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© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
Editor: This is a rebuttal to Pasco County Commission District 1 candidate Ted Schrader's comments regarding the comprehensive land use plan settlement and the wildlife habitat protection ordinance and the wildlife corridor to be established, as published in the Oct. 22 Times debate.
Mr. Schrader either demonstrates a lack of understanding of the facts and issues involved or chooses to ignore them in favor of a clear bias for the short-sighted development interests that dominate his campaign contribution list.
Prior to the settlement, Pasco County was already required by its comprehensive land-use plan and the state of Florida's Department of Community Affairs to establish a wildlife habitat protection ordinance. According to the plan, the county is required "to initiate development and implementation of a local wildlife and wildlife habitat protection and management program" and to "require preservation of wildlife corridors within developments" in coordination with state and federal wildlife programs.
The comprehensive plan settlement requires Pasco County to initiate within 45 days a study for the establishment of the wildlife ordinance and a wildlife corridor plan to connect the major well fields and public lands in Pasco and adjacent counties.
To draft a meaningful and effective ordinance, further local scientific data assimilation and analysis are needed. The current board of county commissioners has wisely determined the need to hire a consultant for this important study.
If Mr. Schrader were familiar with the scope of study and with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's regulations, statutes and services, he would also realize that neither the county staff nor the FFWCC has the resources to accomplish this alone. A local wildlife habitat protection program is not a redundancy of FFWCC regulations. It allows local communities to establish protection criteria for natural resources unique to the county and emphasize habitat protection.
The FFWCC is primarily concerned with protection of listed species; that is, those that are endangered, threatened or of special concern. They review development plans and make recommendations to "minimize the impact of development on listed species within a site." They do not establish criteria or thresholds in the land development code. They do not set local policy or draft ordinances. They do not buy land, protect land or manage land for wildlife corridors. They locate listed species and map critical habitat, but the data for Pasco County is still incomplete. Ironically, once the population or habitat is identified, they are at even greater risk of being destroyed by development interests, but that's another sad story.
Contrary to Mr. Schrader's assertions, establishment of a wildlife habitat protection ordinance and program preceded by a scientific study in Pasco is not "an unjust service to the taxpayers of Pasco County."
How is the protection of Pasco's natural resources based on independent scientific study not in the public interest?
It is Mr. Schrader's position on this issue that is not in the best interests of the public. A wildlife habitat protection program is, however, consistent with what has already been accomplished in the Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa. Pasco County is currently lagging behind all adjacent communities that have either an environmental land acquisition and management program (Pinellas, Hillsborough, Hernando, and Polk counties) or a habitat protection ordinance (Hillsborough, Tampa).
In light of rapid growth and development in Pasco, the county must take a leadership role in natural resource protection and management, and take a long-term approach to this issue now. In my opinion, to suggest otherwise is irresponsible and not in the public interest.
I trust Mr. Schrader is sincere when he declares his support for programs that "ensure the protection of land for water quality, water recharge area, and conservation areas" and that he wants to "protect the natural resources of Pasco County." If so, Mr. Schrader and the public should support the wildlife habitat study, the establishment of a meaningful and scientific wildlife habitat protection program, and a wildlife corridor plan. Preserving nature and wildlife benefits us all.
-- Peggy A. Gretchen, Wesley Chapel
Editor: I am a student at Genesis Preparatory School, and I am well aware of what is going on. First off, I would like the neighbors to understand and accept the truth.
In 1984, there was a Christian school here. The population was well over 250 students. Later on, Genesis bought the property. Currently, we have 124 students attending the school, which is less than what this area started with. Also, we are not building a 60,000-square-foot building. Our building will be about 6,100 square feet.
We have never asked anyone to extend this road, as many of our neighbors were saying. As for the traffic, there are 1,800 students attending Ridgewood High School, 1,000 students attending Calusa Elementary School, and about 1,000 students coming and going to Marchman School during the day. There is a decent amount of traffic there; however, the longest I have waited was two to three minutes. I would just like to ask our neighbors to learn all the facts. Thank you.
-- Nikki Iannaccone, seventh grade Genesis Preparatory School
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