|The President’s Hoot|
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
At the recent county workshop, only a few businesspersons and an architect thought the county’s revised draft new town policy was a good idea. Even some citrus folks said it was a bad idea. The lack of support by members of our community is not surprising in light of the unanimous decision by the 2005 final review committee for the exhaustive Visioning Workshops that there should be no new towns outside the Urban Service Boundary (USB), period.
The best reason for not considering a new town now is that we do not need one now! Most people do not realize that we have plenty of room to handle all our expected growth for the next 25 to 50 years within the USB, where we have county water and sewer, without changing our current zoning or extending the USB. According to Mr. Bob Keating, our county’s Director of the Community Development Department, we currently have 128,768 people living in our county. He predicts by 2030 (the next 25 years) that our population will increase by 79,232 for a total of 208,000. He says we now have available 117,855 units (lots, houses, apartments, or condos) inside the Urban Service Boundary and 16,145 units outside the USB for a total of 134,000 units in all of Indian River County. Mr. Keating states that on average 2.2 or 2.3 persons will occupy one of these units.
Therefore today we have enough space (134,000 units X 2.2 people) to accommodate at least 259,281 people under our current zoning, without even needing to rezone any property or invent a new town. Thus we already have for the next 25 years, space not only to accommodate the expected increased population of 79,232, but we even have a fudge factor for 51,281 additional people that could carry us another 10 to 25 additional years beyond that before we would run out of space for the expect growth. Moreover, the infrastructure is already built and ready within the USB and will save you tax money.
However, if for some unforeseen reason, we must have a new town, the recent final report from Governor Bush’s Committee for a Sustainable Treasure Coast (CSTC), available at http://www.sustainabletc.org establishes guidelines that should be followed. Below are listed just a few of these guidelines taken from that report that should be followed if there is a need for a new town perhaps 25 years from now:
- We need a broad range of tools and techniques to create sustainability in the county. Accurate and current information is the key to informed decision making and public support. For example an up to date comprehensive search for the best site for a new town that protects our best agricultural lands, water resources, forests, and wildlife.
- We need to determine what a new town will cost entirely including costs for education, social, economy, natural environment versus those costs associated with filling in units already designated within the USB.
- Leaders, governments, and all sectors of the community must be represented and heard from using a collaborative process to provide such community components as vibrant city centers while perhaps first addressing the redevelopment needs of Vero Beach, Gifford, Wabasso, Sebastian, and Fellsmere before building a future new town.
- All citizens need affordable and accessible preventive, physical, and mental health service
- Inclusion of an exemplary system of life-long learning opportunities to meet the diverse and growing economy, which reflects our changing culture and environment, must be framed into the community. This would include schools, institutions, programs, and events that promote the arts and our unique heritage and culture.
- A regional strategy for economic development that promotes economic diversity, prosperity, and sustainability.
In summary, a new town is a Big Deal and needs to be done right! This can only be accomplished with a diverse and committed committee to plan its and our future. For the long term I suggest the following members be considered with alternates:
- One member each from county commission, planning and zoning commission; city councils of Vero Beach, Indian River Shores, Fellsmere, and Sebastian; and representative from Gifford, Wabasso, and Oslo areas
- One each for citrus, ranching, horticulture, and organic farmers
- County’s superintendent and IRC Community College President
- County health administrator, social services worker, minister, and affordable housing expert
- A realtor, developer, architect, planner, chamber of commerce official,
- Environmental scientist and water and transportation experts
- Representative from the IRNA, Culture Council, and the Press Journal
What should we do? Be alert and cautious and as always, write or speak with your elected officials!