The voters are ahead of the suits, it seems, based on the results of the Nov. 8 referendums in six counties in which the electorate was asked to tax themselves to preserve more green spaces.
Voters in Alachua, Brevard, Indian River, Nassau, Pasco and Polk approved a mix of property tax and sales tax increases to preserve what they can ahead of the bulldozers.
A couple of things were striking about the votes.
In two counties—Alachua and Polk–in which the local Republican Party recommended rejection, the measures passed anyway. There was a red ripple in Florida after all when it came to conservation.
And it was not as though voters were tax happy this year. Voters rejected proposed sales tax increases in Hernando, Hillsborough, Orange, St. Johns and Walton counties that were primarily proposed to catch up with transportation backlogs. Those backlogs are the inevitable result of approving development hand over fist without levying adequate impact fees to put development costs on a more pay-as-you-go basis.
Looking ahead, the next challenge will be implementing the results of the elections. That will involve appointing committees to review acquisition proposals and finding landowners willing to participate with the expectation that they will receive fair compensation for their property. Once lands are purchased, management plans will follow and the public should be involved in this process.
Also, there is the prospect that the development community will propose a sales tax referendum in 2024 to finance so-called priority road projects. This would be the latest attempt in a history of local transportation sales tax referendums stretching back to 1992. Voters rejected all of them.
For Sierra, the issue has been some of the projects that have been listed as priorities that could be funded by any approved tax.
One involves realigning Deen Still Road to build a truck route through the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern and then continuing straight through thousands of acres of conservation lands—including a portion of Colt Creek State Park—to make a more direct connection between U.S. 27 and U.S. 98.
Others involve building brand-new roads through a corner of the Green Swamp and through rural lands in northeast Polk in what seems to be a way to build a controversial section of the Central Polk Parkway by other means.
Remain vigilant. Remain involved.