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Sierra Club Florida - Prevent Sprawl

Sprawl sends new urban development away from our city centers and outward into our farmland, forests, and wild places. It creates a need for more city infrastructure on land that was once undeveloped or productive farming or timber land. Bigger roads, more water supplies, energy lines, hospitals, schools and community safety must all be provided to new sprawl city residents and paid for by county taxpayers.

What can we do to stop it? Sierra Club works to change our local and state laws which promote bad development. We fight development which affects our wild places and important natural resources. We propose transportation solutions and community growth options which protect our air and water and wildlife.

The City in Nowhere Land - Farmton.

Farmton, a proposed development on 59,000 acres of timber land and forested
wetlands in Volusia County, will put 23,000 homes and commercial spaces in wetlands
and uplands used by black bears and Florida panther and preserved as the largest
wetlands mitigation bank in the state.

Sierra Club Florida challenged the Volusia County land use plan for Farmton development
in court. In January, 2012, the administrative law judge ruled that Farmton did not fit
the description of sprawl defined by the weakened growth management laws adopted 3 months earlier.

See the video on the SierraClubFlorida channel:

Picture Author Gamweb

Sierra Club Florida will continue to oppose this development.

As we educate Floridians about the cost to themselves and to our environment. We will advocate and work for stronger growth management laws in our state.

Think sprawl is only about hurting your environment? What about the pain to your wallet? Find a Florida county near you and figure out if you can afford to allow sprawl to continue. Check out The price of sprawl

What do smart growth and infill development look like? These computer-generated simulations are designed to demonstrate how sprawling communities can be revitalized and made more livable. See Community transformations

DONATE to prevent sprawl. Donations to our education and litigation fund help us fight the necessary legal battles and get the word out on environmental issues. And they are tax deductible! Make out your check to Sierra Club Foundation, Florida Chapter Fund, and mail it to Sierra Club Foundation, 85 Second Street, Suite 750, San Francisco, CA, 94105.

Influencing Growth Management at the State and County level

Sierra Club Florida believes that Growth Management is key
to the survival of Florida, and that we can help protect Florida's
natural systems through efficient use of land, and resources.

In 2012, we continue to promote environmentally sound growth management practices
throughout the state, recover from the loss of DCA, and fight sprawl.

We need to build a new Growth Mgmt Committee for Florida Sierra.
The new committee would work with the legislative committee on growth
management issues during the legislative session; they would work with
local Groups on growth management in communities; they would work with the
Steering Committee on policy for Sierra Club Florida.

If you are interested in joining this effort, please contact Rudy Scheffer

SC Florida Committees usually have 7 or 8 members and hold meetings via conference
call and via email. We need volunteers to do this work. We do not have paid staff.
Without a committee, all the work will fall to the local groups.

What you can do locally:

  • Advocate for Environmentally-sound Development
    • Influence land use planning by participating in the process to amend local Comprehensive Plans.
    • Be alert to rushed Comp Plan Changes.

  • Rally the Public to Oppose Environmentally Destructive Development.
    • When a destructive development is proposed in a county or municipality, there are tactics to us to block it. More
    • Case study: Crane Island - Nassau Sierrans sue county for amending the comp plan without DCA approval. More
    • Case study: Tarpon Springs Wal-Mart - Suncoast Group blocks Anclote River project after 4 year battle. More
    • Case study: Marion County - Density increase rejected because state law and county plan require a demonstration of need.

  • Influence Growth Legislation through your Group or by joining up with our Florida Legislative Committee.
    You can find the GM issues Sierra Club Florida is working on by
    looking at the SC Florida Legislative Priorities and updates on
    the Legislative Advisory Committee page.

Success Stories

Nassau Sierrans Win Lawsuit to Stop Crane Island Development

A Nassau County Circuit Court judge has agreed with three members of the Nassau Group and ruled that Nassau County violated the law in approving a planned unit development on environmentally sensitive Crane Island. The three members of the Nassau Sierra group ExCom had sued the county after the commission voted in 2006 to create a Planned Unit Development (PUD) on the island, which is designated as conservation in the county’s comprehensive plan.

