Another excuse to short-cut the original intention of the voters when they passed $150 million in bond issues. It is important to remember that protections were weakened once.
The Palm Beach Post recently published an an editorial suggesting a weakening of protections in the Agricultural Reserve in order to build affordable housing. If one travels out to the Ag Reserve one will see large spacious homes more akin to mansions than affordable housing. No developer would put in significant affordable homes or rental units in the Ag Reserve. This is just another excuse to short-cut the original intention of the voters when they passed $150 million in bond issues. It is important to remember that protections were weakened once. None of this change ever increased affordable housing.
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The second argument is that small landowners who are currently in agriculture wish to sell; but they can sell to others who wish to continue in agriculture. As long as these landowners think they can get around the restrictions on development they will seek to sell to developers with the goal of convincing the county to do away with existing Ag Reserve protections. Landowners can make a larger profit because they bought agricultural land that they now wish to sell for development, even though they have paid lower taxes and had the opportunity to make a profit through agriculture.
In the past, low-income children suffered from many health problems from not being able to get the fresh vegetables such as those grown in the Ag Reserve. It is important to remember that local small farms are some of the most productive. Right now, many younger people are seeking to start small farms, but there is a shortage of land available for urban farming. The Ag Reserve area in Palm Beach County is ideal land for farmers because it is less likely to freeze being nearer to the warm waters of the ocean. Why would we sacrifice this healthy growing area to put profits in the hands of a small number of individuals?
What other benefits will be lost? The Ag Reserve depends upon canals for flood protection, but if canals are impacted by sea level rise the open green spaces used for agriculture could help alleviate flooding.
Why take a chance and leave no secondary protection by removing all the green space and replacing it with more concrete?
DREW MARTIN, LAKE WORTH BEACH
Editor‘s note: Martin is Conservation Chair, Loxahatchee Group, of the Sierra Club.