Also: Reader discusses why she believes palm trees shouldn't replace native plants in our medians
This past election was about over-development. The voters spoke and they wanted it. And here we are facing the problems so many warned about. Traffic congestion, nightmares on Granada, Nova and now through what used to be quiet neighborhoods to avoid the traffic nightmares on Granada and Nova.
It just took seven pedestrian fatalities to get the City Commission’s attention focused back on the consequences its clean sweeping away of what so many in Ormond Beach wanted to avoid with overdevelopment in our beautiful city.
It’s called ever-more-dangerous roads.
And now we have a new phrase for fixing that: “traffic calming.”
"In today's world, like it or not, we're seeing faster drivers and more aggressive drivers," Mayor Bill Partington said at a recent commission meeting.
It’s always been that way, Mr. Mayor. It was your leadership that made it far worse.
Rob Littleton, my city commissioner, gets one of the better solutions to addressing this right: immediate remedies, like electronic signs that went up near Wawa and at the intersection of West Granada and Clyde Morris.
The most effective way to address faster and aggressive drivers in Ormond Beach is to report instances of such to city authorities and hold them accountable to immediately fixing them, not working through committees.
The police can’t help unless they see the violation.
I’ll give you several examples: On two occasions eight years ago, I was nearly thrown off my motorcycle by residents ignoring the stop sign at the big bend in the road coming out of Winding Woods, where I live. I took this up with City Manager Joyce Shanahan. Problem solved.
Not long afterwards, a WastePro garbage truck forced me off the same road. I called Kevin Gray, public works operation manager. Problem solved.
A couple of years back, the hurricane blew down an existing stop sign near the back exit of Winn Dixie on Lincoln Avenue. I called Joyce Shanahan. City Commissioner Dwight Selby was on it. Stop sign went back up that afternoon.
I also took on the city for not vigorously enforcing other traffic laws at intersections, ones like illegal window tint. Shanahan spearheaded the effort, we got data, the data wasn’t good on enforcing the law, but the police started to because it had been called to their attention. Tickets and warnings were issued. An “awareness campaign” got started.
We have responsible city officials who will step up to the plate and fix things if we bring it to their attention. Not one of the program policies outlined in the city’s traffic calming handbook would have addressed any of the instances I reported. Even if they did, time would pass, neighbor could be pitted against neighbor, more pedestrians would die, more people killed in accidents, others seriously injured during the time it would take to implement traffic calming devices.
Folks, we’re all in this together. The best way to address the problems more traffic has brought to our city is to obey the law and show respect for other motor vehicle operators, bicycle riders, people using walkers or in wheelchairs and pedestrians in general, especially those in crosswalks.
And never, ever fail to report instances where you see repeated instances of danger immediately to city officials.
Native plants are a better fit for our roads
As the city of Ormond Beach moves forward with plans to replace native Holly trees with exotic, non-native “Medjool” palms in landscaped highway medians, many citizens have been left scratching their heads as to this replacement. The city alleges that the existing holly trees are dying due to disease, yet there are questions about that.
Florida is currently experiencing significant palm mortality that is caused by a palm tree disease called "lethal bronzing." The fatal palm disease has spread across half of Florida, and will no doubt reach Volusia in the near future. The medjools palms are a costly tree to buy, costing approximately $5,000 per tree, yet Ormond Beach and neighboring cities have adopted these trees as defining elements in their communities. Medjools are also costly to maintain and are susceptible to hard freezes, and now this new disease will require the City to treat the trees with an antibacterial compound, which is expensive.
From an aesthetic perspective, the Medjools give the appearance of an urban setting from the Middle East, not Florida. We should instead seek to showcase the distinct visual identity of our region, by focusing our landscaping on the many native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees that grow here naturally. As a bonus, the use of native plants drastically reduces maintenance costs, as they require no mowing, little or no irrigation, and no chemicals.
It’s also been recently reported that palm trees do not absorb much carbon gases nor provide the needed shade and cooling off roads, that fuller trees do.
The city also points to FDOT as reasons it's putting Medjool (imported) Palms in the medians, yet FDOT policy stresses "Florida's natural resources". An excerpt from FDOT's highway beautification program: "It is the policy of the Florida Department of Transportation to conserve, protect, restore, and enhance Florida's Natural resources and scenic beauty when constructing and maintaining the State Highway System."
There are numerous reasons for going with native vegetation, including their benefit to migratory birds and the ecology, as a whole. Lastly native plants (as opposed to palm trees surrounded by flat grass) create a dense "sponge" of vegetation which can mitigate flooding, which is an increased concern with recent increases in development, impervious cover, and destruction of forests and wetlands.