I can't live in Tiger Woods' house (and why that matters in planning for growth) | Opinion
I had to come to terms with a painful realization over the weekend: I'm never going to live in golf star Tiger Woods' Jupiter Island mansion.
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure the place is splendid. According to Architectural Digest, the 9,700-square-foot estate is packed with amenities that would more than meet my needs, as well as those of my wife and our small brown dog.
As far as I know, Tiger's place isn't for sale. Even if it were, I would never be able to afford to buy it on an honest journalist's salary.
Actually, I knew all that even before my weekend epiphany. But a reader's response to my Sunday column led me to think more carefully about the real reason I can't live in Tiger's lair.
Freedom to decideHere's a radical concept for cities: Stop growing when you run out of room
An end run around home ruleIf you think Florida is growing too fast, there's a reason why: It's the law.
In the column, I suggested people look past some of Stuart City Commission Chris Collins' inflammatory rhetoric on other subjects and consider what he had to say about capping future growth. Collins is focused on doing what he believes is best for his own city, but the same concept applies to cities and counties throughout Florida.
It ought to be within the purview of city and county legislative bodies to determine how much growth they can accommodate in the future, based on land-planning and zoning laws. However, as I've noted in previous columns, cities and counties don't really have the right to do that.
The state requires cities and counties to periodically update their comprehensive plans to account for population growth the state's economists believe will occur. Which, at least in theory, means communities along the Treasure Coast and elsewhere might eventually be forced to increase their zoning densities so more people will be able to move there.
The reader reacting to my column suggested a limit on future growth was tantamount to having an unwelcoming attitude toward newcomers.
As a fairly recent arrival myself, I don't want to be accused of that.
This reader works in the real estate industry, so I'm sensing there might be some self-interests that come into play on this issue. However, whatever the reader's motivations might be, the point is worth exploring further.
Which is what brought me to Tiger's doorstep, metaphorically speaking. The real reason I can't move into his house isn't because he has more money or better golf skills than me, although both of those things are true.
The real reason is that Tiger, like every other property owner in Florida, has rights to enjoy his own property that aren't trumped by my desire to live in an oceanfront mansion.
I'm free to choose where I want to live, but only if land is available and there's a willing seller.
Property rights are important to remember in a discussion about Florida's growth, but that's only one part of the equation.
As rich and successful as Tiger is, his property rights aren't unfettered. Zoning laws don't allow him to convert his estate into a giant amusement park, just like zoning laws don't allow me to convert my condo into a coffee shop.
When people buy property, they should have a reasonable expectation they can use that property for the purposes allowed by law at the time of sale. There's no guarantee, and I would argue there's not even an implied understanding, zoning can simply be changed because a property owner wants to do something different with it.
I might think I could buy several thousand acres of agricultural land and petition to have it rezoned for high-density residential uses, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen.
The law protects my property rights, and should also protect the rights of people living in the surrounding neighborhood who might be adversely affected by future land-use changes.
I brought my concern about cities and counties not being able to set caps on their growth to state Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-Palm City, and he raised a very interesting point.
Overdorf said if there's a cap on land available for development, it would create more scarcity that, in turn, would drive up prices based on that old supply-and-demand theory we learned about in high school.
I didn't quite spit out my coffee when he said that, but it did catch me off guard. That idea, too, deserved further thought.
Then I realized: There's no cap on development now, but housing prices in Florida are nevertheless rising. According to an article published last year in PropertyOnion, an online real estate publication, Florida is already the most expensive housing market in the country.
Whether you agree with the "most expensive" superlative or not, there's no question real estate prices are going up in spite of the lack of a population cap.
I do believe affordable housing is one of the most difficult challenges facing Florida and the Treasure Coast, in particular. And I would agree, in general, increasing housing density in some areas can help address that problem.
It's not the only solution, though. In the weeks ahead, I hope to look at some other ideas for making housing more affordable. Spoiler alert: They don't all involve warehousing people in high-rise apartment buildings so high they block out the sun.
In any case, allowing cities and counties to set population caps wouldn't preclude them from increasing housing densities in areas where their leaders saw fit. Cities and counties would simply have the option to establish limits, based on available land and their abilities to provide adequate government services for it.
It's not a case of slamming the door in the faces of would-be future residents.
It would just be an exercise in putting those prospective Floridians on notice that yes, there is a door, and at some point in the future, we may need to close it. (Even then, there will be opportunities to move into existing properties as they become available through attrition.) So plan accordingly.
The alternative, eventually, will be to just say everyone can live wherever they want ― and personal property rights and zoning laws mean little to nothing.
If that's the future we are headed toward, let it be known right now that I've got dibs on Tiger Woods' humble abode.
This column reflects the opinion of Blake Fontenay. Contact him via email at email@example.com or at 772-232-5424.
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Florida's growth: We can't all live in beachfront mansions | Opinion