McIntosh Mirror: Reflecting news in the Tosh

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08.28.06 -- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: How much difference 40 years, bad policies make on small town

We have a letter to the editor passed on to the McIntosh Mirror Blog by Mayor Marsha Strange. She said the former residents who wrote the letter gave it to her, asking her to put the word out where it would impact the community and raise awareness.


August 9, 2006


To Whom It May Concern:

In the mid 1960's the town of us, along with our 7-month-old son, moved to the wonderful town of McIntosh. We chose McIntosh for several reasons, including the fact that long-time friends, Dr. and Mrs. Eugene Rutland were the Methodist Church parsonage family. They had returned to McIntosh for their retirement years after having experienced McIntosh many years before.

We here happy to find the "Old Hospital" was available, moved in, and became comfortable there in a very short time. The Stranges were very special landlords and friends.

McIntosh was a a warm, inviting, community -- happy to welcome young families. The old homes and picturesque streets made us a Mr. Rogers type neighborhood of the very best kind. We were not even aware that there was a town council (maybe there wasn't) because there was no obvious friction.

Many friends and relatives were our guests in the Old Hospital during our years there ... most especially during football weekends. They always left us telling us how much they envied our being able to live in a delighful place.

We were a Farm Bureau agent's family, and transfers were a part of that experience. So, sadly, the day came for us to pack up our family (numbering four by then), and move to hectic, congested Pinellas County. We moved two more times during these forty years, always saying that McIntosh was the one place we would be happy to live in again.

So, last summer and into the fall, we made several trips from Vero Beach to McIntosh to see what we could find. We were happy to be back in the company of many dear friends with whom we had kept contact all these years. We shared with some of those old families our excitement in locating a very pretty piece of property and having an engineer here in Vero Beach drawing up our retirement house plans. We were so happy that Thurman Kingsley was still int he building business, because we were well acquainted with the quality of his work.

Then we became aware of present day McIntosh. We foudn out about lots of "brick walls," some fair, but several unjustified. We found out about setbacks that were four times the norm. We learned that we could get approval to put out house on a large piece of property if we were willing to have our drain field run uphill and have the septic tank on land higher than the house. Even though the lot was spacious, the city council and adjustment board could find no other way to accommodate our plans. We learned about shoddy treatment of those who dared come before the council and plead on their own behalf.

Consequently, sadly, we decided it would be futile to try to find another piece of property in the McIntosh town limits because we would still be dealing with the same unrealistic restrictions. We have talked with some of you by phone and got nowhere. We only know one of you well. Ther rest of you will know know us because we are going elsewhere to live "happily ever after."

We pray that McIntosh will return to the peaceful, non-combative place we knew and loved forty years ago.


Polly and John Willis

1376 37th Ave.
Vero Beach, FL 32960


Click each image TWICE to view original letter at the largest size.



posted by Cher @ 9:01 PM,

14 Comments:

At   August 29, 2006 10:00 AM     ,    Blogger fisherwife    said...

The problem with this letter is that it only discusses a small section of our town. This is not about the people here. It is about the council and the problems that we townspeople have had with permitting issues and the like. This is still a great place to live. I count so many of you as close friends. I have lived here for 30 of my 33 years. People still greet their neighbors. People are nosy. It's hard not to be when you live in close proximity to each other. People also care about each other. There are so many good people here. I think of so many dear, sweet faces when I think of McIntosh. I think that this letter is divisive in nature and should be taken with a great heaping dose of salt!

 
At   August 29, 2006 11:06 AM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

I agree completely that sources of information should always be examined. However, I think there is a great deal of danger in simply ignoring the concerns others experience because it isn't the same as your personal experience. This was one of the great failings of the council in the past year -- especially about issues like these. Divisive or not, the complaint in this letter speaks to a legitimate concern and shouldn't be swept off the table as if it were a few grains of salt.

 
At   August 30, 2006 1:00 PM     ,    Blogger fisherwife    said...

I'm not ignoring it, I just don't agree. Many people have had trouble with the council, including myself. I just don't think that this letter does anything to help the situation. It makes me feel like there is a dividing line somewhere. We are neighbors, like it or not. Can't we all just get along?

 
At   August 30, 2006 1:58 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

There is some truth to this letter, unfortunately. This has been a bad year for McIntosh. With either our inefficiency or our outright malice towards "newcomers", we've treated people badly that wanted to join us. I felt so at peace when I first moved here. Back then I could not imagine anyone not counting themselves lucky to be living in this beautiful little village. There HAS been a lot of ugliness, especially this last year. The "little" people do not feel listened to. The Council, sadly, did NOT listen, and assumed our complaints were unfounded or "whining". Maybe some were whining, but many others had legitimate concerns. I'm exhausted by the conflicts, and find myself more and more often dreaming of "home", going back to my roots instead of trying to make a place for myself here. There are wonderful, sweet, people here. Absolute treasures of humanity. There are also a few who love to keep the rest of us stirred up and suspicious.

 
At   August 30, 2006 6:22 PM     ,    Blogger fisherwife    said...

As a lifelong resident I feel duty bound to defend McIntosh. There is truth in the letter. I don't want to ignore it, only to say that it pertains to a small section of the town of McIntosh. The root of the problem is in the agenda of the council. If the council serves the people, then the people will be happy. I didn't mean to say that the letter writers don't have a legitimate complaint. Many of us have had trouble related to building and permitting in the town. What I'm getting at is that the vast majority of the people in this town are peaceloving.

