At the one I attended, Lakeland Vision brought together over 100 concerned residents to discuss Lakeland growth priorities. The Ledger described the other as supporting a study: “…called the Gateway Selected Area Study, is part of an effort to look at the expected growth impact of the planned CSX freight terminal in South Winter Haven and the expected spinoff industrial, commercial and residential development.”
In Lakeland, citizens expressed that the top growth priority should be before the development comes: “Growth will be well-planned and managed to ensure that public infrastructure investments can keep up with the needs of a growing population.”
At the other meeting, they were addressing the growth impact of the CSX rail yard. However, some government officials seemed a bit confused why they were conducting the study:
“This study has nothing to do with the CSX development; it’s a proactive approach to the issues of how do we move forward,” said Thado Hayes, the project manager for the county.
“We can put our heads in the sand and let all this development happen or we can get out in front of this stuff,” said Dave Dickey, Winter Haven’s community development director. —The Ledger
So, are they responding to the a fait accompli of the CSX rail yard, or not? Well, it’s obvious they’ve let an elephant into their backyard and now they’re looking how best to manage elephant poo.
The problems on Highway 60 will be great. The cost of improving the road to handle the CSX traffic will be great. Will the CSX contribution to the affected area be equal to or greater than the costs involved? I seriously doubt it.
The visioning process in Lakeland isn’t driven by responding, but by setting priorities before the growth comes. Watching 14 tables of Lakeland residents last night proved one thing: we do not agree exactly how best to grow this community. However, we’re darn close on how the process should work.
Let me repeat that top priority:
“Growth will be well-planned and managed to ensure that public infrastructure investments can keep up with the needs of a growing population.”
The simple way to do that: make sure your infrastructure can handle the new strain before you plop a new business or development into your community. You don’t approve a project with far-reaching consequences and then complain they’re coming and the citizens “need to get out in front of this stuff.”
We must always keep in mind that political expediency and business efficiency should not trump community livability. Most importantly, citizens must drive a visioning process and must hold elected officials to the plan.