Browardization: How Palm Beach is trying to avoid over-development

by Bernard McCormick Wednesday, October 29, 2014 No Comment(s)


Browardization. New term, old refrain.

We heard this refrain before. Back in the 1970s, Boca Raton officials were alarmed at the threat of runaway development. They were looking south toward Broward County, especially Fort Lauderdale, where new oceanfront condominiums were leaping from the ground like spring tulips. “We don’t want to become another Fort Lauderdale” was the battle cry of the day.

The result was a density cap, limiting the number of people allowed in the city. It was eventually overturned by the courts, but it gave time for Boca to enact other rules that effectively slowed and controlled development. Indeed “Perfect Town,” as we once called it, is much different from Fort Lauderdale.

Now they are at it again. The Palm Beach Postreports opposition to ambitious development plans for the western part of Palm Beach County, some of it on land that was supposedly reserved as open space. People are again looking south for a bogeyman, with the slogan “We don’t want the Browardization of Palm Beach County.”

Different phrase, same idea. Alas, the complaint has merit. In both Dade and Broward counties, growth has been permitted well into what was once the Everglades. Miles of farmland is gone, wetlands turned to asphalt. Some think it sets us up for an ecological disaster, or at least a water crisis that could destroy much of the environment that draws people to South Florida in the first place.

For Broward, it is too late to retain the lifestyle that brought people here in the beginning. The traffic seems beyond the point of repair, even if All Aboard Florida and Tri-Rail achieve their desirable goals. All that will do is slow traffic growth a bit; it cannot correct the past. As we prepare for Gold Coast’s 50th anniversary next spring, we ask old timers what they think of growth. Almost all, including some who have prospered conspicuously with the development of Broward, say it was a much better place to live and raise a family 30 or 40 years ago.

And those are just the people still here. Many of those who grew up in the 1950s and ’60s have fled to places such as Stuart and Vero Beach, where high-rise buildings are non-existent.

Browardization. It’s an unfortunate, but apt term.

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