This showed up in the Galveston County Daily News Letters To Editor.

Editor’s note: After six years, a hurricane, a nationwide housing market crash and a change of principal players, a development that long promised to bring rare, new middle-income houses to the island, Stella Mare Village just west of  7 1/2 Mile Road was officially launched.

Here is what David Dumas had to say:

Development Means Environmental Destruction

“In the Thursday’s Business section, there was a subtitle that read “West End development officially launched” “A long wait,” The Daily News, Dec. 20. It should have read, “ West End environmental destruction officially launched.”

And here is my response

Environmentally responsible development is about the delivery of a better quality of life now and for generations to come. Quality of life is a broad topic that might include affordable housing, education, employment and other things, but it is also about protection of our environment as a whole, sensitive environments such as wetlands, and energy efficient and resilient development.

Although some of my neighbors are opposed to high-density development, if we concede that the urban core has already supplanted the “natural” environment, doesn’t it make sense to develop there, rather than previously undeveloped areas? By increasing the density of development we can create a compact walkable, pedestrian friendly city.

Our biggest environmental problems are air pollution and water pollution.

Much air pollution is a direct result of burning fuel. We should do all we can to reduce emissions from burning fuel. Conserving energy is a way to start, reducing the amount of fuel burned to drive your car or cool your home.

High density development significantly reduces the energy consumption of each dwelling unit. By locating high density development in the urban core we can reduce dependence on automobiles to take us to our destinations. If Galveston’s urban core were to become truly walkable or if we had well planned public transit, such that each family could eliminate one car, the impact on the environment, as well as pocketbooks would be significant.

Water conservation is easy to implement through the use of flow restrictors on faucets and shower heads and low-flow toilets. They are mandated in new construction, but if your home doesn’t have them you should start installing them now.

As for water pollution, the construction of the new sewage treatment facility for the City of Galveston is a step in the right direction. It will reduce the amount of pollutants discharged into the environment from our city.

As individuals, we can find ways to reduce pollutants in the storm water run-off.  The top ten list of steps you can take to reduce storm water pollution:

1.    Maintain cars and trucks. Never dump anything down a storm drain. Always recycle used oil, antifreeze and other fluids. Fix oil leaks.

2.   Wash cars, trucks and equipment at a commercial car wash rather than in the street or in the driveway. If you wash a car at home, wash it on the lawn.

3.   Drive less. Leave the car at home at least one day each week and take a bus, carpool or bike to work. Combine errands. Get vehicle emissions checked and repaired. Buy a low emission vehicle.

4.   Cut down on fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. If used, follow directions and use them sparingly. Don’t fertilize before a rainstorm. Consider using organic fertilizers. Let lawns go brown in the summer months; they will rebound in the fall. Compost or mulch lawn clippings. Preserve existing trees or plant new ones – trees hold rainfall and help manage storm water.

5.   Replace part of your lawn with native, drought-resistant plants. Add compost to planting soil and dress it with mulch to improve plant growth and reduce storm water runoff.

6.   If you are on a septic system, maintain the system. Septic systems require regular inspections, maintenance and pumping, or they will fail, cost a lot of money to fix and pollute the environment. Have a professional inspector check your septic system regularly and have it pumped out when needed.

7.   Pick up after pets. Scoop your dog’s poop and properly dispose of it. Compost manure in a designated area so that it doesn’t wash off into nearby waters.

8.   Reduce impervious surfaces at home and increase the vegetated land cover of your property. Impervious surfaces include the roof, driveway, patios and lawn. Reduce rooftop runoff by directing downspouts to vegetated areas, and not to the storm drain or street. For new driveways and patios, consider putting in permeable paving or patterns of concrete or brick that allow water to filter through.

9.   Support Galveston’s storm water program. Galveston needs to make a serious investment to maintain it’s storm water system, to help prevent flooding and help protect natural resources. Long overlooked, these needed repairs may cost money in the short run but save money for damages to public and private property in the long term.

10.   You’ve already made at least one smart growth choice: choosing to live in Galveston, a compact island community with easy access to shopping, schools, and work. Instead of commuting from the suburbs of Cinco Ranch to downtown Houston, your daily commute is how far?

We owe it to future generations to act responsibly now and preserve the environment through the sound policies on conservation, waste reduction and recycling, total water management and greening. These policies need to identify places to be developed as well as places to remain undeveloped.

One of the world’s greatest environmentally responsible developments is The Woodlands.  Designed by Ian McHarg, who wrote the influential book Design with Nature, and developed by George and Cynthia Mitchell, The Woodlands was designed to work with, rather than against the environment, and is a model for future development to follow.

Ian McHarg

In the end, individuals, business leaders and the various governing bodies need to recognize that they are stakeholders and partners in the protection and improvement of our environment. It is incumbent upon all to cooperate, collaborate, and work together to make the choices and set the policies that will serve us now and in future generations.