Bye bye, bypass
Citizens won a major battle against sprawl Tuesday when the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) voted to remove the Brandon Bypass from the last planning map bearing the stain of the road which has also been called “Beltway,” “Sprawlway,” & “Green Swath of Death.”
Having recently succeeded in persuading the county to remove the Bypass from other maps headed for the county’s Comprehensive Plan, activists (including U-CAN, Sierra Club & R-LAND) finished the job by meeting with the MPO and its Policy Committee over the last few weeks, backed up by an e-mail campaign, then addressing the MPO on Tuesday prior to the final vote. The MPO map was the primary source from which this Bypass oozed onto other maps, so it should be gone for good now — at least in this alignment which would have brought sprawl to rural areas and devastated several nature preserves. (See my October article with maps and details.)
It takes a lot to move this county to carry out the will of the people when our interests conflict with development interests, so I heartily commend the citizens who participated in this effort — including the whole troop of boy scouts who stood in uniform at a community meeting in Lithia to oppose the Bypass because it would ruin the parks they love. Hundreds of citizens turned out at each of the community meetings in Ruskin, Riverview and Lithia —and this was after the county’s Planning & Growth Management Dept. tried to calm the opposition by telling the media they were going to delay consideration of the Transportation Plan & the Bypass for months.
It took special courage for the county’s Parks, Rec & Conservation Dept. to oppose the Bypass, given that they work under the county’s current developer-friendly administration; but they took a strong stand anyway, on behalf of the preserves and natural resources they are charged with protecting, lending their authority to the citizens’ objections.
We voters actually have more power than any monied special interests. It’s inspiring to see that power in action, and it’s exciting to be a part of it.