Overbuilt and overpopulated

by Bernard McCormick Tuesday, March 17, 2015 No Comment(s)

Last week we took a trip to Naples for a weekend getaway. We wanted to beat traffic, so we left at 2 p.m. The drive from downtown Fort Lauderdale to I-595 normally takes about 10 minutes, sometimes even quicker. This day, it took 30 minutes to go a few miles. Once on I-595, we traveled the 109 miles to Naples in about 90 minutes. 

We wish our experience was unusual, but everywhere we go we hear the same complaint. The neighborhoods surrounding downtown Fort Lauderdale, which have for years been unusual for their suburban-like atmosphere while at the same time been wonderfully convenient to the city core, are becoming unlivable because of the traffic congestion. 

Just yesterday comes a letter illustrating the frustration of long time residents. The family is old – dating to the 1940s – and the letter writer would be the first to admit that growth has been good for his business. It was written personally, not for publication, but we share a few of his thoughts:

After recalling the pleasure of living here for so many years, he adds: “Once the developers got control of the city and the county commissioners, the almighty dollar took precedence over our quality of life.”

The writer criticizes the city’s decision to increase heights, eliminate parking regulations and waive impact fees, causing “land values to skyrocket and our great restaurants and single-story ranch-type homes could no longer stand the onslaught of developers throwing money at them to build something bigger and better.

“The developers were successful in selling the theory that high-rise tax income would fatten city bank accounts when in reality the cost of services, congestion and quality of life have suffered to the point where there is no monetary gain.”

The bottom line: Preparing for retirement, he and his wife are moving.

This writer is hardly alone, and it isn’t just limited to Fort Lauderdale. In Aventura recently, there was an arrest of a couple that drove over fresh concrete on a sidewalk poured on their property. But the background is trying to prevent a developer from putting in a large complex in an area that residents say is already overbuilt.

In western Palm Beach County, there is an ongoing fight between homeowners who bought on promises that their area would remain rural, and are now being challenged by builders seeking to chip away at designated open space.

In all of these situations, people feel betrayed by elected officials who buy office with pro-growth contributions and ignore the will of the voters. Often the politicians pretend to be on the people’s side when they are definitely not. We are seeing this today in the effort to clean up the Everglades. Elected officials routinely say they are all for saving the environment, then vote for the polluters and pretend that helps the public. The Palm Beach Post recently reported that elected officials from the Treasure Coast cities suffering the damage of discharges from Lake Okeechobee often talk like champions of the environment, and then vote just the opposite.

This is in a word corruption. And it goes on throughout the state in many areas. But their hearts are not the problem. Their wallets are.

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