Governor Veers Awfully Close to Siding With Obstructionist Property Owner Against Vast, Expensive Government Plan; Libertarian Journalist Flabbergasted, Impressed

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It's been a long time since I've said anything nice about anyone named Bush. But today I have to say—and I mean this sincerely—good going, Jeb.

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  1. The statement about giving the land for free is the owner’s expression of confidence that his land will be left high and dry by the pumping.

    If he is actually flooded off his property, there’s a pretty good chance he wouldn’t actually be happy about it.

  2. The guardians of public land are trying to comply with court orders that require them to repair the the network of wetlands that supply the southern two thirds of the state with the very water that makes sustained habitability — and further growth — possible. The guardians of public land or whatever are also trying to do so with a large amount of federal money Jeb! himself lobbied hard for, and now that the public thinks the issue’s been resolved, Jeb! has shifted his stance to helping scuttle the project.

    I feel a little sorry for Mr. Hardy, really I do, but I’d be a bit more sympathetic if Jeb!, Champion of Property Owners’ Rights, wasn’t so gung-ho about the Hollywood-Ft. Lauderdale airport runway expansion, which will involve the taking by eminent domain of several entire neighborhoods in Dania Beach and Davie ranging from trailer parks to $400,000 homes on ocean-access canals.

    But of course that’s in the most Democratic county in the state, so screw ’em.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that other chunk of Everglades-restoration land Jeb! himself arranged to purchase at a curiously high price from a sugar grower, that the sugar growers are refusing to vacate.

  3. I feel a little sorry for Mr. Hardy, really I do, but I’d be a bit more sympathetic if Jeb!, Champion of Property Owners’ Rights, wasn’t so gung-ho about the Hollywood-Ft. Lauderdale airport runway expansion, which will involve the taking by eminent domain of several entire neighborhoods in Dania Beach and Davie ranging from trailer parks to $400,000 homes on ocean-access canals.

    I can see why that would damage your opinion of Bush, but why should it affect your sympathies for Hardy?

  4. Jeb, The Libertarian? That just don`t jive.
    How about Jeb,The Neo-libertarian.Nevermind!

  5. I misspoke. My degree of sympathy for Hardy remains steady at about a 4.5 on a scale of 1-10 regardless of Jeb!’s hypocrisy or that of the subset of property-rights “activists” who are really just developers only too happy to benefit from eminent domain when they’re on the receiving end.

    Whether Hardy has grand plans to do wonderful things with his land isn’t relevant to me. It doesn’t matter to me whether he really wants to construct fish farms or whether he really just intends to live out the rest of hius life in his little house on his 160 acres of drained scrubland. He’s just an old Navy guy who likes living on 160 acres of land he bought cheap back in the days when you could do such things in Florida.

    But what would you suggest, Jesse? That wetlands restoration projects be conducted only if land acquisition is 100% voluntary, and that they be scrapped if the costs of constructing islands and access roads for the holdouts are prohibitive?

    What happens when the swamps are gone entirely and/or choked and lifeless from fertilizer runoff? Shall we then watch the market depopulate the entirety of peninsular Florida because there’s no fresh water at all?

    Who did Hardy buy his land from, by the way? And who drained it and used eminent domain and zoning regulations to ensure that a road or some sort of easement leads to it? The Seminoles? Chain of title isn’t a natural law. It’s a social contract, and if the social contract we live under can allow for someone to “own” land previously occupied by gators and eventually some Native Americans, then why can’t there be a clause in the social contract that allows for eminent domain?

  6. If the Federal government really wanted to help Save the Everglades, then it could stop subsidizing the sugar growers. Oh wait, that would make a difference AND save tax dollars. Nevermind…

  7. What would I suggest, Steve? Well, I’d love to see the sugar industry desubsidized and the common law protections against pollution restored. You want to talk about what’s hurting the Everglades, start there, not with some guy who just wants to keep his piece of land.

    It’s not likely to happen, but hey, you asked…

  8. Joe,

    Its not so clear to me that there is much ‘natural’ about the everglades resotration plan, in the first place.

    From a Wash Post article on Jun 23rd last year:

    “But it’s not remotely clear whether the Everglades restoration plan will actually restore the Everglades. Most of the plan’s ecological benefits for the Everglades are riddled with uncertainties and delayed for decades, though it delivers swift and sure economic benefits to Florida homeowners, agribusinesses and developers.

    A Washington Post investigation, based on more than 200 interviews and thousands of pages of documents and e-mails, found that the plan has been shaped by intense political pressures brought by commercial interests. All Florida and federal agencies formally support the plan, but many government officials and scientists expressed serious doubts about its viability and impact in on-the-record interviews…

    It will build 18 reservoirs for a state that already leads the nation in per-capita water consumption, subsidizing more of the development that degraded the River of Grass in the first place…

    The plan also relies on four highly speculative technological gambles that account for nearly half its price tag — half state money, half federal — of $7.8 billion in 1999 dollars. Officials say that cost estimate, already about four years of spending on all national parks, will surely rise — as much as tenfold, according to one former restoration leader”

    Sounds like more of the same ole same ole, and nothing to do with the ‘natural state’ of anything.. So again, the question is, to what extent does government have the right to take private property away at the whim of some plan? (highway/retention pond/easement/evergladesrestoration plan.. etc.)

