Florida Keys part of regional blueprint plan

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By Robert Silk
July 17, 2013

SOUTH FLORIDA — Planners putting together a comprehensive 50-year visioning plan for a healthier and more dynamic southeast Florida will hold a series of outreach meetings in theFlorida Keys beginning this week.

Representatives of the $4.25 million federally-funded effort, called Seven50, will speak at two events in Key West over the next seven days. They’ll also be back in Key West on Aug. 1, and then speak on Aug. 21 at the Rotary Club of Key Largo breakfast, to be held at the Hilton Key Largo.

Seven50 Project Director Marcela Camblor-Cutsaimanis said the talks will be designed to engage more Keys leaders in the planning process. But organizers have a broader goal of engaging as many people as possible before they present their final vision at a summit in Broward County next January.

“It’s very important that we reach across the ages and across the segments of society,” Camblor-Cutsaimanis said.

The seven in Seven50 references the counties of southeast Florida, beginning in the north with Indian River County and ending here in Monroe. St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade are the other five counties. The 50 refers to the five decades for which the project seeks to plan.

The visioning process is far-reaching, encompassing strategies for everything from housing and transportation to climate change mitigation and economic development. But its goal is straightforward — to develop a blueprint that the seven counties and 129 local governments in the region can use to create a more robust future.Though nothing in the final plan will be mandatory, it will be available as guidance for local-level leaders across the region, Camblor-Cutsaimanis said, and is also expected to better position southeast Florida to receive federal development funds.

A major issue the plan will address is the area’s growing population, which is projected to increase 50 percent, to 9.1 million, by 2060. Without a strategic approach to how southeast Florida is developed, Seven50 documents say, the influx of people will lead to ever-increasing housing costs, ever-more stifling traffic and higher greenhouse gas emissions. In the meantime, suburban sprawl would consume more than 250 square miles of farmland.

The plan will also take a close look at climate change mitigation, including fortifying coastal communities against sea-level rise and coordinating Everglades restoration to protect against saltwater intrusion into the water supply.

“If we don’t do something, southeast Florida is going to become unlivable,” said Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers, who is among the 34 members of Seven50 executive committee. “So do we bury our heads in the sand or do we do something about it?”

Since early last year, the government planners, businesses leaders, elected officials and other who make up the Seven50 effort have held three regional summits to work toward their final plan.

At the most recent summit, held last month in Palm Beach, organizers laid out four potential development scenarios for the region, as well as a series of estimates on how those scenarios would impact such things as housing, transportation, farmland, the obesity rate and the talent level in the workforce.

In general, the two plans that showed the best results call for a focus on walkable corridors clustered around mass transit lines, as well as a strong coordinated effort to protect the coast against rising seas.

The final Seven50 plan is scheduled to be unveiled at the effort’s fourth summit, to be held next January in Broward County. Until then, organizers are using their seven50.org website to encourage input through a variety of forums, including webcasts, social media and in-person workshops.

The first of the upcoming meetings in the Keys is scheduled for the Key West Rotary breakfast on Friday, July 19, at the Trumbo Palms “Fly Navy” building. The breakfast begins at 7 a.m.

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