Bears' survival depends on forest | April 27, guest column
Development site handled with care
A recent guest column by David Maehr of the University of Kentucky contained several inaccurate statements about the environmental analyses conducted in support of the proposed SunWest Harbourtowne community.
SunWest Harbourtowne has begun the approval process for a Development of Regional Impact (DRI). Unlike Dr. Maehr's long-term migratory studies for the Florida black bears, DRI environmental studies must meet three specific requirements: They must be consistent with standards established by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, they must document the actual or potential presence of endangered or threatened species on a proposed development site, and they must consider what, if any, impacts the development as proposed may have on endangered or threatened species. SunWest hired experienced and qualified biologists to perform this analysis, which met these requirements.
Our scientists contacted Dr. Maehr for his help early in their research. Dr. Maehr recommended that we contact scientists with more current information. Our experts used this more current data from the state commission in planning and performing their work. Our experts' impact analyses, which used data generated by Dr. Maehr and his students, as well as the more current state data, concluded that portions of the SunWest Harbourtowne site provides suitable habitat for the Florida black bear and that the species has used this habitat in the recent past. Our current development plan preserves large expanses of this habitat. We will continue to use the results of all our environmental studies in planning our development.
We respect Dr. Maehr's bear study, and we recognize our environmental responsibilities. We have worked conscientiously to create a plan that protects the area's natural resources while bringing economic vitality to the region. We have concentrated our development on rehabilitating previously mined areas. We plan to develop only 23 percent of the available land, leaving 1,793 acres undeveloped and in its current natural state. Additionally, a proposed land exchange with the Southwest Florida Water Management District will result in 1,289 acres of coastal lands being transferred to public ownership.
From the beginning we have engaged environmental experts, government agencies and the community to develop an environmentally sensitive plan. Our work continues. By working with black bear experts, regulatory agencies at the county, regional, state and federal levels, we feel we can create an environmentally sustainable resort community.
Vic Taglia, SunWest Harbourtowne
Shelter choice was handled right
For once, Commissioner Jack Mariano and the county commissioners got it right!
In asking that the bid for a new hurricane shelter be brought up for review, he stopped another rubber-stamp project that would have cost the taxpayers additional funds during lean times and, possibly more important, opened the door for a local contractor to prove itself and support the local economy. The other bidders should have sharpened their pencils a little more and not whine about losing!
If Spring Engineering was not qualified to bid the proposal, it would not have been contacted to do so and if qualifications are the crux of the argument, Mathews has never built one either!
Please note I am not connected in any way to any of the people or firms discussed here.
Dana Goodwin, Hudson
No kids' clothes at hospice store | April 17, letter
Store depends on what's donated
I have been a Gulfside Regional Hospice volunteer since 1990 and currently serve as a volunteer in the New Port Richey thrift store.
I hasten to respond to the letter. We are not a department store. Our inventory is totally dependent upon donations. Baby clothes sell quickly. On my shift three weeks ago, there were two full bins. Many customers purchased full bags of clean, usable baby clothes.
Our thrift stores are the best. The writer abandoned a half-full shopping cart indicates that our store contained enough items for her to fill her cart halfway.
Our volunteers are devoted, hard workers. If one of them mistakenly stated we do not carry baby clothes, I do not understand why the writer would see fit to become so outraged when she was able to help another thrift store by walking across the parking lot to make her purchase of baby clothes.
I am sorry she had to leave abandoned items in our store because had she purchased them, the proceeds would have gone to our hospice house, where we treat terminally ill patients who are not fortunate enough to serve as volunteers or to shop in our store.
I urge readers to come to Gulfside Regional Hospice's thrift stores. If you come to our New Port Richey store any Monday morning, I will greet you with a hug and a smile and heartfelt thanks for your donations and purchases, all of which help maintain our hospice house.
Mary T. Heaphy,
New Port Richey
It's vital to keep Dade City's trees
Regarding the issue of population growth through proposed land use, the residents of the Dade City area are asked to accept a deal that would change green rolling hills into a concrete jungle.
Two years ago my daughter and her family moved to Dade City to escape overpopulation in our hometown in which her grandparents settled in the early 1900s. It was a tough decision, but they were determined to raise their son in a place where he could breathe clean air and have a yard in which to run and play. "Tree City, USA," the sign reads. My daughter explained that people here fight hard to keep it rural.
There are many issues that need to be addressed, but I feel that trees are one of the most important. They are our lifeline. Without them, we would die. At one time, Dade City was the orange capital. Will the time soon come when the city will not have one orange left to remember its history?
I compare the proposition that residents are being asked to accept to a salesman trying to get his foot in the door. Maybe a deceitful guise will get them in, but it is what follows that troubles me.
I am speaking of the promise to leave the trees near Blanton Road during the building of a subdivision there. This could be true, but the worst is yet to come. The sudden increase in population will demand more malls, medical centers, schools, etc. That's when so many trees will have to come down. Three homes per acre is terrifying.
Look at Wesley Chapel. The huge mall they boasted would be the largest around now has halted construction. Silt running off the site has polluted Cypress Creek. Since when did money and greed become more important than clean air and clean water?
Marianne Ven Ditto, Riverview
Parents, say no to teens and alcohol
As the end of another school year draws near, there is excitement in the air for our Pasco County high school students. For juniors, there is the excitement of anticipation of their approaching senior year. For seniors, events such as prom, graduation and yearend parties are creating lasting memories.
During this time of celebration, it is important for parents to continue to provide their teens with good parenting. While these students are ready to start making decisions on their own, they still look to their parents for guidance and this is a time when you should not relinquish your authority as a parent.
The Student Services Department of the District School Board of Pasco County encourages parents to sit down with their teens and discuss the dangers of illegal underage drinking. Teenagers must understand that alcohol-related crashes and death by alcohol poisoning continue to claim the lives of our young people. Parents should set clear expectations about underage drinking: It is against the law.
Other parents may not always be acting in your child's best interest. Some parents may sanction large graduation and post-prom parties where alcohol is readily available. A parent who has adopted the misguided strategy of "I would rather they drink in front of me than behind my back," has pretty much guaranteed that they will do both.
Open house parties involving underage drinking are illegal.
As a reminder, Florida law reads: "'No person having control of any residence shall allow an open house party to take place at said residence if any alcoholic beverage or drug is possessed or consumed at said residence by any minor where the person knows that an alcoholic beverage or drug is in the possession of or being consumed by a minor at said residence and where the person fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcoholic beverage or drug.''
Any person who violates any of this law commits a second-degree misdemeanor.
Should you become aware of a situation involving adults sanctioning underage drinking, please call the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
It is our responsibility as members of the Pasco County community to come together to keep our children safe. By working together, we can secure the bright futures of our precious youth.
supervisor of Prevention Programs, Pasco school district