Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Thank You for visiting today and hope you enjoy learning more about what makes LDub so very special.

Remember when protesters from Everglades Earth First! tossed a car battery into a lake at the “Briger Tract”?

Then came the sensational “Briger Forest Trial”!

And then one of the protesters ran for seat on the Lake Worth City Commission!

Is this a creative short story in the “Fiction” category about the City of Lake Worth (aka, “LDub” in the radical community)? No. This all actually happened!

“Verdict: Environmentalists guilty” . . . “for role in demonstration against Briger forest plans”:
What’s the latest with the “Briger forest”? Did one of the protesters really throw a battery into a lake? Continue reading to find out.

There’s new news about the “Briger Tract” — now called the Alton Tract in Palm Beach Gardens — from Palm Beach Post reporter Sarah Peters (excerpts below).

Many of my blog readers will recall the “battery in the lake” episode, a tragic story but a humorous one as well. After all the political monkeywrenching over the years in the City of Lake Worth by Everglades Earth First! (EEF!) there was an element of schadenfreude upon hearing the news about the protest that failed spectacularly in Palm Beach Gardens (PBG). However, beyond EEF!’s misfortunes and flawed strategies are serious questions about the environment, the future role of our coastal cities (e.g., the City of Lake Worth), western sprawl, and yes, the future of the Everglades as well.

The protests, sit-ins, tree-sitting, and banging of pots and pans in Palm Beach Gardens by EEF! went on for several years and it all ended quite ingloriously in 2014. As far back as 2011 they were getting attention on this blog about their protesting and other activities in PBG:

It turns out that Mr. [Panagioti] Tsolkas and company challenged the Comprehensive Plan change and final environmental permit. Both challenges were dismissed. The first one due to lack of “standing.” . . . So, by losing these two challenges, the tree-sitting exercise can be thought of as trespassing, sour grapes, publicity seeking and a fundraising opportunity with I-95 frontage.

The Briger Tract went on to become quite the topic of interest here in the City of Lake Worth back in 2014, but not quite the public relations message our good friends from EEF! were looking for. Displaying few “situational awareness” skills, out of the 1,001 ways to disable a vehicle taught in the hundreds of Anarchist manuals and ‘cookbooks’ circulated world-wide, the protesters from EEF! chose the worst one of all:

Not the best way to disable a vehicle, especially by those protesting to save the environment. No report of any snakes or turtles being injured, thankfully.
Hard to believe but true: One of the protesters that day in 2014, Ryan Hartman, ran for a seat on the Lake Worth City Commission in 2016. He lost. Hartman’s concession message wasn’t very nice.

As far as bad PR goes, it couldn’t have gotten any worse for the City of Lake Worth’s contingent from EEF!. It was a disaster. Many here in the City were in stunned disbelief on hearing what happened. Post reporter Linda Santacruz chronicled the events that day:

The protesters were activists with Everglades Earth First, demonstrating against The Kolter Group development taking place in Palm Beach Gardens’ Briger Forest. Two women chained themselves to a disabled vehicle that blocked the site’s construction entrance and, unintentionally, the school’s [Mandel JCC, a Jewish community center] access road.
     The two women stood on either side of the van, reaching through the broken windows with their wrists chained together, police said. A pipe was placed over their arms to prevent authorities from cutting the chain.
     The protesters also removed the van’s battery and dumped it in a nearby lake. It was later recovered to prevent any chemical spills, [emphasis added] police said.
     PBSO deputies cut the chain connecting the women and they were both arrested. Another man [Ryan Hartman] was arrested after he admitted to parking the van in the location.

A year later, in November of 2015, the three protesters went on trial and they were all found guilty. Post reporter Daphne Duret covered that story:

Afterwards, the activists said their friends’ convictions will only serve to continue their case. Panagioti [sic, Peter] Tsolkas echoed the sentiments of Schlesinger [Assistant Public Defender Brad Schlesinger], who in his closing arguments compared the Everglades Earth First! agenda to the civil rights movement.

The judge was sympathetic and probably thought the three protesters had suffered enough from all the embarrassment. They were all sentenced to probation.

Now here’s the latest news about the Briger Tract from Post reporter Sarah Peters:

Palm Beach Gardens officials approved a plan for 515 more homes in the Alton development, plus a new road and traffic signal to make it safer to turn left out of the Mandel JCC. [note: this was the intersection of the EEF! protest in 2014]
     The 316 single-family homes and 199 townhouses will be built south of Grandiflora Road and the first neighborhood on a roughly 95-acre parcel. The entire Alton property — formerly known as the Briger tract — is about 680 acres, Planner Don Hearing said. The City Council approved the site plan at its May 4 meeting.
     Developer KH Alton, a subsidiary of Kolter Homes, will complete Alton Road between Hood and Grandiflora Roads. Alton Road will connect to a new east-west road built by Kolter, Beckman Terrace. Beckman Terrace will start at the entrance of the Mandel Jewish Community Center.

Note that the Briger Tract, as it was called then, is along the I-95 Corridor. All the while EEF! was protesting in Palm Beach Gardens plans were already in the works for another city called Westlake, the County’s 39th city, further west in Palm Beach County. And recently on this blog posted news about another “new master-planned community” called Arden, west of the Village of Wellington:
Arden, being developed by Freehold Communities, will have 2,000 homes, along with recreation amenities and a working farm.
In conclusion, ultimately the question comes down to this: Where do we want new residents of Palm Beach County to live and build homes? Close to and in our coastal cities? Along the I-95 Corridor or further out west up to and past the Florida Turnpike?

To the question: Should it be “Eastward Ho!” or “Eastward No!”?
A question posed last November to the environmental community here in the City of Lake Worth has still gone unanswered. Is just saying “No” to development in this City the responsible answer?