This 1925 Florida News Real Estate Investor’s Guide, reminds us exactly how developers saw Florida in 1925, “as the greatest real estate development in the world!”
Sure, Florida remains perhaps “the greatest real estate development in the world,” unless of course, our waters are, “now and then,” filled with toxic algae.
Let’s hope that the Florida Memory Project’s future timeline will not reflect that our generation allowed the destruction of the greatest real estate market in the world because we thought we had more time that we really did…
Real estate taxes are paid in arrears, so one learns about the property values of a calendar year, a year later. In the Town of Sewall’s Point, the 2014 (really 2013) tax value increased .14%. This seemed low compared to other similar areas of the state. During this time, I contacted Laurel Kelly, our Martin County property appraiser. She had her staff research the issue, and assured me that the answer to my question: “Did the toxic St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon of 2013 have anything to do with lower property values?” was a negative– or at least could not be verified.
Rather, data showed it had to do with other things like the number of homesteaded properties and a limited commercial district….I saw the picture and understood, but I was still unconvinced.
As someone who has worked in the real estate industry, as a commissioner of Sewall’s Point, as a home owner, as someone with more than three brain cells in my head, I know that, of course, a clean, beautiful, waterway is more desirable than a toxic one. Also I know that numbers “right away” don’t show the big picture….
Yesterday, a report entitled: “The Effects of Water Quality on Housing Prices” was released by Florida Realtors, and the Everglades Foundation. The study focuses on Lee and Martin Counties with estuaries St Lucie (Martin) and Caloosahatchee (Lee) running through their boarders. These once life-filled, property-value-enhancing estuaries have reached a tipping point as the conduits for polluted water from Lake Okeechobee compounded with area growth, put them “over the edge.”
Some may say any report attached to the Everglades Foundation is biased. Here, I think not. In this case the report reflects a simple reality. People don’t pay full market value for real estate on rivers that “go toxic.” The greatest contributor to that toxicity is Lake Okeechobee’s fresh and dirty water released by the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District that destroys the salinity and visibility within these water ways.
An article today in the Palm Beach Post about the study states:
“The study found that “as water quality degrades, home values decrease and could potentially cost Florida’s real estate market nearly $1 billion in Lee and Martin County alone,” said 2015 Florida Realtors® president Andrew Barbar, in a statement released Tuesday. Barbar is a broker with Keller Williams Realty Services in Boca Raton.
The loss is attributable to polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, according to the release put out by the Foundation and Florida Realtors® – the largest professional trade organization in the state.” (http://www.floridarealtors.org)
I do believe water quality affects home values. Don’t you? I believe the releases by the ACOE and SFWMD, overseen and directed by our governor, state legislature, and Congress, destroy our property values. Don’t you?
The state and federal government don’t want to admit this openly as truly fixing the Lake Okeechobee issue is costly beyond human proportion and requires going against the seats of power and influence. I imagine they are probably thinking “tourism is doing just fine in the great state of Florida…”
Well guess what? Florida can’t be a “great state” and America can’t be a great county with an environmental disaster on its hands for almost 500,000 people every few years. And 500,000 people won’t tolerate repeditive losses on their greatest investment. The river has reached a tipping point and its coming for the people. This problem needs a BIG FIX. Best to address the problem before it gets worse.
In the 1960s, I grew up in St Lucie Estates, Stuart, Florida, the neighborhood just north and south of Kreugar Creek close to the St Lucie River, not too far from Downtown Stuart. Until I was ten, we lived at 109 Edgewood Drive. I loved that little brick house. I had full reign over the neighboring empty lots and could ride my bike on the “black road,” to get to a park, along the river, next to the Granfield’s house. The kids of the neighborhood often met there, and we pretended the gigantic, falling Australian Pine was a ship and we made it into our fort. We traveled across oceans. We fought pirates. It was a wonderful childhood.
As a kid, I had no idea of the long running issues with the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the canals, and Lake Okeechobee. I just knew I loved the river. I loved that I could escape there. Even when I was in high school, living in Sewall’s Point, I’d steal away and sit under the bridges and “think” in the privacy of the river’s ancient calm.
Today, at half a century, I am still in love with the river, but I view it in a different light. A light of history and destruction. My heart aches because I really don’t know if it can make it against the odds. Now that I am older, I know its complete destruction has been coming for a long time, kind of like a cancer. I am miffed that since 1923, when the ACOE first connected the C-44 to the South Fork of the St Luice, that locals were not able to stop the “drainage machine,” as Ernie Lyons, previous editor of the Stuart News, called it. I am miffed also that the state and federal agencies would so blatantly kill an ecosystem.
When I look through my mother’s historical data and read the ads for selling land in Stuart in the early 1900s, it is ironic that they all incorporate the St Lucie River into their sell while they were killing her.
“Stuart on the St Lucie, 1907;” “St Luice Estates, On the Beautiful St Lucie River, 1926;” “Stuart, Atlantic Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico, ca. 1926.”
The are all bragging about draining the Everglades; they are bragging about the digging of the Okeechobee Waterway from Stuart to Ft Meyers thorough Lake Okeechobee; they are basing the draw of the Stuart area on its location/proximity to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and yet they seem to have no clue that by supporting the over draining and over dredging of everything, they have created the rivers’ own destruction!
This is an excerpt from the St Lucie Estates sales booklet:
” St Lucie Estates is situated in one of the most gorgeous spots in Florida—the beautiful St Lucie River County…The St Lucie and the Indian River meet here to form one of the most wonderful bodies of water in the world—one hundred miles of navigable waterway, edged with luxurious tropical foliage able white sandy beaches…”
“In the introduction to my mother’s book, Stuart on the St Lucie, she writes” Pioneer businessmen of Stuart…realized the St Lucie River was the town’s greatest asset. To foster awareness they of the town’s superior location, they used “Stuart on the St Lucie” in promotional literature, on signs and as newspaper headings. Time has not changed the fact that the St Lucie River is the best thing about Stuart.”
The St Lucie is still the best thing about Stuart, and now we know better. The drainage of lands surrounding the St Lucie/IRL was too extensive. In order to make way for agriculture and real estate development. The St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon now take on more than twice what was originally drained into them.
The excess fresh water and pollutants have all but killed the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This chart shows the original drainage in green and today’s drainage which has been added to the green area in yellow. Lake Okeechobee’s discharges, in pink, are often on top of this. It is too much.
The old adage says “history repeats itself.” Well, here in “Stuart on the St Lucie,” history cannot repeat itself anymore. We must create a new future.