Selling out our wetlands for developers
Yesterday, the developers’ minions on our county commission voted to eliminate our EPC’s wetlands protection program.
I was there, although I was not allowed to speak because of some bogus rules Brian Blair made up as he chaired the meeting. I’m still reeling from the vulgar stench of corruption.
Ever since it was created in 1967, developers have wanted our county’s Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) out of the way. They have always whined that it is too costly and that it duplicates state wetland protections. The Tribune laid out the issues clearly ahead of time, and tried to warn the commissioners not to fall for that “old ruse.”
The county’s wetlands ordinance is tougher than the state’s rule and was adopted precisely because state regulators were allowing the piecemeal destruction of Hillsborough’s natural systems. … the program is a good investment for taxpayers, as the wetlands prevent flooding and erosion, filter and store water and sustain wildlife.
Unlike the state, Hillsborough protects wetlands smaller than one-half acre, which can have great ecological value. The rule is reasonable, and allows wetlands to be destroyed if their preservation prevents the reasonable use of a property.
But when that occurs, local regulators are far better able to monitor [local mitigation] projects.
White said he heard [developers’] complaints during his campaign last year and that’s why he made the motion to get rid of the wetlands regulators.
As he made the motion, I heard gasps in the audience. I was knocked back in my seat, aghast at the spectacle of our leaders selling us out. The citizens around me looked to each other for confirmation that this surreal nightmare was really happening. We rose silently at our seats in protest. We remained standing together through the
bullsh “discussion” until the vote. Read the transcript only if you have a strong stomach. The whole sham is covered well in the Times, which has been following the powerful developer Steven Dibbs’ role in this and his personal vendetta against EPC.
The developers’ flunkies didn’t even know they can’t legally eliminate our wetlands protections without a public hearing. EPC’s attorney explained that they will have to listen to us at a future hearing, before they can have a final vote. They voted anyway (just ’cuz) but not before Mark Sharpe tried hard to bring some sanity to the circus, pointing out that EPC’s Director, Rick Garrity, had worked out an innovative proposal that would offer developers one-stop-permitting, cut out state duplication, and save everyone money.
This is exactly what the developers had pretended they wanted, but what they really want is no rules. And this commission is giving them whatever they want.
This isn’t the first time these puppets have danced to the developers’ tune without listening to the public. We have to regain control of our county:
- Come to the EPC public hearing. The date is not set yet, so check back here or sign up on U-CAN’s mailing list for updates. If we don’t have BIG numbers at this hearing, our wetlands will be raped.
- Write letters to the Tribune & Times
- Thank the 3 commissioners who voted not to sell out our wetlands: Sharpe, Ferlita & Higginbotham. They may not stay on our side unless we let them know we’re watching.
- Write the 4 commissioners who voted against our wetlands: White, Hagan, Blair & Norman.
If we can’t make these flunkies believe that we won’t re-elect them if they stick to this vote at the final public hearing, then we deserve to lose our wetlands.