EDITOR'S NOTE: This editorial was written by our sister paper the Northwest Florida Daily News.
Northwest Florida’s economy is balanced on a razor’s edge. Our region is struggling to recover from the Great Recession, has only recently exorcized the nightmare of the BP oil spill and faces deep cuts in defense spending that could begin next month. So you wouldn’t think politicians would deliberately put roadblocks in front of investment, construction and hiring.
Think again. That’s exactly what some Destin politicians want to do.
They have a problem with Tier III projects. That’s bureaucrat-speak for high-rises and other big developments.
“If it were up to me, I’d kill the Tier III immediately,” Councilman Jim Bagby said at a recent meeting. “I don’t think it matches the character of this community and what we are trying to do.”
“What we are trying to do” is a curious phrase. “We,” presumably, means city officials. They’re trying to set the tone for Destin’s physical appearance by dictating how private property is to be used. Small or midsize developments, please. Nothing big. That wouldn’t “match the character of this community.”
Sound familiar? It should. That’s the kind of top-down, government-knows-best approach usually seen in authoritarian, freedom-suffocating regimes. It’s the kind of tyranny that conservatives usually rail against.
Some conservative voices can still be heard on the City Council, however faintly. Councilman Cyron Marler warned that if the city trashes Tier III, “I guarantee that we are going to be in a lot of trouble over people being able to do what they want with their land.”
Yes, allowing people to do what they want with their land is important. We advocate for property rights frequently on this page. But property rights are more than an abstraction. In the case of so-called Tier III projects, the freedom to build carries with it a promise of greater spending on construction materials, increased tax revenue and more jobs.
Tier I and Tier II projects are good for Destin’s economy. Tier III projects are even better.
Destin officials ought to rethink their poorly thought-out aversion to big buildings.