UPDATE 4/25/2011: Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals issued an order denying Lowes’ Motions for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc.
Miami, FL— The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), 1000 Friends of Florida, and the Everglades Law Center today applaud the Florida First District Court of Appeals ruling rejecting Miami-Dade County’s attempt to expand its Urban Development Boundary (UDB) to allow an oversized Lowe’s Home Improvement store to be built on wetlands near Everglades National Park.
“Today is a decisive victory for Everglades restoration that will prevent loss of wetlands on the fringes of Everglades National Park,” said Kahlil Kettering, NPCA Biscayne Restoration Program Analyst. “We are thrilled by the court’s decision to preserve our multi-billion dollar investment to restore America’s Everglades, and for reinforcing the importance of protecting Florida’s national treasures that support our local economy and communities.”
Efforts to preserve the Urban Development Boundary (UDB) began when the Miami-Dade County Commission approved an ill-conceived comprehensive plan amendment that sought to allow development of a Lowe’s Home Improvement store and a charter high school on 51-acres of wetlands. The National Parks Conservation Association whom, with 1000 Friends of Florida and represented by the Everglades Law Center, intervened with the State Department of Community Affairs in a several year court battle to hold the line and protect Everglades National Park and Miami-Dade residents’ water supply, economy, and quality of life. This victory makes the County’s stated planning goals of preserving its remaining wetlands and locating most new construction in existing urbanized areas a reality.
The land use amendment violated a number of county and state growth management policies. NPCA’s legal counsel, Robert Hartsell of the Everglades Law Center, Inc. said, “after three years of litigation, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and staff, Department of Community Affairs, an administrative law judge, the previous Florida Governor and Cabinet, and an appellate court have all concluded that that maintaining the Urban Development Boundary is an imperative.”
Preserving the UDB is important to efforts to restore the Everglades and rebuild the local economy. Each new development outside this area increases demands for drainage, water use, roads, and supporting development, which is a heavy burden placed on taxpayers and reduces the existing buffer between urbanization and the Everglades. Some of the development also results in the filling of wetlands and loss of agricultural land adjacent to Everglades National Park, which are both a rapidly disappearing resource in the state of Florida. Thus given the environmental and economic realities in Miami-Dade County, maintaining the UDB far outweighs any desire to develop outside of the line.
Charles Pattison, President of 1000 Friends of Florida, agrees. “This victory has statewide implications for not just Everglades protection, but the implementation of local plans consistent with adopted policies and smart growth principles.”
Since 1919, the nonpartisan NPCA has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. 1000 Friends is the only statewide non-profit organization focused on promoting growth management and sustainable development in the public interest. The Everglades Law Center is the only non-profit law firm in south Florida representing Everglades advocates in litigation and policy matters. For more information about NPCA, 1000 Friends of Florida, and the Everglades Law Center, please visit www.npca.org/southflorida, www.1000friendsofflorida.org, and www.evergladeslaw.org.