Last month my wife and I spent several days in Key Biscayne, Florida, an island off the coast of Miami where we lived while working as journalists Back In the Day. (I still have the sky blue leisure suit she sewed for me then.)
South Florida is where I first got interested in city planning. Part of my job for the Islander News was to prepare tide charts. This was important because some hotels were built too close to the shore, making walking the beach at high tide difficult. People said the hotels had been built before there were any land use regulations. Creating such guidelines and regulations, I was told, was the job of city planners.
I covered many development-related issues for the Islander News: Should the Rickenbacker Causeway be widened? Should the county lift the water moratorium that was vastly slowing the real estate industry? And why wouldn’t Bebe Rebozo, former President Nixon’s bff, remove the barbed wire fence around his coconut tree plantation? I found those types of issues so interesting that several years later I went to graduate school, studying urban planning while working for the City of East Lansing.
So going back 40 years later gave us a chance to see how Key Biscayne “turned out.” The island is now an incorporated village, the causeway did get widened, and Rebozo’s coconut farm was replaced largely by a park. The hotels with forbidding seawalls and boulders are gone, replaced by high-rise condos. However, the new condo buildings are set way back from the beach, and there is still public access to the ocean. Apparently Rebozo got part of his land zoned for commercial development, but there is still a big piece of public open space along the main drag.
In short, Key Biscayne looks great, although no doubt the old-timers bemoan the passing of the good old days. (In South Florida, that means anything more than 20 years old.) And developers probably complain that the village can be heavy handed. And sometimes they’re probably right.
So it goes. But the lesson is clear: We can build great places, places that look lovely, enhance property values in nearby neighborhoods while creating profits for business and tax money for the city and school district. Naperville has several areas where major changes are coming. I’ve watched this process for many years in many communities. I can help Naperville get it right. That’s why I hope you vote for me for Naperville City Council.