Article by Vince Lamb - Your Turn
The Brevard County Commission on Aug. 2 approved a zoning change, density increase and development plan for a 31-acre parcel in Mims that will allow 62 single family residences to be constructed and sold. The property is located within 800 feet of the Indian River Lagoon with elevation ranging from 3 feet to 7 feet above the Lagoon.
Neighbors complain about frequent flooding today. Many neighbors expressed opposition to this development, but, because of the coronavirus, only four people, including one resident, spoke in opposition to the zoning change and density increase at the Commission meeting. More than 30 residents sent emails to commissioners expressing their opposition, but these must have had no impact.
The largest benefactor of this density increase, from 12 to 62 units, is the developer who gained the ability to sell 50 more residential lots. The County Commission voted to increase the profit potential of the developer at the expense of the neighbors who will likely experience more flooding. Most Mims residents will tell you that they want to keep their community rural, low density and low traffic.
The developer must provide a stormwater plan to show that the rainfall will be managed to prevent flooding. This plan will be reviewed by county staff without any public meetings. Brevard County has a long history of approving development plans in low lying areas that later cause flooding.
The biggest loser from this decision is the Indian River Lagoon. One inch of rainfall on 31 acres yields more than 800,000 gallons of nutrient laden water that will likely end up in the Lagoon. More information is needed to estimate the quantities of pollution, but the numbers will not be small.
Starting 30 years ago, residents approved two referendums to fund conservation land purchases and management by the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program. More than 25,000 acres of conservation lands have been acquired and are being maintained in their natural conditions. The property of this proposed development might have been a good choice for purchase as conservation lands, assuming the seller would be willing to sell at fair market value. However, essentially no funds remain available. A referendum is likely to be included in the 2022 elections that could provide funds for conservation lands purchases.
The 1000 Friends of Florida funded research that estimates that Florida’s population will grow to 34 Million people by 2070. The population of Brevard County is likely to expand by 300,000 people or more. If we keep approving developments with little concern for environmental impact, a half-cent sales tax for the Lagoon will be woefully inadequate to clean up our waterways. Not to mention we're working against ourselves and squandering local dollars spent in matching funds for St. Johns River Water Management District Indian River Lagoon Water Quality Improvement Project grants. To make fiscal and environmental common sense, the permitting process must be changed to include elements of sustainable development.
If our commissioners do not place the interests of residents above the profit motives of developers, we should elect people who will serve the residents..
Vince Lamb serves on several boards of nonprofit organizations that are involved in conservation and environmental protection. He's lived in Brevard County for 50 years.
Photo by Tim Shortt - Florida Today