The history: There were three failed efforts by Crane Island landowners and developers to amend the county’s comprehensive plan and change the island’s designation to residential between 1995 and 2003. None of the efforts met the approval of the Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA). So then, the Amelia Island Company, one of Nassau’s largest developers, successfully lobbied the county to use an obscure section of the comprehensive plan to approve a PUD consisting of 169 houses with a 92-slip marina. The existing conservation designation allows for only one dwelling every five acres - a maximum of 41 houses on the property, which consists of two-thirds of the island.

Crane Island is a maritime hammock—with a number of large heritage oaks and magnolias—that lies between Amelia Island and the Intracoastal Waterway. It is directly opposite the Fernandina Beach airport. The northern third of the island is owned by the Florida Inland Navigation District for a dredging spoil site. The lawsuit, brought by Nassau Sierrans Eric Titcomb, Julie Ferriera and Robert Weintraub, claimed that the county did not have the authority to amend the comprehensive plan without getting DCA approval. Judge Brian J. Davis’ December 22 ruling agreed with that position and vacated the county’s order approving the PUD.

The plaintiffs’ victory is the most recent chapter in a long history of tension over the island. In 1991, when the state required counties to have comprehensive plans, Nassau County’s fi rst attempt at a plan was rejected because Crane Island and other environmentally sensitive areas were not protected. In a 1993 negotiated settlement with the DCA, Nassau was required to establish a “conservation” category in its comp plan that included Crane Island. When the Amelia Island Co. decided to press for the approval of a PUD, then-county attorney Mike Mullin met with DCA offi cials to ask if an obscure clause in the county’s comprehensive plan would allow the plan to be “self-amending.” DCA said it would not, but Mullin issued a contrary legal opinion upon which the commission proceeded. “The county ... ignored [DCA] and utilized the policy to approve 169 units on Crane Island without amending the Future Land Use Map designation for Crane Island,” Davis wrote in his ruling.

The case, which lasted more than two years, went to trial in October. Plaintiff witnesses included Shaw Stiller, DCA general counsel, and Mike McDaniel, DCA bureau chief. The plaintiffs’ attorney is Ralf Brooks of Cape Coral, who had also assisted Nassau Sierra with an earlier Crane Island issue.  (from The Pelican, by Robert Weintraub, Nassau County Group)

Victory! Wal-Mart puts Tarpon Springs Supercenter plans “on hold” indefinitely

Though the Big W still smolders, this is an amazing victory for the environment and the wishes of this community. This battle for the property next to the Anclote River in Tarpon Springs has required the continued and dogged attention of unbending fi ghters in Tarpon Springs and throughout Pinellas County for over four years.

This fight started in 2004 with strong testimony from the Sierra Club’s Suncoast Group and Friends of the Anclote River at the planning and zoning board, followed by the marathon all-night hearing at the Tarpon Springs City Commission in January 2005. Along the way it was aided by many people and several organized groups and a $5,000 contribution from Sierra Club Florida.

Coincidentally, we were involved in a similar battle over in St. Petersburg. That one began and ended in 2005. In that fight, the Suncoast Group, Association for Community Reform Now (ACORN), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), AFL-CIO and the Brighton Bay Homeowners Association successfully and permanently fended off a Wal-Mart Supercenter on a wetland along Gandy Boulevard. That victory showed us what could be done in Tarpon Springs.

We hope the victory in Tarpon Springs is also permanent. Wal-Mart must go back to square one if they want to revisit this, and they are facing a political situation that increasingly favors protecting the property. All such battles have low points, and at one point in Tarpon Springs it seemed that all was lost. Spirits were flagging and money was scarce. Then, a combination of the Sierra Florida financial help for the ongoing legal effort and the enthusiasm of Suncoast volunteer Chris Hrbovsky turned the tide. With those funds and his indomitable spirit, Chris personally drove the legal process to keep Wal-Mart at bay. And while he was at it, he ran for local office.   (from The Pelican story by Cathy Harrelson, Sierra Club Suncoast Group)

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