It was more like a crawl through steam than a walk to the gate this morning. Sometimes after a lightning show and hours-long farmer’s rain like we had last night, the next morning is a little cooler. Not today.
I’m bone-weary from a weekend of research, writing, and preparation for meetings this week concerning our property rights situation. What situation? I’ve written a bit on this before, and will write a whole lot more before we’re done. But right now, there’s work to be done and a pot of French roast to help me get there.
Thank goodness the woods don’t care about such fleeting, temporal matters. The forest does what it does. It’s resilient. It gives me sustenance and strength for the journey. And I am grateful.
Make a note to yourself to call your local planning and zoning authority and make sure that what you think is your zoning really is your current, effective zoning. Ask questions like: are there any overlays on my property? Is it within the footprint of a master plan? Is my normal county zoning the same as my effective zoning? (In other words, if I am in a low density residential zoning category (known here as LDR), does it mean it can be developed with 4 dwelling units per acre, which is in the Land Development Code for LDR. Or is there an overlay put on it without my knowledge or consent that reduces that number to 3 dwelling units per acre, plus requires open space design, meaning 50% of my land must be severed through a legal instrument and never, ever be developed, and requires mandatory clustering on the remaining 50%. Even if, like is the case with our neighbor’s land, there are zero wetlands — it is an old horse pasture — she would be required to give up half of her high and dry upland property. That is the essence of our challenge to the unfair overlay and our request to opt our land out of it and keep our normal low density residential county zoning.
The county put their public notice signs out Friday. We expect the files, including our applications and their staff analysis, to go online sometime next week. And then, before we know it, it will be showtime for everybody.
“Patsy” and “Doc” will have to wait. Luckily, I wrote down enough of the dreams when I first staggered out of bed yesterday morning to fix the memory in place. Buck and I spent most of yesterday preparing for and briefing some of our local officials on our property rights issue coming before the planning board February 4th. Today is for reading the fine print on some ancient scrolls (old meeting transcripts) and a luncheon of the Pensacola High School class of 1955, Buck’s graduating class and a group of folks I have come to love. I’m always the “babe” in the room because of my relative youth (only 68), but they seem to like me okay anyway. We meet at a little local Italian restaurant called Franco’s. They make a mean minestrone soup. Hang in there, Patsy and Doc. I’ll tell your story soon.
Buck bought the first sixty acres of thick pine woods we call Longleaf in 1974. The only access was a dim road, a hunter’s trail, paper company land on three sides. He was a man of many hats even then: corporate executive, husband and father to three young teenagers, community volunteer, part-time farmer, and entrepreneur. I was five years out of high school, married and living 350 miles east in Florida’s capitol city. We had not yet met.
Who could have imagined that by 2020 Buck’s first wife would be dead? His middle son dead. My first husband dead. That next month we will have been married for 35 years? That I would have no natural children, but two beloved step-kids who are my good friends, seven grandchildren and three great-grands.
Or that our county plans to build a road through the middle of the now ninety acres of Longleaf where we built a home and have lived since 2000? Or that we would learn the county approved an overlay on top of our land and that of many of our neighbors that would diminish its value when the time comes to sell? Of course we are working to remove this cloud. It has taken more than a year of research, but we are ready. Our case will be heard by our local planning board on February 4, along with three of our neighbors. Should be quite a show.
As for the road, we support that, even though it changes forever my morning walks to the gate and the total privacy we have enjoyed all these years. We and our neighbors need the road. The current one is narrow and way below basic county standards, with multiple blind ninety-degree curves. It has become the corridor between new businesses and subdivisions at one end and a new elementary school and existing middle school at the other. More than 50 school bus trips a day run the gauntlet. We cannot in good conscience oppose it. So. Two different issues. Both presaging major change.
2020. Shaping up to be a barn-burner. My “word” for 2019 was FLOW. This year’s is READY. I told Buck about my word. He chuckled and said, “Mine is MOVE.”