Is it possible to have sustainable, non-polluting, ecologically sound developments where people live in harmony with close neighbors, yet with privacy?

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
November 2022

I have a vision that all homes will have at least one tree (and hopefully more) in their yards with only 10-20% in a turfgrass lawn.  My vision includes not spending 64-88% of my drinking water on my lawn, instead using native trees and plants that survive in Florida’s heat without my drinking water because of their deeper roots. Turfgrass roots are only 2 inches long, while native plant roots generally reach 12 inches deep. Turfgrass requires watering every few days because of the rapid evaporation of water from the surface.  I envision no more gas-powered lawnmowers and blowers producing CO2 and waking me up, but quiet electric engines that allow me to hear the beautiful songs of our birds, with lots of butterflies and bees flying around.  

Why preserve trees?  I am able to talk to my neighbor under the cool shade of a tree, where other neighbors likely will join us as trees help lower temperatures during hot weather. They beautify landscapes.  There is less crime and folks are happier. They improve and maintain the quality of water, soil, and air by removing pollutants.  Houses with trees sell more quickly and at higher prices, up to 12%.

If houses do not sprawl across the landscape, replacing Florida’s unique habitats, but instead are  built 2-3 stories high, developments will take up less space, thereby encouraging health and exercise by climbing stairs and walking in nature.  Thus, we’ll have more shared lands with community parks,walkable paths, glens, and shaded areas.  We need to preserve or restore more natural spaces to enhance and protect Florida’s beautiful lands, with planned water areas for wildlife.  Preserving older trees, and especially planting trees as in close forests, will sequester carbon to help reduce global warming.   

A visionary development might also address sewage as internally recycled to generate electricity. We should require solar panels installed on all roof surfaces to make Florida truly the Sunshine State.  Rain water should be collected and stored in cisterns and rain barrels to use during drought or dry seasons, as with more development comes water shortages.  The Sebastian annexation can set a vision for the future that does not pollute but is set up to be self-sufficient and sustainable.

This vision is possible now that the Sebastian City Council decided to delay the vote on the Graves Bros. Annexation until December 14, 2022.  This gives them time to pass new tree and landscape ordinances that require leaving some existing trees on properties and reducing turfgrass coverage to10-20% of yards. This will greatly reduce the amount of nitrogen and herbicides entering our St. Sebastian River, canals, ditches, and Lagoon that suffocates and kill native seagrasses. That will be a great benefit to help save our manatees, dolphins, fishes, otters, birds, and other wonderful wildlife.  

To encourage our elected officials to fulfill a vision to preserve our unique Florida habitats, you and all the citizens of Indian River County should call and write to the Sebastian City Council expressing your concern with the Graves Bros. annexation. Ask that they upgrade their tree and landscape ordinances and work towards sustainable developments to ensure that we preserve and enhance living spaces for current and future residents. Also please attend a public hearing on the ordinance that will be held on Wednesday, October 12, 2022, at 6:00 p.m. and express your opinion.

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