if any and how much input the local merchants in the area are supplying?

I think Spring Hill residents should think hard and fast. Animals do not pay property taxes; we humans do.
-- John A. Annitto, Spring Hill

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