Inside Vero: Opinion – County should participate in Seven50

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“Just because you’re not afraid doesn’t mean no one is out to get you,” the paranoid schizophrenic told his psychiatrist.

Similarly, a group of local “Agenda 21” conspiracy theorists have recently been ringing alarm bells over the county’s participation in Seven50, a regional planning effort involving seven Southeast Florida counties and more than 100 municipalities and other organizations, including Indian River State College.

Listen to Seven50’s most strident critics, and you just might get the idea blue-helmeted United National troops will some day descend upon unsuspecting Indian River County residents, seizing property and herding people into high-density tenements to be constructed near a new, enormous Amtrak station built to accommodate “millions” of tourists who will come here to enjoy our now eroded beaches.

Assuming they are seriously concerned that the county is somehow surrendering local control to a regional planning group, opponents of Seven50 deserve a listening ear and compassion, rather than dismissiveness.

At the same time, the county cannot afford to give up its seat at a table where major planning efforts are taking place.  Representatives from six other Southeast Florida counties and more than 100 municipalities and other groups, including businesses, colleges, universities and school boards are all working together to develop “a blueprint for growing a more prosperous and desirable Southeast Florida for the next 50 years and beyond.”  Indian River County should participate in that effort.

Having committed to nothing more than a memorandum of understanding, the county has simply agreed to participate in developing a vision for a sustainable future.  (Something about the word “sustainable” set some people off, as if unsustainability is more desirable.)

Seven50 is a cooperative effort of the Southeast Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils, and is funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation.  These federal agencies have made it clear that in the future tax dollars will be returned to communities for investment in projects that contribute to meeting larger regional needs.

Does this mean Indian River County will no longer be free to set its own density levels for land development?  Hardly.  In fact, Indian River County, along with Florida’s other 66 counties, will remain free to develop and implement its own comprehensive land use plans.

But that does not mean the county exists in a vacuum, or is an island.  For the Indian River County Commission to adopt Commissioner Bob Solari’s recommendation that it withdraw from participation in the Seven50 initiative would be a disservice to county residents, all of whom are deserving of full representation in regional planning efforts.  Such isolationist thinking is no way to build a brighter future for Indian River County.


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