I was very disappointed in the article titled “Acreage Residents Speak Out At ITID’s Minto West Meeting” (Jan. 31). Despite the title, the article did not adequately address the many legitimate concerns many of us who live out west have regarding the 3,800-acre, five-mile-wide proposed Minto development.
Palm Beach County is a diverse county with a blend of many cultures and also many uses for land. Those who live “in town” may not realize that our county’s agricultural production was estimated at $1.4 billion in 2010 to 2011. That number is not trivial. We are the largest county in terms of agriculture east of the Mississippi. Before we talk about new jobs, perhaps we should consider preserving existing employment.
Between the large commercial farms and high density developments you will find Loxahatchee, The Acreage and unincorporated areas. This is where I live. This is the area that the Minto land is in.
Some of us prefer to live on dirt roads on large lots and grow tropical fruit, our own vegetables or raise chickens. Some of us out west are simply here because we want to raise a family in an area that still has a taste of traditional values and/or a connection to the land. Some work in town but prefer the peace and quiet out here. Some prefer to see the stars at night. Many of my neighbors have small family businesses that are based on landscape plants, niche agriculture, landscaping, farm animals, horses, bees and so much more. The diversity and creativity of my neighbors is incredible. When we talk about diversity, jobs and quality of life, please consider what is here right now that will be lost if we change the land use to accommodate big development.
We recognize that some people like to live in condos with beautiful oceanfront views. They like to live free from the need to do yard work. There is a place for them in Palm Beach County. We recognize that some people like to live in zero-lot-line HOAs where standards and uniformity create a consistent look. There is a place for them, too, here in Palm Beach County. However, some of us don’t want to be told we can only paint our house one of three boring colors or that we are not allowed to have our own trailer or boat in our own driveway. Some of us don’t want to live five feet from our neighbors. Some of us enjoy working with the earth to garden, to landscape and to grow things from our own food to our children without a lot of silly rules and oversight.
Political diversity is another kind of diversity. Most of us follow “live and let live” out here. My neighbors range from die-hard Tea Party conservatives to the greenest of green vegan liberals. Most of us get along amazingly well. Perhaps this is because we have the freedom to pursue our own individual versions of happiness. Perhaps this is because we all have some space between us and most of us look out for our neighbors but also mind our own business.
City planners should continue to protect and nurture Palm Beach County’s full diversity of land and lifestyles use through enforcing the current land use restrictions. We should protect agriculture; after all, it feeds us and is already a huge part of our economy. The allowable density on the Minto land was already greatly increased in 2008. It should not be increased again. HOAs do not belong out here. There is a place for condos, zero-lot-line HOAs and high-density housing near the coast in Palm Beach County. I support that. But there also should be a place for low-density agriculture/residential housing that has fewer public services but also has fewer restrictions. That lifestyle, our lifestyle, is being threatened by the current Minto proposal.
Dr. James B. Wood, The Acreage