Saving Money Is Not a Valid Excuse to Ruin the Environment

environment1

In the following article, published today Aug. 21, 2016 in the Gainesville Sun, Mr. Cheshire complains multiple times that no study nor need has been established to regulate stormwater.  We can point instantly to not a ten page study but an entire book: Silenced Springs by Dr. Robert Knight (Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, 2015.)   Need for stormwater regulation is established.

The ruse of postponing action by saying “Let’s name a committee to study the problem” to avoid decision making has been so over-used by politicians that it is beyond trite.

We note that Mr. Cheshire is chair of the Business Community Coalition which is a partnership comprised of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors and the Builders Association of North Central Florida.  Thus he is naturally concerned with building costs.

And reasonably so, but what we have here is the continual conflict of money versus the environment.  It is the same issue of money versus water use.  Eventually we must come to terms with the idea that we must give up something to gain something.  In this case we must begin to pay the piper, that is share the costs of conserving the environment.

If the farmer must raise his product prices because he has to pay for irrigation, the consumer must help share his extra costs.  If a residential dwelling costs more because of stormwater control, the purchaser must share that cost.  If we want rivers and springs and clean water and air, we must change our mindset to pay for it.  Not just the producers but also the consumers; everyone must share.

Saving money is not a valid excuse to ruin our air and water.  Governors, legislators,  water managers, county commissioners, please take note:  Saving money is not a valid excuse to ruin our air and water.

We congratulate the Alachua County Commissioners for their actions to control stormwater.  This is true leadership which is so lacking from Tallahassee on down.

Read the original article about saving money here.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life:  once taken, it cannot be brought back-


Stormwater and the war on affordability

Friday

Posted Aug 19, 2016 at 2:00 AM

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By Dean R. Cheshire Special to The Sun

Imagine this: Overnight, the shoes you just bought for $75 jump in cost to over $1,500. Just one day later, would you still be able to buy them?

Without even a single scientific study pointing to the need for a new regulation, Alachua County is forging forward with a new stormwater policy that will make essential construction costs 20 times more expensive. Cost impacts of the proposal are presently being evaluated, but current estimates predict increases of over $20,000 per new home in new regulatory costs just to comply with the proposed policy.

Not a single study has established a stormwater “problem” creating a need for this extremely expensive new policy. Still, the commission plunges forward without consideration of affordability to solve the problem — a problem no one is even sure exists.

If enacted, this hastily conceived policy will simply devastate any remaining hopes for affordable housing in our community. In a county where regulatory compliance costs already often exceed $50,000 per new home, we’re left to scratch our heads as to why affordability isn’t even a policy consideration.

Crushing costs, however, aren’t the only problem with this policy proposal. The University of Florida and Santa Fe College campuses will effectively shrink as vastly larger swaths of land are forced into use as retention ponds. The policy will, by design, supersede home rule and force residents within the cities of Gainesville, Alachua, Newberry and every one of the six other municipalities in Alachua County to bear vastly increased costs on any new construction project.

Outlying municipalities will no longer be an option as the last remaining refuge of affordability in our county. The Alachua County Commission thrusts ahead with a policy that will ensure affordable housing is a luxury only available in the counties that surround our own.

Unintended consequences are just that, and what we don’t foresee can be monumentally important. UF and UF Health Shands are some of the very largest employers in several surrounding counties, a stark testament to local unaffordability that further burdens our overstressed infrastructure. Motorists who brave twice daily 45 minute- or hour-long commutes to access employers in our county do so not because they want to, but too often because they can’t afford a local option. The county’s proposed stormwater policy doubles-down on existing county policies driving affordable options away from our community.

I was born and raised in Alachua County, and I deeply value the natural beauty and quality of life clean water and air provides. But if we’re going to work to protect our environment, let’s make sure we’re getting the most bang for our buck. Any discussion about adding even more to the cost of housing in Alachua County should focus on a policy that we know will actually have a strong positive impact on our waterways — we could take a look at septic tanks, for example.

Any policy that will so profoundly affect affordability in our community deserves careful study and thoughtful solutions. The Business Community Coalition, an organization comprised of the Gainesville Alachua County Association of Realtors, the Builder’s Association of North Central Florida and the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce recently proposed a 15-member task force to study stormwater in Alachua County and make recommendations to the County Commission.

County appointees, rural citizens and stakeholders throughout Alachua County would have the chance to collect data and determine whether there is a problem with how stormwater is handled in our county, the extent of what problem may exist, and work together toward a reasonable solution to address any issue without punishing those in our community who can least afford it.

— Dean R. Cheshire, MBA, is a two-time University of Florida graduate who serves as the 2016/2017 chair of the Business Community Coalition.

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