Problems: We are quickly converting natural areas and former agricultural lands to urban and suburban residential and commercial developments to accommodate an ever-growing population in Florida and Volusia County. We are on a hamster wheel, constantly running to keep up with the tax revenue generation needed to maintain public services and infrastructure for this continuously growing population. The loss of natural areas to urban development reduces habitat for wildlife, which reduces species’ populations overall or increases human x wildlife interactions, some of which we appreciate, some we don’t, but none of which is ultimately good for the wildlife. It also reduced the capacity for our natural systems to provide the ecosystem services on which we all depend: water and air purification, storm and flood mitigation, soil development, and natural habitat for agriculturally essential pollinators. Urban sprawl also reduces land availability for current and future food production, which undermines our local and regional short-term and long-term food security.
Solutions: Smart growth strategies offer possibilities for accommodating more residents and visitors to Volusia County while minimizing environmental and “quality of life” impacts (e.g., traffic congestion, overcrowded schools, localized flooding). Some of the strategies include:
- Increasing localized density of residential developments by clustering houses or building UP, while maintaining lower overall density by protecting surrounding lands for water management, wildlife protection, and low-impact recreation (e.g., walking, fishing).
- Facilitating in-fill projects that upgrade underutilized properties within urban zones without reducing environmental services
- Encouraging multi-use developments that allow people to “live where they live” (work, shop, bank, go to school, etc. within a small radius) and thus support alternative transportation modes and reduction of single-occupant vehicle use.
- Prioritizing developments that offer “value-added” quality-of-life benefits to the entire community beyond tax revenue and impact fees, such as “agrihoods” or community gardens, walking and cycling trails, wildlife habitat protection, and green energy production.