Differing opinions came together for the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department’s first public meeting Tuesday evening.
The 13 attendees discussed their concerns including irrigation and fertilizer regulations, reducing water and fertilizer use and what homeowners should know about landscape maintenance.
Joy Hazell, the meeting’s facilitator, said it was “relatively successful” because of the diversity of opinions and the constructive environment that allowed people to express them, which she said was ultimately her goal.
“What’s important is that we can collaborate over time to come up with the best decision to meet the needs of the environment and the needs and values of the community,” Hazell said.
Hazell also said this meeting was only the first step of many and this sort of decision making is a multiyear process. She said it is important for attendees to keep this bigger picture in mind when listening to and supporting each other. The next meeting will occur July 30.
“There’s a conflict of ideas, but there wasn’t a conflict of personalities and people becoming upset with each other,” Hazell said.
Rusty Thompson, 37, owns The Master’s Lawn Care, a landscaping company, and agreed with Hazell as he acknowledged the many sides of the issue.
Thompson said it's not a debate for or against clean water but rather a debate over the source of the issue and the role fertilizer plays. He said one of his concerns was the possibility of landscapers who use fertilizer being painted as the “bad guys.”
Though new regulations on “the green industry” are part of the solution, they may not completely solve the problem on their own, Thompson said.
“Everyone has good intentions, but we sometimes make knee-jerk reactions based on what we think feels good, and I think maybe that’s the enemy,” he said. “It needs to be a partnership approach.”
David Moritz, a retired photographer who is involved with ACEPD, was one collaborator for Thompson.
Though Moritz said they had very different opinions, the two men ended up seated next to each other during the group discussion.
“I found it very refreshing and enjoyable to talk with him, and, you know, I had to readjust my opinion based upon what he said,” Moritz said.