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Say NO to Liberty Park

The President's Hoot by
Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
May 2008


Photo by Bob Montanaro.

The proposed Liberty Park development at 66th Avenue and CR 510 is the second time this year when the public discovered that our county’s zoning regulations have huge loopholes.  Developers “latch on” to these loopholes, but the public only learns about them when the developments are scheduled for final approvals.

In January, homeowners on 82nd Avenue learned that adjacent agriculture land could become the Wild Turkey Sand Mine.  Now, for the second time, we learn that a development who has only 12% of the property INSIDE the Urban Service Area Boundary can build 991 homes on 452 acres owned OUTSIDE that boundary line (zoned Agriculture with one house per five acres), while putting the retention ponds and parks INSIDE the boundary.  The boundary line, establishes where our county is REQUIRED to provide water and sewage.

Sadly, this agriculture land grew some of our county’s finest citrus.  The destruction of these lands will result in a loss of local produce, leading to more imports.  Future developments should be targeted to lands not suitable for agriculture.  Currently, little thought is given to protecting exceptional agricultural lands as we do for environmental lands.

The loophole these developers are taking advantage of is: acquiring land that straddles the Urban Service Area Boundary.  The developers include a planning device called “density transfer.”  This provision, in our county’s zoning regulations, allows a developer to build homes in excess in one area when the density is “offset” by setting aside some open space elsewhere in the county, to compensate for the development.  

Contrary to the purpose of density transfers, these developers propose moving density from INSIDE the Boundary Area to OUTSIDE the Boundary Area, which is backwards and the opposite of good planning.  Elsewhere, where sprawl is contained more successfully (and agriculture is preserved as a valuable part of the community landscape), density is moved from OUTSIDE to INSIDE the Boundary Area.  Keeping density, and New Towns, INSIDE the urban service area is the key to containing unbridled sprawl.  Better planning would require all these greenspace requirements to be met on that portion of the project that lies OUTSIDE the Boundary Area. 

It is hard to see any justification for additional housing, as many approved developments and existing homes lie vacant in the county, thus showing no established public need.

There are other issues this development would impose on taxpayers:

  • New sources of drinking water are needed now for houses already approved within the Urban Service Area.  All alternatives (reservoirs, desalination of ocean water or drilling deeper into the aquifer) will be a major expense with serious environmental consequences.
  • US 1, County Road 510 and 66th Avenue, among others in the immediate area, already require upgrading to handle traffic without an additional 991 homes.

Our County Commissioners have the discretion to approve, not approve, or modify the proposed project.  Therefore, they should:

1) Direct the planning staff to establish better guidelines for transferring development rights within the Urban Service Area,

2) Direct staff to review all zoning regulations for loopholes such as this one,

3) Vote NO on the Liberty Park proposal as it sets a dangerous precedent for unwanted and unneeded development outside our Boundary Area that burdens our natural resources and taxpayers.

During elections, county commission candidates professed: “I will never vote to approve a subdivision outside the Urban Service Boundary!”  Now we have a test to see if those elected Sandra Bowden, Wesley Davis, Joe Flescher, Peter O’Bryan, and Gary Wheeler will honor their words.  Please call 567-8000 ext 1490 or write them (sbowden@ircgov.com, wdavis@ircgov.com, jflescher@ircgov.com, pobryan@ircgov.com, and gwheeler@ircgov.com,) and ask them to stick to their commitment by voting NO to Liberty Park.

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