Designing a Perfect Paradise for People, Birds, and other Wildlife

The President’s Hoot
by Richard Baker, Ph.D.
September 2019

Do you live in Paradise? A place where there is beauty, peace, and quiet with preserved natural habitats nearby to enjoy?  Last month, citizens and organizations fought the Graves Brothers’ request to annex 1,118 acres into the City of Sebastian. The City and Indian River County officials couldn’t agree on how this annexation and land-use change should be done.  At the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) meeting and the Sebastian City Council hearing, the County Administrator and County Attorney were given only three minutes each regarding the county’s concerns about annexation and corresponding land-use change. The P&Z voted twice, 3-3 not approving the proposed action. At the Council meeting, only three people spoke in favor while 42 spoke against it, yet the council voted 5-0 to approve the annexation and land-use change. 

Thirty major concerns were presented at both public hearings. Most thought this annexation and its future development should be delayed to allow experts to make sure it was not another development disaster by the impact of the 3,699 new homes housing some 8,000 new folks:

  • Only 43 acres of the 1,118 acres were for conservation;
  • Floodplain issues, with no protection for the St. Sebastian River South Prong running through it:
  • Piece-meal annexation:  The first 66 acres annexation done in 2018.  A third one expected to avoid state requirements and county New Town regulations;
  • Who would be responsible for water and sewer?  County, existing city residents, or new residents?
  • Traffic issues on SR 510, 66 Ave., and associated local city roads are now at or near capacity;
  • Who pays for new schools, parks, and roads? 
  • Retaining the small town feeling of Sebastian; 
  • Continuing our Green Desert with all its “mow, blow, go” folks spreading fertilizers, herbicides and other chemicals on hundreds of acres of new lawns polluting our canals and Lagoon.

Couldn’t we take the time to develop an innovative sustainable development plan when we are faced with major quality-of-life issues? We have a deteriorating environment, climate-change issues, cyanobacteria and red tide blooms in our waterways implicated in causing ALS and Alzheimer’s. We see die-offs of fishes, manatees, and dolphins in our waters, while 314 U.S. bird species face extinction. No Florida Forever county conservation lands have been preserved for the last 12 years! Why?

Couldn’t this development be a model showing how to reduce human impacts on our ‘paradise, and set an example of how humans can live with nature rather than destroyed by poor, unsustainable development?

  • Here is a future sustainability vision for enhancing our home environment:
  • Enhance city and county tree and landscape ordinances by requiring more native trees and plants. 
  • Don’t clear-cut lots for building, but instead save large trees and native plants.
  • Reduce our green desert turf to 10%, and replace it with native plants and fruit trees.  
  • Limit insecticides, pesticides, Roundup and glyphosate herbicides, fungicides, and harmful toxic chemicals keeping us healthy.
  • Provide community stormwater ponds with one island with trees and bushes to provide bird roosting and nesting sites.
  • Stop turf within 10ft. of all stormwater ponds and provide a 15ft.slop of native water plants. 
  • Provide community space between the house’s backyards with a common trail lined with native trees and plants in a park-like setting where folks can walk, ride, and converse to foster a sense of community.
  • Require all houses and buildings to have renewable energy sources and solar panels. 
  • Have fresh vegetables and butterfly community gardens for all.
  • Promote green affordable LEED-standard single and multifamily hurricane-proof buildings to cool our county.
  • Provide Green Jobs maintaining our green landscapes.
  • Build safe five-foot-wide bike paths networks to work, stores and schools while getting exercise and reducing fuel consumption.
  • Generate electricity from our human wastes, and decontaminate the Phosphorus and Nitrogen to resell abroad.
  • Provide wildlife corridors.   

We must sustainably develop our county and world to save ourselves, wildlife, and plants that we share and depend upon for our existence.  Let’s work together to demand wiser, more livable, and sustainable development.  

This is our town!! All citizens should have the right to vote on a referendum (suggested by one speaker and TC Palm reporter, Larry Reisman) to guide where and how our cities and county develop as these impact all of us into the future. Speak out and demand that your voice be heard at meetings and at the ballot box.

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