If fear of a lawsuit prevents St. Lucie County commissioners from giving public beachfront to a utility, that will be the right result. But there are better reasons to refuse.
Seeking a new source of energy for this region, Florida Power & Light wants to build nine 400-foot wind turbines along the beach. Some would be on the company’s Hutchinson Island property. No problem there. Some, though, also would be at Frederick Douglass and John Brooks parks, which the public bought to preserve. Problem.
As The Post reported Sunday, County Attorney Dan McIntyre expects to brief commissioners this week on legal ramifications from any decision to lease the land to FPL. According to a 1988 lease that the county signed to operate John Brooks Park, that land must be used only for “environmental protection and compatible public recreation and related purposes.” Bond restrictions may rule out putting the turbines at Frederick Douglass Park.
Four of five commissioners – Doug Coward is the exception – have expressed interest in the deal because of the possible lease payments. This year’s St. Lucie budget had to be cut, and if voters approve a constitutional amendment in January, next year’s budget will have to be cut even more. Some commissioners at first also supported the deal because, they said, the beaches aren’t used that much.
It would be stupid, however, for St. Lucie to give up beachfront at a time when it’s so expensive to acquire. And make no mistake, the public would be giving up beachfront, even though some county commissioners have maintained that beachgoers would see no difference. Who are they kidding? A 400-foot turbine that causes the light to flicker would have no more impact than a seagull?
We hope that FPL succeeds in this renewable energy experiment, as long as FPL conducts the experiment on its own land. We oppose FPL’s use of this public property for the same reason that we oppose Port St. Lucie building the Crosstown Parkway on a route that would compromise the St. Lucie River Preserve State Park, which the public also bought to save.
Mr. McIntyre may conclude that there is no legal way St. Lucie County can similarly compromise the public beachfront. But rejecting this idea shouldn’t turn on a memo from a lawyer. It should turn on doing what the public asked.
4 December 2007
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