Happy New Year! We all need to be prepared for 2020. If you have not read or watched the following, please do so. These are some of the materials that ATC has distributed to key decision makers in both the City and County over the last couple of years. We all need to be familiar with this content (at least) so that we can utilize it in our communication with City and County staff and elected officials.
Materials focused on our maritime forest environment:
- It is important that we all understand the environment in which we live. There has been very limited research on maritime forests—we have just developed them, not realizing that it is a special environment that is important for our welfare. The US Fish and Wildlife Service report Ecology of Maritime Forests of the Southern Atlantic Coast: A Community Profile is available from Amazon and online at https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/collection/document/id/1721/. This book focuses on the southeastern maritime forest and we fit in just on the southern end of the primary area of focus. In recent years, some states, most notably North Carolina and Georgia, have started to focus on this and are trying to conserve or rebuild their maritime forest. In the southern part of Florida, we have completely lost this environment. The parts of this book that may be most interesting to those who are not really into environmental material are chapter 1, which provides an overview and interesting information about the origin of our island; chapter 2 because it helps us understand the role of salt spray in the development of this forest; and chapter 5, which provides interesting information on exactly how development of roads and communities have impacted this environment. This is important for figuring out the best options in terms of development.
- In case you haven’t seen it, the ATC video, “Living in our Maritime Forest” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PG44x9VtbNA) is another opportunity to better understand the place we have chosen to live. It features Dr. Munsell McPhillips, a member of our community and an expert in restoring degraded urban rivers and riparian forests.
Materials focused on overdevelopment:
- Better, Not Bigger is a book we learned about when doing research during the first public input phase of the EAR last spring to update the Fernandina Beach Comprehensive Plan. The next public opportunity for input is coming up soon. Right now, the City is in the process of identifying the process they will follow. ATC has distributed this book to both City and County Commissioners, key City and County staff, particularly in Planning, and the City Planning Advisory Board members and County Planning and Zoning Commission members (at the request of the County Director of Planning and Economic Opportunity). This is an effort to develop an understanding of the fact that there are different ways to think about development and that many of our assumptions about development are based on our culture and education, not necessarily on fact. For example, we have all been raised and educated to believe that development (in terms of expansion) is inevitable. This is not necessarily true, nor is it a road to success, as many municipalities discovered after they overdeveloped–our country is full of examples. We have also been educated to believe that development is essential to expand our tax revenue. However, residential development requires more infrastructure and services, which cost more than the associated tax revenue. The most recent numbers for Nassau County indicate that infrastructure and services to support residential development cost 1.75 times the tax revenue from that development. The previous year the cost was 1.5 times the tax revenue from residential development. So, we need to reexamine our assumptions regarding development and utilize methods of managing it so that our development is smarter, contributes to our quality of life and is in line with future sustainability. This little book provides a number of strategies that have been utilized by other municipalities. Some of these have also been used by our city and county, so there is something here that community leaders can relate to. This book is not new, but is so concise that anyone can get something out of it with limited reading time. It is available from Amazon.
- We live in a time when people are bailing out of urban areas, choosing to live in and vacation in small towns and rural areas. We need to be sure the characteristics of our island are not destroyed because they are part of our “sense of place,” natural and manmade characteristics of a community that make it unique and attractive. The TED Talk by Edward McMahon, who holds the Charles E. Fraser Chair on Sustainable Development at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, DC, summarizes the importance of these features for our economic future: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB5tH4rt-x8.
If you have materials you would like to recommend, please post them to our Facebook Public Group (many of you have posted very useful materials) or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in reading more on particular topics, let us know.