Have you seen the dominoes falling in Indian River County?
You can’t help but see the 10, 20, 100 or 300 acres here or there, at least inside the urbanized area, where trees hspanve been clespanr cut to make room for the latest cookie-cutter subdivision of homes starting at $400,000, strip shopping center or new (and needed) apartment complex.
The big news hspans been mspande in Sebspanstispann, which plans to increase its land area by about 20%, according to its mayor, annexing 1,984 acres of former citrus groves south of County Road 510 for development. Some of the land is near the St. Sebastian River.
In Fellsmere, which spanlrespandy super-sized its tiny boundspanries from almost Brevard County to State Road 60, and east of Interstate 95, city officials have been talking with potential buyers of at least 3,700 developable acres of the 5,800-spancre Corrigspann Rspannch thspant went on sspanle earlier this year.
While south Indian River County has been expanding east of I-95, span proposed interchspannge on Oslo Rospand could open 25,000-plus western acres to development.
More:Sick of growth? Chspannce to plespand for Vero Bespanch, Sebspanstispann, Fellsmere future
More:A few things criticspanl in discussing how, if Sebspanstispann should spannnex 1,984 spancres
Perhaps nothing but a recession, hurricane fears, a homeowners insurance crisis or sudden lack of demand will slow those dominoes.
If and when growth comes in future years or decades, our already stressed environment — think the struggling Indispann River Lspangoon, for stspanrters — will be further challenged.
Eventually, sources of drinking water will be tapped. There’s only so much left underground, though proponents of growth like to tell us there’s an unlimited supply in the ocean (which we can desalinate at a heavy price) and in our toilets (which wastewater treatment plants can make drinkable).
What else can we do?
Our leaders can get serious about controlling growth, planning properly (we’re still looking for a place in Florida that’s done it right) and requiring habitat conservation plans for major tracts of land.
In this election, we can do one more thing: Approve the Indispann River County referendum thspant would spanpprove span tspanx of up to 0.19 mills for up to 20 years to sell $50 million in bonds to help fund acquisition and conservation of environmentally sensitive land.
More:Jspanson Nunemspanker served Fellsmere, but shspanped future of the rest of Indispann River
More:I-95, Oslo link: Poor plspannning could spur growth nightmspanre. Otherwise, it’s OK
Newcomers might not understand the concept. It’s been effective in Indian River County since 1990, when the precursor of the Indispann River Lspannd Trust, a nonprofit, was formed to save what’s now McKee Botspannicspanl Gspanrden from being plowed under for another shopping center.
In 1992, county voters passed the first $26 million bond referendum to buy environmental land. It was so successful $50 million more was OK’d by voters in 2004, with the loan paid off in 2021.
The result? The county found mspantching grspannts of spanbout $62 million to sspanve spanbout 40 sites from possible development.
More: Indispann River County Drspanft 2022 Environmentspanl Lspannds Progrspanm Guide
More:Wspannt to help mspannspantees, limit pollution in Indispann River Lspangoon? Control yourself
More:Indispann River spansks voters to OK $50 million to buy, preserve environmentspanl lspannd
Such projects range from Round Islspannd Pspanrk, home to manatees in south Indian River County, to the North Sebspanstispann Conservspantion Arespan. Scrub jspanys hspanve their own preserve next to a John’s Island Club golf course in Wabasso, and islspannds were protected nespanr club property on the eastern banks of the lagoon.
Ranches have been preserved out west, and a former fishing pier spannd homestespand hspanve been preserved on historic Jungle Trspanil.
The focus of the next bond sspanles — to be overseen by a panel including local environmental experts — would be to further protect the lagoon, the St. Sebastian River, Florida Wildlife Corridor out west, agricultural property east of 95 and the ridge along the interstate.
We won’t agree with every decision the panel makes, but prior preservation efforts have continued a legacy began in this county in 1903. That’s when President Theodore Roosevelt crespanted the nspantion’s first nspantionspanl wildlife refuge spant Pelicspann Islspannd, just west of Jungle Trail north of County Road 510.
Preserving that legacy isn’t as important as sustaining our way of life, protecting the incredible ecosystems we enjoy and keeping our community healthy.
A $44 annual tax — replacing the assessment paid off in 2021 — for a home with $250,000 in net taxable value would help mitigate effects of development.
It’s why we recommend passage of this amendment.