Voiced concerns about resource development, economic diversity
By Samantha Joseph
TREASURE COAST -- A series of workshops to gather public feedback on a proposal to create a regional development plan attracted about 700 attendees in Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Palm Beach counties in October and November.
The Southeast Florida Regional Partnership, South Florida Regional Planning Council and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council hosted the work group meetings, so residents and planners could discuss a 50-year plan for seven counties in Southeast Florida.
The groups are developing Seven50, also called Southeast Florida's Prosperity Plan, for Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Once complete, the plan will serve as a guide for building more diverse communities with stronger economies.
It focuses on education, workforce and economic development, environmental protection, climate resilience, preserving natural resources, agriculture, creating healthy communities, culture, inclusive regional leadership and equity, protecting community assets, and controlling development patterns in housing and transportation, said Maria Salazar, a marketer working with facilitators.
Funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development's sustainable communities initiative, the meetings aimed to get residents thinking of development as a decades-long prospect.
"It was great to see how people kept focus on the notion that this is a long-term plan, and that we need to take charge of our future," said Marcela Camblor-Cutsaimanis, project director of the sustainable communities initiative at Southeast Florida Regional Partnership, a collaboration of hundreds of public, private and civic groups from the southeast Florida region. "It's important to set aside our differences as individual counties if we want to become resilient."
Among the leading priorities emerging from the discussions were calls for a clear vision about how each county should develop its resources to attract new industries and diversify its economy. Among the strategies were steps to attract firms engaged in research and biological sciences to bring high-salary jobs that complement the region's agriculture and real estate sectors.
Transportation also emerged as a chief concern, with participants repeatedly calling for broader public transit and a transportation model that connected the region.
In Martin County, the top ideas included suggestions to focus on healthcare, broadband, education and energy to gain a competitive advantage.
In Indian River County, residents were intent on preserving the area's wetlands, beaches, lagoons and other natural resources, as well as maintaining its urban development plan.
When polled, St. Lucie County residents said they wanted diversity in housing, and a stronger culture of civic engagement.
"We challenged those in attendance to think about not only what they wanted for themselves, but also for younger generations and even those beyond that," Ms. Camblor-Cutsaimanis said. "People thought beyond their own needs."
For more information and recaps of the workshops, visit www.Seven50.org.