Thursday, November 27, 2008

Letter: Nocatee plan threatens safe hurricane evacuations

Letter: Nocatee plan threatens safe hurricane evacuations

Edward A. Slavin Jr.
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 02/10/01

Over 6000 residents of Galveston Island, Texas, lost their lives in the 1900 hurricane. Weather radar now provides advance warnings, allowing island/coastal residents to evacuate. Let's not thwart hurricane emergency planning, putting lives at risk.

Who wants to realign State Road 210? The Davis Family (Winn-Dixie founders) and PARC Group, developers of proposed Nocatee, a ''new town'' (in reality a two-county city with 15,000 homes, over 38,000 people, and millions of square feet of commercial space). They could easily block evacuation routes for Ponte Vedra, Palm Valley and other communities. Their notion of building Nocatee hurricane ''safe-rooms'' close to sea level is, at best, facetious. Safe rooms (useful in tornadoes) would not change the fact that Nocatee's ill-advised location endangers evacuation of coastal communities, residents of which are at risk and may need to evacuate to Interstate 95 in hurricanes.

Long Island Electric Company wasted $6 billion on its Shoreham, N.Y., nuclear power plant without an effective evacuation plan. Effective evacuation of Long Island is impossible due to the isolated nature of islands (bottlenecks getting to the mainland) and population growth. Shoreham was scrapped and ratepayers were forced to pay higher rates due to one company's reckless excuse for ''planning.'' Tens of millions of dollars were spent on evacuation plan litigation. Counties won their fight to protect citizens and property against LILCO's poor planning. Will PARC Group leave St. Johns County holding the bag for Nocatee?

Hurricane Floyd wrought the largest peacetime evacuation in American history. Even with four lanes, if State Road 210 is realigned through Nocatee's ''Town Center,'' Nocatee could cause a Galveston-style hurricane disaster. Nocatee should be rejected due to its badly located built-up ''Town Center'' area, which would impede evacuation in the event of a hurricane, threatening a public nuisance. If people are someday stranded in the middle of a hurricane because of heedless greed, we will rue the day if one family had its way.

The truth must be heard: The Record should fully inform us about costs, benefits and conflicts of interest.

Nocatee should be shelved as a reckless, bad plan -- second rate, shoddy and irrational -- as shown by thwarting effective evacuation of Ponte Vedra and other island communities, whose residents may be required to ''drive to I-95 to stay alive.'' We can't afford the risk to lives and property, landscape and wildlife, bears and wetlands. You might wish to tell your local Winn-Dixie managers what you think of the proposed city of Nocatee. Ask them to share your thoughts with the Davises.

Nocatee's economics may no longer be attractive in a recession and after Congress enacts President Bush's proposed income tax cuts and estate tax repeal. The Davises might wish to consider donating some of their beautiful family land for a park (including Nocatee and the D-Dot Ranch), instead of threatening evacuation and overdevelopment nightmares for generations to come.

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