Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Opinion

Proposed revisions would weaken environmental protections in county's comprehensive plan

RECOMMENDED READING


Hernando County is creating a new comprehensive land-use plan to guide development through 2040.

The draft plan released last fall was well done. It contained goals and strategies to promote compatible land use, sensible transportation planning, needed infrastructure and utilities, sustainable economic activities and impact fees to fund new development.

It addressed the need to protect public health from environmental hazards, protect our groundwater aquifer, conserve water and plan for climate change. It sustained protection for Hernando County's natural resources by promoting energy efficiency, green building, wildlife corridors and a viable Environmentally Sensitive Lands Program.

However, the Hernando County Commission recently directed the Planning Department to revise the draft plan to remove important environmental components we should all support. The map and section on ecological linkages to protect wildlife corridors were removed. The Environmentally Sensitive Lands Program was weakened, following earlier commission efforts to dismantle the program. Energy efficiency standards and green building codes were weakened from "shall" to "may" for public and private buildings, parking, transportation access, public space, architectural standards, construction standards and throughout the plan.

The mining section uses "projected market for resource, analysis of need and impact of jobs" as the criteria for deciding future land-use amendments for new mining. It ignores impacts to residents, businesses, historic sites, endangered species and habitat, except as mitigation to find ways to allow mining. We recommended a ban on new mines, based on lack of need, since reserves at permitted mines exceed demand. Nature tourism is our biggest economic engine, generating 10 times as much as mining, an incompatible activity.

Our earlier comments recommended strengthening the plan to protect Bayfront Health Brooksville from mining encroachment, phase out coal-burning facilities, ban fracking, study the need for a "no discharge zone" for boater sewage in coastal waters and plan a transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

Now, simply salvaging critical parts of the first draft is paramount.

A November 2016 report by the University of Florida, state Agricultural Department and 1000 Friends of Florida noted that demand for water will double in the state by 2070 but that compact development, more land preservation and water conservation measures could reduce that trend by 27 percent. County commissioners would be wise to heed this information and abandon recent cuts to the plan that protect our environment, promote smart planning and healthy communities, and establish authority to set parameters for sustainable growth, including a ban on new mines.

While most of us won't wade through the thick draft plan, simply speaking out in support of a land-use plan that protects us into the future can deliver a compelling message. Public meetings on the plan are scheduled for Monday, Oct. 3, Nov. 13 and Dec. 12, and commissioners can be reached any time via email.

The author, DeeVon Quirolo, is writing on behalf of Nature Coast Conservation, the Sierra Club Adventure Coast Committee and Women's March Central Gulf Coast Florida.

Comments

Another voice: Wall isnít a lifesaver, itís a boondoggle

The first stage of President Donald Trumpís controversial border wall project ended last week, while the prospects for any more construction ó and even what type of wall ó remain uncertain.A Border Patrol agent was killed and his partner seriously wo...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nationís budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more ó s...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nationís highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: Trump does the right thing for elephants; he shouldnít back down now

There is bad timing, and then there is this. Last week, an apparent military coup placed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in custody, ushering in a new period of political uncertainty. A few days later, the Trump administration announced that Zimba...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

From birth to death, opioid addiction is ravaging the lives of thousands of Floridians. Drugmakers, doctors, state lawmakers and insurance companies all have a role to play in slowing the epidemic. Lately some more responsible answers, including mill...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/21/17

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "Iím pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: A time for real thanksgiving

Editorial: A time for real thanksgiving

By now the guest list if not the table is all set, and the house will be warmed with the noise of loved ones and the smell of that dish with cream of mushroom soup. Tucked between the sugar rush of Halloween and the sparkle of Christmas, Thanksgiving...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17