Monday, March 20, 2006

Coastal Conflict

"You've got to admire Lee's pluckiness and determination, even if you think Mrs. Shrewsbury has the better of the argument."

Larry Wheeler in the Ft. Myers News-Press today wraps up in two companion articles what he describes as "a three-month examination" of U.S. coastal development policies by Gannett Corp., fueled by the question whether "two years of record-setting hurricanes might prompt a retreat from the shore... ."

The short answer is: No.

The short reason is: As species go, we don't seem to be very bright.

If you need any proof, it's to be found at Cape San Blas, once the center of "Florida's Forgotten Coast." Wheeler describes this once-impoverished Gulf Coast community east of Pensacola Beach as undergoing a "land-rush destination for the wealthy." According to Gannett's D.C. Bureau reporter, Cape San Blas --
is so exposed and so vulnerable, homeowners can’t even get insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. But that doesn’t stop them from buying and building and purchasing coverage privately, policies underwritten by insurance giant Lloyd’s of London.

Private insurance for a beach house with a $1 million mortgage could cost $30,000 a year.
A more detailed list of the conclusions reach by the Gannett Corp.'s "examination" might be put this way: More and more people are driven to live in and near the coast. It's bad for the coast, bad for the environment, and bad for the people.

But the people don't care. They keep on coming. They keep on buying. They keep on building.

In what could be a parody of John Kennedy's ringing call to action, 'we will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, insure any property, oppose any zoning to keep our piece of the beachhouse dream.'

Why? Reporter Wheeler turns to one Pensacola Beach leaseholder for an answer:
"It's just a wonderful place to be," said Lee Shrewsbury, 57, a Nashville resident who owns a house in Pensacola Beach.

"My wife might say she wouldn't mind just getting rid of it and becoming renters and tourists, but I want to live down there full time when I retire."

To rebuild would take all of the $250,000 of insurance coverage Shrewsbury said he carries on the home and then some.

"It's always going to be worth rebuilding," he said.
You've got to admire Lee's pluckiness and determination, even if you think Mrs. Shrewsbury has the better of the argument. We know many couples along the Gulf Coast who are similarly divided in their opinions.

Pouring money into rebuilding your house every 2.9 years in the face of Mother Nature is one thing. Doing it in the teeth of a spouse's opposition is true courage.

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