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Justifying the Sexton land deal

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

Treasure Hammock Ranch by Bob Montanaro.

Letter: Justifying the Sexton land deal
Saturday, November 24, 2007

Russ Lemmon’s negative column of Nov. 18 did not answer his own question: “Why did we pay $12 million for land we don’t own?”

Buying development rights from active agricultural lands is probably the smartest thing the county has done. Why? Because:

• The land remains in viable agriculture that produces locally grown food. (If you think we have a problem being dependant on foreign oil, wait till we become dependent on foreign food).
• The land is managed by farmers that own the land which instills stewardship to protect the ability to farm the land into the future. (In fact the Sextons have a track record for good management practices by receiving Conservationist of the Year awarded by the Soil and Water Conservation District).
• The land still produces tax revenues as a farm Ag land requires very little county services such as education, roads, police and fire protection when compared to residential land. (Cows don’t go to school, drive or go to prison).
• Land is not available for development but is green space that protects and enhances our water supply, storm-water retention, carbon sequestration and wildlife habitat. (Mining is restricted on the Sexton Ranch.)

Lemmon failed to state (or doesn’t know) what kind of land Ralph Sexton bought and what the agricultural value was. Was it abandoned citrus groves with dead or diseased trees overrun with impassible Brazilian pepper? Or profitable ranch land with fences, corrals, ponds, improved pastures with conservation structures with the bonus of environmental attributes?

Lemmon states half-truths for impact or entertainment of uninformed readers, but these are serious issues requiring accurate considerations. Thank goodness for four wise and far-sighted commissioners: Sandra Bowden, Wesley Davis, Peter O’Bryan and Gary Wheeler.

Richard Baker

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