  9. I live in The Sunshine State.
    We love our Guv’nuh.
    Nice weather, no state income tax.
    The Atlantic is 5 minutes from my home.
    Lots of great seafood.
    Please visit, and bring lots of dough.
    But please, go home by the end of April.
    Toodles!

  10. Not sure what the comments bashing Jeb!, or the paranoia about sugar subsidies have to do with the topic at hand, but I came here to remark that the offer on the table is $4.4 million to buy 160 acres of unimproved property. Seems to me like $27,500 per unimproved acre is a great price. Am I wrong?

    And based on this article alone, I can’t for sure say that this isn’t a valid “public use” justifying the condemnation.

  11. My curiosity piqued, I just took a look through Collier County public records. In October, 2002, Hardy okayed the assignment of the contract to dig those ponds on his property even after all the other property owners had already sold out to the state. It’s not clear how much of the work has been done, but he was getting $0.50 per cubic yard of material excavated from the 1.7 million cubic yards he’d contracted for, with the mining contractors covering all expenses.

    With over $800,000 coming to him in quarrying proceeds from this one deal, it’s no wonder he didn’t take an offer earlier that year of about $770,000 for the property, especially when his disabled veteran status and his homestead on the property mean he pays little or nothing in the way of property taxes.

    I wish Collier County’s public records office had more documents online.. I’m curious to see how much of his 160 acres these quarries (I’m sorry, fish ponds for his friend’s 8-year-old son) cover. If there’s more economically viable rock quarrying to be done, it might offer an alternative explanation of why the guy’s fighting so hard.

    In any case, it certainly helps his cause to have a younger woman and an 8-year-old boy, family friends who live with him, appear before state officials. It does humanize what might otherwise make an old veteran’s attachment to the land look like an old veteran’s attachment to making a few million mining his land (and making it less suited to wetlands restoration in the process) before he exhausts much of its economic potential and leaves of his own accord.

  12. Whoops. Here’s the PDF document assigning excavation rights I tried to link to above.

    I honestly don’t know what to make of this. He might be doing this in order to pay for a nicer home as a legacy for his friend and her son and give them some lovely ponds stocked with fish and maybe a viable aquaculture business to boot. He might also be guessing (probably correctly) that land he gets today in a deal with the state might be bound by stricter land-use ordinances that would get in the way of him doing the same thing there. Or maybe that land doesn’t have rock under it that would fetch him $.50 per cubic yard.

    Who knows? It doesn’t matter anyhow. It’s his land and his contractors are pulling all the necessary permits.

    One thing it does say, though, is that Jesse Hardy’s gambit of sending an 8-year-old kid and his widowned mom to appear in Tallahassee alongside his lawyer should be looked at the same way any quarry owner in a legal dispute would be if they sent an 8-year-old kid and his widowed mom to appear in their place.

  13. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

  14. Unless it’s digital.

  15. I find it funny (in a sad kind of way) how the enviro groups obviously see this guy as a roadblock, and not a person who may have actually put his heart and soul into buying and owning that piece of land.

    “The Federation appreciates the state of Florida’s repeated attempts to negotiate a fair settlement with Mr. Hardy,” wrote Nancy Payton, southwest field coordinator for the Florida Wildlife Federation. “Despite the state’s extraordinary efforts over the years, Mr. Hardy has made it very clear in his public statements that he is an unwilling seller.”

    I’d like to see what would happen if oh, the Naples, FL city government wanted to create a drainage pond on or a street through the current lot that Mrs. Payton’s home sits on?

    I’d imagine that she’d be a staunch property rights advocate then..

  16. Damn the Constitution, and its communist conspiracy to allow private property to be taken for public use with just compensation!

  17. Sandy-
    Digital is a high-tech, forward-looking medium. Doesn’t apply to the Bush family.

  18. joe,

    I rather suspect that the current landowner is much more likely to take better care of the land than the guardians of ‘public land’

  19. “Hardy said he wouldn’t need the state’s help. Just a chance to be left alone.

    I would dike it, dam it, whatever needs to be done, myself,” Hardy said. “I’ve never asked for anything, just for them to quit pushing me so hard.

    If it floods, we’ll swim off the land and give it to you”

    Isn’t the real story here that exercising eminent domain will cost the state millions where as just leaving him alone will most likely get them the land for free? Am I missing something?

  20. Yes, his fish farms would protect the public water supply much better than allowing the land to revert to a natural wetland status.

  21. I think we should let the government and private do gooder groups forcibly take people’s land to make private nature reserves. Afterall, they had that system for 100s of years in Europe. I believe it was called feudalism.

  22. Except that we pay for the land in this country, John. Minor point…

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