I listened to John Delaney on WJCT radio Wednesday morning trying to defend the indefensible — allowing a developer to build 1,400 homes on 403 acres of the Julington -Durbin Creek Peninsula, conservation land that was supposed to be protected from development forever.
Of course, I’m disappointed that Delaney, who did so much for the environment when he served as mayor of Jacksonville, is so easily slipping into what will soon be his new role as a lobbyist for developers among others.
In my former job as a columnist for The Florida Times-Union, I wrote many times that Delaney’s legacy as mayor would not be the buildings that came with his Better Jacksonville Plan. Instead it would be the tens of thousands of acres he had placed into conservation through his Preservation Project.
The BJP buildings will grow old one day and have to be replaced. The conservation lands would be protected forever, but apparently not in Delaney’s new view.
That tarnishes his legacy.
Delaney argues there’s only one choice: Swap the 403 acres on the peninsula in the Southside for 403 acres on Black Hammock Island on the Northside.
If that isn’t done, those acres on Black Hammock Island will be developed, Delaney said; the choice: Damage the peninsula or the island.
Delaney’s main arguments are that with development on the island would come hundreds of septic tanks that would pollute the surrounding waterways and that what is in effect a national park, the Timucuan preserve, is not the place for a housing development.
He’s right on both counts.
But why would the state allow septic tanks to go there at the same time the state is spending millions of dollars to replace septic tanks that have polluted the Indian River Lagoon?
And there’s the additional problem that the roadways on the island are inadequate to handle the traffic that would come with a housing development.
So maybe the development on the island isn’t “ready to go,” as Delaney said on the radio show, especially if the new governor of Florida, not Adam Putnam, actually believes in growth management, unlike Rick Scott.
There is another choice: The state could buy the Black Hammock Island parcel, preserving it and leaving the peninsula alone.
Delaney said he would love to see that but insists there’s no money to do it.
As Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, pointed out on the same program, there is money available.
The state Legislature and governor simply have to heed the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state Constitution requiring that hundreds of millions of dollars be spent on preserving land.
Maybe the next governor, not Putnam or Ron DeSantis, will take the will of the people seriously and not ignore that admonition.
This issue of placing a mega housing development on spectacular conservation property that was supposed to be preserved in perpetuity clearly has angered people. Translate that anger into votes this fall.