 
At   August 30, 2006 7:09 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

I think that it should also be noted that the Town of McIntosh has nothing to do with septic system permits, this is done by the state of florida and I don't think should be used as an example of the reflections of the workings of McIntosh, b/c its not. I do agree there have been problems within the council and I think that this is well on the road to resolution, especially with the newly appointed/elected officals. The main goal is the council to support and represent the will and wishes of the people.

I am wondering why this letter is really even relevant to the blog? It is a legitimate concern but you can't publish every complaint and I do think that this is a complaint that might not represent the views of the town as a total.

 
At   August 30, 2006 8:16 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

Shoot, I completely understand not agreeing. Disagreement can lead to honest conversation and positive change. I'm all for it. And, I do think y'all are right that there are a good number of peaceloving people in town. I've lived here seven years this month and my neighbors have been good, good people. Also, I'd like to make a followup to a comment about this letter not helping the situation. The letter itself may not be a solution but this signed complaint opens this up to conversation in a way that isn't inflamatory or ugly. This is not a new issue and it is ongoing. I know several people at the university who have told me they were warned off moving to McIntosh and that wasn't something that happened only in the last three months. The land the Willis' were looking at belongs to Renee Wacha. I met her one day at the office last spring when I was writing my original series for indepth reporting. We spoke on the record and she drove me over to her land. She went over blueprints with me of a beautiful home and CRIED because she was at wits end from trying to build a home in this town. She'd sunk all her money in trying to build here and had to live with friends. She was paying a lawyer to try to get site plans approved. She is a professional woman who bought land here because she wanted to live in this town. I will never forget this, she was crying as she told me she was going to fight to build her house -- that she was a Gulf War veteran and didn't fight for this country to come back to the states and not be allowed the freedom of building on her land. I can't imagine what it cost her personally to give up -- let alone financially. How many others have experiences like her's, like the Willis' but don't say anything from fear of repercussions or just go away thinking McIntosh a terrible place? Parts of this town are broken and I hope the new faces on the council work with the old ones to help create a local government that works for the greater number of people in this community as opposed to merely a select few. I'm not saying any of us have all of the answers. I do have hope for the future. And, to me, that hope includes reporting, writing editorial and informing residents so they can remain engaged in their community. As for relevance, I ran the letter because it was given to me by the mayor and it was newsworthy on several counts. It was signed and not inflamatory. It inspired discussion. It was prominent by means that the mayor passed it on to me. I have had an open invitation since the day opened this blog to the public to print articles from others. I probably couldn't publish every complaint people send me but no one has sent me anything up to now... maybe I could. I hope that clears up someone's questions about revelance. As a footnote, I think this letter speaks to a larger issue than the placement of septic systems. But we all knew that, didn't we?

 
At   August 31, 2006 10:03 AM     ,    Blogger fisherwife    said...

Keep posting, Cher. I was wrong to say it doesn't help the situation. I guess it's just depressing, is all.

 
At   August 31, 2006 11:08 AM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

KD - I don't think you were wrong. I kind of think of it like this: you know how your eyes hurt when you turn on a light after you've gotten used to the light in a dark room? Then, you deal with it and adjust. Considering the dark side of McIntosh is like that. You are right, McIntosh is a pretty cool place in some ways. If it weren't, it wouldn't be worth all these words. Don't you stop posting either. I appreciate that you post under your own name.

 
At   August 31, 2006 12:35 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

I don't think you're wrong, either, Fisherwife. McIntosh is a lovely place, with many many special people. The truth, as other people see it (those who wish to join us), is important for us to hear. I think that is what Cher is trying to do. Without exposure, the ugly side of McIntosh will get darker. It saddens us to hear there are bad impressions we sometimes give, but it strengthens the rest of us to move forward and dispel those impressions...to change what we feel needs to be changed, and keep what must be preserved. By the way, I'm sorry I don't post under my own name. Some of us don't want to expose ourselves and maybe aren't quite as brave as our neighbors.

 
At   August 31, 2006 5:55 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

As for anonymous comments, I do understand. I know it's not for every person. Maybe one day speaking out openly in McIntosh will feel more secure. Until then, I take anonymous comments. Gladly. And I admire the signed ones.

 
At   August 31, 2006 6:53 PM     ,    Blogger fisherwife    said...

I'm very careful about what I post. I weigh my words carefully. I don't want to hurt feelings. I can't tell you how many of my comments that I have censored. Free speech is one thing, but tact is another.

 
At   September 01, 2006 10:59 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

I'm sometimes afraid our tact and gentleness is what gets our town into trouble. I just read this quote: "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it"
Albert Einstein

I've never seen it expressed this way. Those of us who hate conflict and hurting feelings believe in the goodness of others and sometimes don't speak up when we should be yelling at the top of our lungs! We let others fight our battles and expose the injustice. That's why I admire Cher so much, and why I remain anonymous. Like the lady said, perhaps one day we'll feel more secure to express our opinions.

 
At   September 13, 2006 12:48 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

This issue is getting ready to come back to life again, as it is on the agenda for tomorrows meeting. I think that it should be said here that the Willis's could have placed a septic tank on this property, it was just not where they wanted it to be. I think that before anything else is said about this issue that the facts should be revealed and I believe that this can only be done by anyone who is interested attending the board of adjustment meeting that is going to take place regarding this property and issue. I think that you will indeed find that there are 2 buildable lots here, its just going to take some extra effort in planning. Too, I would be surprised if the LPA changes any variances for this situation, as there are other people in town that would like this to happen so they too could sell their property as multiple lots and therefore get more $$$$. And you know, some people in town are only interested in money, perceived ethics violations, and being noisy!!!

 

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Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

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