A Florida court has ruled against a plan that would have allowed a big-box home improvement store to be built on wetlands near Everglades National Park, according to the National Parks Conservation Association.
At issue was whether Miami-Dade County could expand its Urban Development Boundary to make room for the Lowe's Home Improvement store.
“Today is a decisive victory for Everglades restoration that will prevent loss of wetlands on the fringes of Everglades National Park,” Kahlil Kettering, NPCA's Biscayne restoration program analyst, said Tuesday after the ruling was handed down from the Florida First District Court of Appeals. “We are thrilled by the court’s decision to preserve our multi-billion-dollar investment to restore America’s Everglades, and for reinforcing the importance of protecting Florida’s national treasures that support our local economy and communities.”
According to an NPCA release, Miami-Dade County also wanted to make room for a charter high school on 51 acres of wetlands. The park advocacy group and 1000 Friends of Florida retained the Everglades Law Center to stop the development.
At stake, the groups maintained, was not only infringement onto wetlands important to the park, but also the water supply for Miami-Dade residents, the regional economy, and the overall quality of life.
NPCA’s legal counsel, Robert Hartsell of the Everglades Law Center, said, “after three years of litigation, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and staff, Department of Community Affairs, an administrative law judge, the previous Florida Governor and Cabinet, and an appellate court have all concluded that that maintaining the Urban Development Boundary is an imperative.”
The Urban Development Boundary plays a role in restoring the Everglades by limiting development, according to the NPCA.
"Each new development outside this area increases demands for drainage, water use, roads, and supporting development, which is a heavy burden placed on taxpayers and reduces the existing buffer between urbanization and the Everglades," the group said in a release. "Some of the development also results in the filling of wetlands and loss of agricultural land adjacent to Everglades National Park, which are both a rapidly disappearing resource in the state of Florida. Thus, given the environmental and economic realities in Miami-Dade County, maintaining the UDB far outweighs any desire to develop outside of the line."
“This victory has statewide implications for not just Everglades protection, but the implementation of local plans consistent with adopted policies and smart growth principles,” said Charles Pattison, president of 1000 Friends of Florida.