The nonprofit mountain bike group says it risks losing its tax-exempt status because it’s trying to exercise less political clout, but many of its members say they want Brevard County’s environmental land tax. He says he is starting to steer in the direction of support.
Members of a large group of mountain bike enthusiasts reluctantly endorsed the Nov. 8 voting initiative despite their bitterness that access to their favorite cycling trails is blocked by the county. says that
The 400-member Brevard Mountain Bikers Association is a non-profit organization, which limits its political activism, but in this case, the group decided to take a stand.
They say a trail they consider mismanaged is potentially better than no trail at all.
As such, the group decided to support a ballot initiative that could nearly double the area managed under Brevard County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands Program.
“My stomach hurts,” Murray Han said of the conflict between the town of Malabar and the EEL program. “I thought we had a 30-year relationship.”
Han and many of the group’s mountain biking buddies who have long supported EEL have been calling for the latest voting initiative, especially since they were fenced off from their favorite trails at the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary earlier this year. The county sued the town.
“BMBA strongly opposes the closure of the Malabar Trail,” the group said in a statement Thursday. “Despite all that has happened, regardless of how you feel about the EEL program right now, it is our policy to consider and carefully consider the following before voting: It will be in the best interest of the user group and all trail users.Are we better with or without EEL?”
The group’s statement lists three main reasons for voting “yes.” Maintain funds for trails. and optimism that the program will continue to benefit wildlife and habitats.
On Nov. 8, voters in Brevard voted for the third time whether to tax people to buy and maintain more green space under the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program known as the EEL. Decide.
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This measure will issue up to $50 million in 20-year bonds paid from an annual property tax rate not exceeding 14.65 cents for every $1,000 of taxable property. At that top rate, the owner of a single-family home in Brevard with a taxable property value of her $200,000 would pay $29.30 a year.
EEL aims to purchase an additional 5,947 parcels for a total of approximately 27,000 acres. If all that land were acquired, the area of the program would almost double.
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However, 5,000 of these parcels are 1.4-acre parcels in three “mega parcel areas,” and many parcels historically proposed for acquisition are no longer a priority.
Considering that only 33 of the 28,000 acres have been sold in 30 years, it will be the first major sale of green space in the county, whether it happens or not.
The problem in Malabar was a wild card saying that many in Malabar could vote against the EEL this time.
The city of Brevard has dismissed the town after disagreeing over how many trees need to be cut down at the popular Malabar scrub sanctuary to save the endangered Florida scrub jay. I am suing.
Brevard County Commissioner John Tobia, one of the EEL’s toughest critics, filed the lawsuit earlier this year, demanding that the sanctuary be barricaded until the town approves the county’s tree-removal plan. .
The county barricaded itself in the Malabar Scrub Reserve earlier this year after the town refused to allow the county to cut down thousands of large oaks and other trees in the reserve.
Brevard is suing the town over thousands of trees that the EEL plans to cut down from the Malabar Scrub. The case is scheduled to appear before a judge in the 18th Circuit Court on November 21.
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Beyond the roadblocks and lawsuits, Han and his fellow mountain bikers were disappointed that the wording of the vote made no mention of “passive” recreation.
Tobia clashed with Han’s group and others in a town located in Tobia’s County Commission District 3. It led the prosecution to lock down the sanctuary earlier this year.
Malabar last year gave the county permission to cut the trees. However, the permit expired before the county began work.
Later — when Malabar became aware of the extent of the planned logging — town officials denied the county’s request to extend the logging permit, and issued a new town code that came into effect after the county’s previous permit had expired. threatened to charge $40 for each tree felled. .
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When the town refused to extend the county permit by January 25, county officials followed Tobia’s initiative to build barricades in the Malabar scrubs shortly afterwards.
County officials advocate frequent prescribed burnings and clearing trees as needed to return the landscape to the open sandy habitats it had before humans began suppressing wildfires.
On August 2nd, the Brevard County Commission voted 3 to 1 to implement the EEL tax update on the November 8th vote.
Tobia objected, citing loss of tax revenue, inflation, increased borrowing costs and the inability to sustain the current EEL lands.
The existing 20-year EEL tax, passed in November 2004, authorized a maximum tax rate of 28.5 cents for every $1,000 of taxable property.
After approving the eel tax for more than 30 years, proponents of a third approval are seeking to fill gaps in reserves that connect key habitats and prevent genetic bottlenecks for scrubjays and other organisms. Brevard voters say they have to approve for another 20 years. Endangered wildlife due to fragmented ecosystems.
EEL’s current annual operating budget is about $2.5 million, but program proponents say more is needed to meet the program’s conservation goals.
So some hikers who agreed with the mountain bikers’ criticism are also leaning to let their pride down and vote for the updated EEL tax.
John White, 81, an avid hiker and equestrian from Melbourne, plans to vote in favor of the EEL tax, but reluctantly.
“I’m very much in favor of having these areas, and I’m very much in favor of public access to these areas,” said White, a retired systems engineer. “I considered very seriously not to vote for it.”
He noted that much of the support for these areas comes from equestrian users.
“While the EEL professes to promote general conservation, in reality we believe the reserve is only for the protection of scrub jays and nothing else.” White added in the email. “I have interacted with them in public meetings over the years. They do not support public access.”
By a wide margin, voters in Brevard allowed local property taxes again in 1990 and 2004 for the purchase and management of green spaces.
The county used tax dollars to purchase 28,000 acres of land under the EEL program, but there was no permanent source of funding to maintain the land, some longtime critics of the program said. I was.
As a result of referendums in 1990 and 2004, the EEL issued bonds to raise $88 million and pledged revenue streams from tax dollars to repay the bonds.
The excess can be used for operations and maintenance such as prescribed fires and payroll.
Jim Waymer is an environmental reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Waymer at 321-261-5903 or email@example.com. Or find him on Twitter. @JWayEnviro or Facebook: www.facebook.com/jim.waymer
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