16 May Nonprofit’s mission is to encourage smart growth policies

In April, the Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce launched its open-for-business branding initiative — Palm Beach North: Florida’s Prosperity Coast.

As someone who grew up here — and who spent years serving north county as a county commissioner — I support and applaud the chamber’s efforts. But it’s also important to point out that the very assets and resources that draw people to north county are under increasing attack, and we need to preserve them.

North county’s cherished assets — featured in the chamber’s video — are our green spaces, natural areas, clean waters, sand and sea. The video touts our laid-back vibe and employees’ ability to go from office to hiking, sailing, surfing, fishing and golfing in minutes once the workday is over.

There’s no video of the traffic gridlock entering or leaving Interstate 95 during commuting times; no mention of the nearly 12,000 new single-family homes recently approved in our western sector that will put 20 percent more traffic on Northlake Boulevard than it’s designed for.

No mention of willy-nilly growth’s impact on water flow and drainage during storms; no word about our loss of critical agricultural lands, or pollution of the Indian River Lagoon.

I get it. When you want to sell something, you put your best face forward. But let’s not deceive ourselves that we can continue on our current path. My concern has led me to launch Sustainable Palm Beach County, a nonprofit citizens’ group that seeks to balance environmental protections and economic growth.

We aren’t anti-development. We are for smart growth policies in four key areas:

Land use: We encourage leaders to adopt and commit to sustainable land-use policies that preserve open space, farmland and critical environmental areas. We promote enhancement of green space, including parks.

Water: This is one of Florida’s most fought-over resources. We’re running short. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam forecasts a dire shortage in just 30 years if we don’t think differently about water.

Compact building design: We champion land-use planning that promotes compact, transit-oriented urban communities. Let’s create more walkable, bicycle-friendly neighborhoods.

Green-space preservation: Palm Beach County residents say they live here because of the warm weather, blue water and green spaces. We advocate seizing every opportunity to add green spaces for public enjoyment.

The county welcomes many thousands of new residents and tourists each year. That’s all to our economic good.

But Palm Beach County is our home, not just a weekend destination or economic hub.

Join us. Go to sustainablepbc.org. Work with us to ensure that Palm Beach County residents continue to enjoy the quality of life that keeps us here — and that we don’t destroy that quality of life for the next generation.

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