Letters to the Editors
If allowed, facility will endanger lives, river
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 16, 2003
Editor: Poor Commissioner Jim Fowler is much put upon these days. Ever since his Hall's River Retreat defeat, his tempestuous trash meetings and Suncoast Parkway controversy, his political image has taken a beating. He should prepare for a few more well-placed punches.
The Homosassa River Alliance is an educational group that seeks to protect and preserve this river for future generations and to foster responsible growth. The alliance believes that the county's comprehensive plan should be followed. As property owners, taxpayers and good citizens, we care about our county and our fragile aquifer. That is why we are questioning another proposed development west of U.S. 19.
This is an 84-bed assisted living facility to be placed down Yulee Drive behind a pawnshop. It would rest on 8 acres, 2.77 acres of which are wetlands. This area also marks the headwaters of the Homosassa River. Aside from the fact that the aquifer is extremely fragile here, this facility would be placed in a Coastal High Hazard area.
Why couldn't this facility be built farther inland where it would not impact wetlands and the river's headwaters? Why should an assisted living facility be placed in a Coastal High Hazard area in the first place? Who will ultimately have to pay for emergency personnel necessary to move these folks when storms threaten or disaster strikes?
During the 1993 no-name storm, many able-bodied people had trouble getting out of harm's way. What would happen if people in this proposed facility were injured or died during such a necessary removal? It would seem that the county would be liable in some way for allowing such a facility to be placed in a Coastal High Hazard area.
However, Assistant County Attorney Michele Slingerland assured the Planning Development Review Board in February that the designation Coastal High Hazard Area had only to do with evacuation purposes and nothing to do with zoning planning and usage issues. Gimme a break!
Florida statute 163.3178, Coastal Management, states, "Therefore it is the intent of the Legislature that local government comprehensive plans restrict development activities where such activities would damage or destroy coastal resources, and that such plans protect human life and limit public expenditures in areas that are subject to destruction by natural disaster."
Thus, it is not logical to say that this facility can be placed here, thereby ignoring the safety and well-being of people who are dependent on others for their very lives. This is not responsible growth.
I predict that in April, when this issue comes before the Board of County Commissioners, the vote will be 3-2 in favor of this project.
Chairman Fowler will portray the alliance as trying to take away the developer's rights. Josh Wooten will roll his eyes and lament the loss of the wetlands, but Fowler is for it, so he must follow. Batchelor will vote with his cronies, and so it goes. Another salvo will sound, and another battle to save our coastal area will begin.
It is important that the people of this county battle for responsible growth and responsible government. We must make our voices heard. There are plans afoot to diminish a citizen's ability to speak to land use issues.
Do not allow this to happen. We have to make this set of commissioners responsive to the people who hired them, the voters. It is essential if we are to protect this county against arbitrary laws and irresponsible growth.
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