Thursday, November 10, 2005

Clarion Rezoning Approved

As predicted yesterday, the full SRIA board approved a zoning change for the Clarion Suites site on Pensacola Beach. The only surprise was that the board was unanimous. You'd think at least one or two board members would have held out for a better deal in the public's interest.

Will opponents continue to contest the decision at the county level? Certainly, it seems futile. Some years ago, then-lively island residents groups like the Pensacola Beach Residents & Leaseholders Assn. and Pro-Island, Inc. thought so. They mostly prioritized their finite resources by letting the SRIA and county government crap up the central commercial core and hotel districts on Pensacola Beach all they wanted. Island citizenry efforts to preserve the unique qualities of Pensacola Beach were concentrated, more or less, on the residential neighborhoods where building heights apply and lower density is required.

The problem is that as the high rises grow taller and the shadows grow longer and density increases in the commercial core, its boundaries tend to creep closer to residential areas. This arms developers with the same argument that Clarion made so effectively to the SRIA: You've already let the surrounding area where we're located go to hell, so why stop now?

Development creep is not only a paradox, it's also inevitable. But that doesn't mean the fight isn't worth it. Often enough, neighborhood preservation groups cheerfully will acknowledge that they're fighting a battle they expect eventually will be lost. They console themselves with the knowledge that if they didn't fight, ugly over-building would happen a lot faster and more frequently.

Ninety percent of life, as the saying goes, is just showing up. The same might be said for neighborhood preservation efforts.

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