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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Yeehaw Junction

Most Florida residents and tourists who come to this state have heard of this sleepy little town in central Florida. It's a sleepy little gas station stop along the Florida Turnpike halfway between Kissimme/St Cloud and Ft. Pierce. See the turnpike in a ninety mile stretch has only one exit. That's Yeehaw Junction. Its also the getting off point if one is going from South Florida to Tampa/St. Pete. State Road 60 is the other highway that intersects at Yeehaw.

What's in Yeehaw? Not a whole lot. A couple of gas stations, a Stuckey's, a hotel that is sometimes open and sometimes closed plus a gift shop. In a minute you can be through the town. It's that sleepy.

According to today's Orlando Sentinel, Yeehaw may not be a sleepy town much longer. 27,000 nearby acres have been bought recently and a developer hopes to build homes and a community there. Is Orlando spreading out that far? I didn't think it was, but maybe I'm wrong. Yeehaw may soon be brought into the 21st century, leaving Old Florida behind. That's progress, but its a shame too.

Open Post- Bright & Early, Real Ugly American,

A new city called Destiny, which one day could have 75,000 people, is poised to rise from the groves and pastures of remote south Osceola County.

But regulations that could determine how soon it happens are the subject of heavy lobbying in the state capital.

The new owners of 27,400 acres next to Yeehaw Junction, just 40 minutes from the ocean, want to build houses, apartments, office and industrial parks, schools, government offices, hotels, shops, a hospital and even a university, Bob Whidden, a consultant on the project, said Thursday.

Yet, the project could run afoul of state growth-management regulations intended to curb urban sprawl.

Tallahassee lobbyists with Greenberg Traurig, the law firm hired by developer Pugliese Co., of Delray Beach, are pressing state legislators to add a provision to a bill about large-scale developments that would allow the creation of a town despite concerns about sprawl or whether a new city is even needed.

In return for the exemption, the developers would agree to conserve at least half of their land as open space and to go along with several other provisions. Whidden said the owners already intend to set aside more than half of the property to protect wildlife habitats and environmentally sensitive areas, and they will pay for all the roads, utilities, and other infrastructure so "it is no burden to the public."

The new town would need to provide a net economic benefit to the local government and contain a "high density, mixed use urban core" with no cul-de-sacs or gated subdivisions, according to a revised proposal that lobbyists for Destiny are circulating to amend the development bill.

Destiny would be slightly bigger than Melbourne in both area and population, said Whidden of RJ Whidden and Associates, the Kissimmee planning firm hired by Pugliese Co.

Anthony Pugliese's vision amounts to the biggest project ever in Osceola and perhaps the clearest sign that the second-fastest-growing county in Florida has become a huge magnet for investors looking to cash in on the real-estate boom.

"If you can make a case for the need for this to happen, and if you have the right location, then it's not considered urban sprawl," Whidden said. "You have to prove that it's not urban sprawl right up front. It's not a method of getting around urban sprawl."

The proposal keeps changing, and all parties acknowledge it will be a while before the bill comes up for passage. But some environmental and growth-management advocates are skeptical of the developers' promises. They worry it could have statewide implications for anyone who wants to build a new city in the middle of nowhere.

"What they're trying to do is to create the opportunity for them to be able to develop their land without them having to worry about someone challenging the development based upon the sprawl or the population projection rules, and those are two key concepts that the state Department of Community Affairs and counties use to determine whether a development is appropriate," said Eric Draper, policy director for Audubon of Florida.

The Audubon and 1000 Friends of Florida, a growth-management advocacy group, say the state already makes provisions for landowners who want to develop outside urban areas.

Under the rural land stewardship program, property owners are encouraged to protect environmentally sensitive areas in exchange for the right to develop on other lands. Relying on an intricate system of credits, the program motivates developers to conserve as much land as they can, advocates say.

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