Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Looking Back to See What's Coming Our Way

Sometimes you look back over your shoulder to see what's coming. Are you being overtaken by something or someone?

Jeff LaHurd's recent guest column in the SHT takes a look back. He looks at Sarasota's history and our close relationship with land speculation and real estate booms.

Recently this relationship has intensified and rapid, major changes are overcoming our town. LaHurd likens this to a tidal wave swamping our quality of life.

We couldn't agree more with his perspective and view. The climate has certainly changed. With it have come high rises and high housing prices. Hotels and apartments convert to condos and traffic increases. More concrete, less open space, less public space, less green space, less access to the bay and gulf.

Stories appear in the paper about long time residents getting fed up with the changes; their solution is to sell and move to a smaller town elsewhere. Polls indicate that city commissioners aren't listening.

LaHurd says: Today's boom makes the others in our past look like whitecaps compared to a tidal wave. Not only has the face of a once beautiful community been marred, like a face-lift gone horribly wrong, but also, as Herald-Tribune reporter Doug Sword's article indicates, the quality of our lives here has suffered. As he put it, "Paradise ain't what it used to be."

Residents have clearly identified what the issues are - runaway growth that is compromising our quality of life. City leaders apparently are unable to affect any change. They have heard many voices making the same case. Individual citizens, civic groups, neighborhood associations, business people, newspapers all have the same message - Sarasota is changing too fast and we don't like it.

The question is, what are our leaders doing about this?

LaHurd ends his column with a quote from Mary Freeman's 1957 article in The Nation: "We can still take things in hand ... but the citizens must make a more intelligent and louder noise than the speculator, otherwise, he'll destroy all our unique assets ... in an effort to reproduce Miami."

Apparently this is still true in Sarasota. The citizens are speaking in louder and louder voices. Will our leaders hear? Will they respond? Or are we doomed by the ever growing tidal wave of development and speculators?

Jeff LaHurd says: unfortunately the "intelligent noise" of Sarasota's citizens was drowned out by the roar of a tidal wave.

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