Discover the Facts Before Deciding Land Referendum
IRLT President. Thomas P. Lowe’s
Guest Column in the
Vero Beach Press Journal Jan. 2, 2004
(Thomas P. Lowe, Ph.D. is president of Indian River Land Trust. With wife, Rhonda, he is co-owner of Rock City Gardens in Wabasso.)
Recently, the president of the Indian River Taxpayers Association wrote to report that the board of directors unanimously approved a motion to oppose another bond referendum proposed by the Land Acquisition Advisory Committee. The proposal would fund the county’s Environmental Lands Program.
Taking a position is the board’s prerogative, of course. But some points require clarification.
One of the most glaring errors is the belief that removing lands from the tax rolls will increase taxpayers’ liability. In Indian River County, residential building grew by about 60 percent in the last year. Nary a week goes by that we don’t read of agricultural land being rezoned for yet another housing development.
Further, it is a fallacy that residential development pays for itself. Studies done in Florida have determined that, for each tax dollar collected, the cost of providing infrastructure and services ranges from $1.10 to $1.56.
Another cloudy statement upon which this vote was cast is that at least 30 percent of land in the county is in public ownership. At a closer look, this includes schools, the jail, libraries and all other government buildings. It also includes one very large tract owned by the St. John’s Water Management District in the far northwest region of the county.
The first bond referendum provided us with some beautiful environmental parcels located within or close to current residential areas. It is a well-documented fact that proximity to green spaces increases the value of residential property.
Finally, is it not premature to vote on a referendum that is only proposed and that the taxpayers’ president, himself, states: “The advisory committee did not specify the criteria for the lands to purchase or the estimated cost to the taxpayers.” The County Commission has only given the advisory panel the go-ahead to prepare a referendum and to conduct a public workshop in the process.