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Development promoter's actions belie 'green' claims

Honey Rand is so eager to be called an environmentalist I half expect her to get some form of the word tattooed on her forehead.

It's already in the name of her Tampa public relations firm, Environmental P.R. Group, which has taken on the job of promoting the Quarry Preserve, a city nearly twice the size of Brooksville planned for rural northern Hernando. It was in the headline of a 2004 St. Petersburg Times profile about Rand that relied way too heavily on her quotes: "Press agent for the environment.''

Earlier this week, she said she "absolutely'' is an environmentalist and that "everyone who works for me is an ardent environmentalist.''

They represent only "good'' projects (though often large and controversial ones) and try to make them better, she said. According to Rand, these include:

• Hickory Hill, a subdivision with 1,750 houses and three golf courses planned for the largest remaining ranch in Hernando County.

• A proposed water bottling plant in Groveland that would pump a half-million gallons of water per day from the aquifer in central Florida.

• A since-abandoned plan to build more than 300 houses on 60 acres around Three Sisters Spring in Citrus County.

• SunWest Harbourtowne, a proposal to build 2,300 homes in bear habitat south of Aripeka.

I don't see good projects. I see, at best, valid but common practices such as wastewater reclamation used as political cover for the wasteful consumption of natural land, green space and water — the resource that Rand, former spokeswoman of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, claims to be most passionate about preserving.

As an environmentalist (a real one) recently told me: "It's hard to think of a bad project around here (Rand) is not involved with.''

She has so many clients that some are on the right side of issues. That doesn't make her an environmentalist. It makes her one of many former public employees willing to trade on her contacts and knowledge to serve just about anyone willing to pay her fees.

She stands out mostly because she is so insistent that she and all her clients are good people.

That's her job, of course. It's mine to point out that projects such as the Quarry Preserve will not be what its new Web site, created by Rand's company, claims: a city with such a complete range of shopping and job opportunities that residents will seldom have to leave. That's the reason the out-of-town mining firm Vulcan Materials Co., which recently acquired Florida Rock, has resisted widening U.S. 98, the two-lane road that will serve the Quarry.

My guess is that Vulcan has no intention of developing this land and wants the approval so it can sell this mine-ravaged property. Yes, the plan offers needed industrial land. But I don't see how the Quarry can out-compete the county Airport Industrial Park and bring in jobs that pay workers enough to live in its upscale houses. Unless Rand's company proves it can, I see little more than glorified golf community, which we need like we need a few more foreclosures.

And, at more than 5 miles from the nearest population center, it's also the clearest example of sprawl I've ever laid eyes on.

No true environmentalist would have anything to do with it.

Development promoter's actions belie 'green' claims 01/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 8:13pm]
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