Your Turn published in Tallahassee Democrat, May 21st, 2020
By Debbie Lightsey
“Your scarce public funds will be devoted to subsidizing this massive development, while the poor and dwindling middle class and their neighborhoods will be told to wait in line again for any needed improvements.”Debbie Lightsey
Get involved! On Tuesday, the City and County commissions plan to amend our Comprehensive Plan to designate 2,700 acres in northeast Tallahassee for development. These two amendments expand the Urban Services Boundary, and grant blanket authority to develop based on the sketchiest concept plan – with no supporting hard data and analysis.
These amendments are inconsistent with our plan and its foundation principles. This kind of action is unprecedented. What you are seeing here is a display of raw political power. The strategy is called “quick and dirty” — rarely seen on local government issues. As you would expect, it is driven by potentially huge profits.
Those profits are dependent on spending tens of millions of public tax dollars to open up high-end, large-lot residential development in the northeast — residences that will be affordable to very few. They are dependent on the public to fund other essential infrastructure. And dependent on local government granting blanket development authority for thousands of acres at a non-sustainable rate for the foreseeable future.
All this while many in our community have been, and will continue to be, impacted by the COVID-19 economic crisis. They are left unemployed, unable to pay rent, afford medical care or even put food on the table for their families.
Tax dollars are finite. Your scarce public funds will be devoted to subsidizing this massive development, while the poor and the dwindling middle class and their neighborhoods will be told to wait in line again for any needed improvements.
What is the compelling public purpose driving this forward so rapidly? Where is the required current data and analysis to support these amendments? There is none. But remember the political strategy: When it’s ugly, do it fast.
For the city and county to vote on Tuesday required a reversal of a recent county decision to delay and seek public input – a reversal that was done in a highly irregular process.
Please get involved. Ask for delay so our citizens can help craft a reasonable, sustainable development plan that shrinks the area covered by these amendments and adds enforceable phasing timelines. A citizen’s committee was employed when developing previous Welaunee plans.
Require the owner to donate the needed right of way for roads that will serve their development and quadruple the land’s value. They need the road. Or be bold and support denial of both amendments. Then ask that comparable millions of dollars be committed to needy areas of our community. Make your governments responsive to your needs and interests.
Contact your city and county commissioners. Say no.
Debbie Lightsey was a Tallahassee city commissioner from 1989 to 2010.