published: Friday, January 25, 2013
County looks at MPO
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING - It may be a while before Highlands County puts together a MPO, metropolitan planning organization. The creation of a MPO or a transportation planning organization (TPO) comes as a federal mandate after the county reached more than 50,000 people in the designated area following the last census.
Highlands County Administrative Projects Manager Chris Benson put the number at 61,625 within the boundary area, which snakes from the Spring Lake Improvement District north to the Highlands County line, including the cities of Sebring and Avon Park .
Commissioners voted unanimously to ask for an extension on getting involved in establishing a MPO or TPO. After the vote, Commissioner Don Elwell asked Highlands County Administrator June Fisher to investigate - and possibly challenge - the methodology of how the boundary lines were drawn and to come up with the numbers, since that same area was apparently under the 50,000 threshold during the 2000 census. Elwell also asked Fisher to find out if an entity has ever declined to participate in the program.
That request came in the wake of a group of citizens who charged that the federally mandated plan and the so-called Heartland 2060 visioning process actually is a local manifestation of the "Agenda 21" program.
The 2060 visioning process, done in conjunction with Polk County, transcends transportation, also delving into the areas of housing, economic development and even health care. The state of Florida has a similar program; that one is dubbed "Horizon 2060."
Benson told commissioners the mandate for Highlands to participate comes from the Federal Assistance Transportation act of 1973.
Agenda 21 stems from a United Nations conference on Environment and Development, which is designed to regulate land use around the world. Most residents and local officials believe such a thing is too fantastic to reach down to such a local level. However, proponents say local communities are precisely the target, with those mandating the changes using harmless sounding labels such as "smart growth", "comprehensive land use planning" and "sustainable development".
As an incentive for communities to participate, federal officials offer federal funding for planning. Reportedly, those who resist may be penalized with funding withdrawals.
Benson suggested to commissioners that they had three options to create an MPO. First would be to create a stand alone unit, another would be to bundle together with Polk County and a third would be to use a six county consortium including Hardee, Desoto, Glades, Hendry and Okechobee counties
The six-county consortium is what is being recommended to commissioners by staff as the preferred option.
"We feel that there is a strong connection between Highlands and these surrounding five counties," Benson said. "We feel this would be appropriate to further implement that Heartland 2060 visioning process comes to fruition by having a transportation planning organization that would tie all of these areas together in a collective voice for the region."
Benson already has been shopping the idea around, talking with the Avon Park and Sebring city councils as well as representatives of each of the counties.
The state of Florida currently has 26 MPOs.
Bad Idea (by: Blindman - 1/25/2013)
We don't need an MPO around here. Federal funding offered for "planning" is simply bait, and once Highlands County gets hooked into this, the county will give up more control than one could imagine. People on these MPOs are often appointed by special interest with cockamamie hair brained schemes that ultimately lead to costly programs with higher taxes left up to the locals to pay for, not the Fed. This is certainly not needed now. Don't take the bait!
Barry Foster (by: Local Citizen - 1/25/2013)
Mr. Foster, You always complain about the 'liberal media' spinning stories. I believe, after reading this 'report' from you, you can now count yourself just as guilty of biased (albeit from the conservative view) reporting. If you are going to mix facts with 'reporting', as you did in this article, please inform the audience upfront, so we can take such into account when reading.
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