The Strip Mall Protection Act of’09

By Daniel Ruth, Times Correspondent

Published Thursday, March 26, 2009

Here's the problem with all of these annoying wetlands: They're so …so … uh, well, they're wet is what they are.

Really now, what's the point of a wetland in the first place? They're filled with stuff like gunk, and weedy things, and slimy bugs and icky snakes. And then, of course, there's all that wetness.

So you really have to admire the profile in porridge House Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Asphalt, demonstrated when he summoned up the courage of a thousand snipes to introduce a bill that would render the effectiveness of wetlands protection regulations to the pain and suffering one risks from removing a mattress tag.

Under the provisions of Patronis' "Real Estate Developer Protection Act of 2009," anyone who wishes to destroy one of those bothersome wetlands thingies need only to submit an application that has been signed off on by "scientists, engineers, geologists, architects or other licensed professionals," such as hairdressers, dog groomers, plumbers, manicurists, tree trimmers and/or morticians.

And as long as the licensed professional — such as a real estate broker — signs a document noting the paving over of a wetland won't lead to water pollution, the onset of Armageddon or David Caruso getting another television series, the application shall be deemed to be in perfect working order and thus must be approved. It's as easy as that.

At the same time, if any of those whining tree-hugger types over at the Department of Environmental Protection armed with a copy of Marjory Stoneman Douglas' The Everglades: River of Grass wants to challenge a developer's permit, the burden of proof that wiping out a wetlands to make way for Casa de Madoff Estates is a bad thing must be borne by the nut and berry malcontents rather than the noble, visionary, altruistic builder.

In essence, the "Preservation of Land Use Attorneys Act of 2009" serves the vital public purpose of effectively preventing the Birkenstock/Earth Day crowd of pursed-lipped environmental regulators from standing in the way of progress should a developer want to turn a wetland into another much-needed strip mall.

You can never have too many tattoo parlors, liquor stores, lingerie shoppes, payday check cashing emporiums and burrito eateries.

Oh sure, estimates suggest the state has lost something on the order of 100,000 acres to various development projects since 1990. But in the absence of all that concrete, bricks and drywall what would have been the alternative? Merely 100,000 useless acres of highly overrated nature populated by assorted critters making strange sounds at night and drinking all the water that rightfully should be going toward faux Mediterranean fountains, lovingly landscaped lawns and hot tubs.

Revealing the inner fearlessness of a thousand lap dogs, Patronis, R-Rebar, defended his "Campaign Contribution Protection Act of 2009" by noting that he was merely trying to inject some "respect" on the part of state regulators when they deal with a developer who wants to turn a wetland into something out of Blade Runner.

Imagine how a developer's sensibilities might be ruffled when his plan to displace some gunky wetlands in order to build Sub-Prime Mortgage Preserve is rejected when a fuddy duddy at the Department of Environmental Protection starts getting all huffy about protecting the environment simply to safeguard a newt.

Coincidences abound! As the gods of love would have it, Patronis' wife just so happens to be in the real estate business. Whew! That was close. For a moment there it might have seemed that a Tally pol introducing a piece of legislation benefitting the very business his wife works in might appear to be a cheesy, sleazy, duplicitous conflict of interest.

However, since this is the parallel universe of the Florida Legislature, such things don't count.

Naysayers might argue that the "Florida Panthers? We Don't Need No Stinking Florida Panthers Act of 2009" is little more than abject abdication of any semblance of maintaining government stewardship over the environment, especially when there is a gated community subdivision yearning to breathe free.

But let us not forget. What is really the endangered species here?

For without real estate developers, there would be no lobbyists. And if there were no lobbyists, there would be no expense accounts. And if there were no expense accounts, there would be no handmaidens like Jimmy Patronis to do their bidding.

And if there were no Jimmy Patronis types, there would be no Legislature.

If there was no Legislature, there would not be the biggest creepy-crawly swamp of all.

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