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Look at Rowden for why right beats reasonable

Chris Kingsley needs to be more like Diane Rowden.

Oh, I don't mean to be too hard on Kingsley. He's capable, well-informed and facing a candidate, Jim Adkins, who is running on the outdated idea that the county is swimming in taxpayers' cash.

And to those of you who think this is just one more case of the Times kissing up to Rowden, let me add this:

She's at least as likely as other commissioners to cast pandering votes, some of which have unfairly punished developers who follow the rules.

That's the downside of Rowden's populism; standing up for the little guys means she's not always fair to the big ones.

But, at a time when so many big guys were putting their own interests ahead of the public's, she was usually right.

For at least three years, since a landowner received permission to build a shopping center near Interstate 75 that (surprise, surprise) has never been built, Rowden has denounced what she called "speculative rezonings.''

Developers and landowners, she said, were asking for approval to build, not because they planned to do so, but so they could flip the land at a higher price.

This was part of a larger speculative market she was also quick to criticize — rightly so, as many analysts say it's at the root of our current economic crisis.

And, though she's been cast as a wasteful spender, she's the only commissioner who seems to realize the waste in approving far-flung subdivisions the county will forever be on the hook to serve.

She stuck by these positions when she cast the lone vote against Hickory Hill — the 1,749-home development planned for the largest remaining agricultural property in the county — and against the massive Lake Hideaway project in northwestern Hernando.

That choice may not have been as clear-cut because the land was designated for development. But it was justified, I'd say, considering the county already had a stockpile of 58,000 undeveloped lots.

Kingsley, her fellow Democratic incumbent on the commission, should have done the same, especially on Hickory Hill, which made a joke of the county's comprehensive plan. He'd previously voted against the project and told opponents he was on their side.

I thought his reasons for changing his position were embarrassingly thin, empty talk about the inevitability of growth in a region where not one planned development is under way.

But now he's reaping its rewards. He's considered "reasonable'' on development issues, he said. And this has helped spare him, at least so far, from being targeted by the home-building business.

Adkins' contributors include just a handful of prominent builders and landowners. The roster hosting last week's fundraiser for Rowden's opponent, John Druzbick, on the other hand, was a development industry "who's who," including Realtors Robert Buckner, Buddy Selph and Gary Schraut.

I'm not sure this matters, considering some of these same folks got behind Nancy Robinson in her unsuccessful race in 2006. I think a lot of voters will see this opposition as a badge of honor for Rowden.

Of course, we won't know for sure until November.

These races will show whether commissioners have to be "reasonable'' when it comes to development, or if it's enough to just be right.

Look at Rowden for why right beats reasonable 10/06/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 12, 2008 6:03pm]
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