Tavares, FL (Lake County, FL) March 23, 2014
The Daily Commercial published a fluff piece about County Board member's Sean Park's utopian plan for the South Sector Plan in South Lake County. It will result in taking property rights from some land owners to please Liberal County Board members, other owners and environmentalists.
You can read it here, followed by my analysis - it is full of one sided fluff justifying the plan, which will remove future land development rights by some land owners in a 16,000 acre area in South Lake County, FL , while picking winning land owners who get development rights for their land.
Here is the article.
Here is my response, also posted as a comment on their website:
South Sector Plan / Wellness Way - response to Mar. 23, 2014 Daily Commercial
This article provides great details and indicates a concern about land development in Lake County.
But why does the headline consider urban sprawl bad? It reflects market forces, rather than big government planning, leading the way. Why would Lake County's County Commissioner's Sean Park's utopian plan to steal property rights and reduce land uses be considered a plus by the Daily Commercial?
The progressives keep using inflammatory, emotional buzzwords to attack whatever they don't like, and this article is full of them: Sprawl, "scattershot" (a new one) , "hap-hazardlly built", "characterless" and "low-density" (i.e. they don't want big yards but tiny concrete ones or balconies). The reporter clearly drank the New Urbanism Kool Aid by repeating those terms.
Lake County Board member and Progressive Sean Parks originally said the 16,000 acre area, also labeled as "Wellness Way" would be focused on jobs. After the paid planners were done, it had very small areas set aside for employment centers, and small defined areas for villages and lots of land set aside, even if OWNED by private land owners, as conservation or open areas which would deny them future ability to develop the land for jobs or homes. Basically, the environmentalists behind Parks took away property rights to ensure critters could have long trails to walk on. Doesn't Florida have enough open space like the Green Swamp or Ocala Forest already?
Sean Park's original plan said it would be led by a private organization of land owners, but now all the work is being done by taxpayer funded County staff to "save money". How does using internal staff for an un-budgeted project save money? Thus, County government is doing the planning to reduce property rights of some owners. This is known as government choosing winners or losers in land use decisions, and is already a huge problem in California.
My understanding is after the future meeting with the City of Clermont (who will compete with the South Sector development plans), the County Board may approve the sector plan, which then automatically becomes part of the County Comprehensive Land Use Plan. That GREATLY reduces the ability of agricultural land owners changing land uses from agriculture to residential or commercial if they are not in the development rights zones set aside by the Sector Plan. When the article quotes landowners asking for more flexibility, and Sean Parks saying it is flexible, the reporter does NOT ask what flexible means or examples of Park's definition of flexible. Thus it is a comforting buzzword. Flexible to me means the ability for any land owner, when market conditions dictate an opportunity, to request re-zoning for development. But the Sector Plan takes that property right away from owners who don't have the clout to get the desired development areas. Don't be flim flammed by the article.
Land owners in Lake County should be VERY concerned that the County Board is using County staff to do unbudgeted work on the Plan and setting restrictive conditions which could be part of the Comp Plan. If it happens in the South Lake Sector Plan, it means much higher density, and more costly housing where people may only have choices to buy in five story or more residential units with short driveways and narrow roads. The tirck used by Parks to ensure high density homes is to demand that 50% of all developments must be open land. That should be a market decision, not a government planning decision. The question is, what is wrong with residents wishing to have "low density" homes on 1/4 or 5 acres with large lawns vs forcing high density homes with no yards. One answer is that Parks apparently is a Progressive, and the initial planning consultants said at a Board meeting they need high density to justify mass transit (buses and trains). Thus the central plannners want to force mass transit on Lake County by creating high density villages. Do we want central land use planning like practiced in Russia and China?
The article quotes a Professor from the University in Irvine. The reporter had to go all the way to CALIFORNIA to find a professor who read her earlier article to justify high density villages. I used to live in the same County where UCI is located and took some classes there. The entire County of TWO million people is all built out and the latest high density homes all share walls, have no driveways, are three stories tall and have a five foot deep back yard for their pets. Is this what the Daily Commercial and Sean Parks want for future Lake County residents? I don't think that is the American Dream either.
The planning for the South Sector Plan seems adopted from a growing, elitist land planner (I use buzzwords also) philosophy called "New Urbanisn" which wants to adopt village style planning from the early 1900's before there were cars. Thus there are narrow streets, minimal parking and dense housing because transportation did not exist to travel very far except by horse or train. Here is an overview of New Urbanism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Urbanism . Do Lake County Commissioners want village designs where streets were for horses which had to be kept at separate stables?
Now, some areas do exist following new urbanism. One is Abacoa, FL - http://www.abacoa.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.main&
It has multi story residences and retail stores on narrow, "walkable" streets.
But, here is a presentation to the Martin County, FL Board about reasons to terminate participation in a regional land use plan called Seven/50. http://www.ac4pr.org/end-seven50/ The speaker describes all the problems with the above described Abacoa, FL high density development, which is similar to South Sector planned communities. Is that what Lake Countians want? When was there a public referendum on government mandating such developments?
Here is an article about another high density New Urbanism development in San Diego - if you read it, note where several large retailers decided not to locate there due to restrictions on parking (reduced parking spaces is a component of New Urbanism - they want to force you to ride bikes and trains). In another area, some companies initially located there, then demand dropped off. Look at the pictures. Is that what Lake Countians want to live like? http://www.tndwest.com/2014/02/06/liberty-station-san-diego/
Why weren't there any inteviews with opponents to the practice of New Urbanism? Why should the Daily Commercial condone Lake County property owners being guinea pigs for government planned New Urbanism vs allowing the market forces to dictate how land is developed? Why should all the new housing in that sector plan area be high density, and not instead allow expanded development of standalone homes with YARDS and garages and cars which is the American Dream. How many people lust to live in high density homes with a balcony for a yard? Let market forces, not elitist planners allow wide choices.
There are four existing sector plans in Florida. One is Horizon's West, just over the County border in Orange County. If you look at their website there are many areas still not built out after 15 years of existence, and meeting minutes indicate concern about not growing as expected. Could the South Sector plan really be created to reduce the competition for Orange County homesites by reducing possible development of single family homes in Lake County?
Additionally, the total, loaded cost of County staff & vendor time working on the South Sector Plan should be tracked and reported monthly.
The South Sector plan is a progressive utopia designed for County officials to reward selected landowners, justify the progressive vision of mass transit villages, while cutting off future development rights for other land owners, and it should be turned down. Let Orange County, which has not been able to make Horizons West successful in 15 years, be the guinea pig. I have no problem with a private developer creating New Urbanism areas with their own time and money, but not when the government dictates they should exist and how they should exist, and deciding which landowners win and which ones lose future development rights.
- Why should the government and Sean Parks, rather than buyers or the market, define which land owners win with development rights and whether residents have large yards, or the ability to use cars rather than mass transit.
- Why continue the original mis-representation that the Sector Plan was about jobs, when it seems now to be more focused on high density housing, mass transit and open areas funded by land owners for environmental interests?
- When was there a referendum where the public got a chance to choose whether land develops by market forces vs government utopian planning?