I’ve seen the best of Sanford, I’ve seen the worst of Sanford. My fellow citizens are charitable, kind and thoughtful but at times they are capable of extreme pettiness and boorish behavior.
I’m channeling Charles Dickens because I’m experiencing a tale of two Sanfords.
Since my stroke 5 weeks ago, I have received unbelievable support from the people of Sanford. Concurrently, I have witnessed the contempt with which some of these same people treat their neighbors.
The reason? People have a difference of opinion about a proposed development on Marina Island.
I’ve come to the realization that Sanford will not be a better community regardless of the outcome of this proposal.
A good community is not defined by buildings or things but by people and relationships. Sanford has a great historic district, a beautiful waterfront and a quaint downtown. For that matter, so does Mt. Dora, Tavares and Palatka.
The thing that sets Sanford apart from those cities – and the reason why I love Sanford – is its people.
People like those who invited their neighbors into their homes for a hot meal, a cold drink or a cool place to sleep during the 2004 hurricanes.
People like those who make up the Bokey Bike Mob because what’s better than cruising around town on your bike on a Wednesday night. (Bokey Key Bike Mob)
People like the downtown business owner who posts on Facebook asking if Ronnie is okay. And the people who respond in minutes saying that Ronnie is alive and well.
And the folks who bring home-made dinners to their sick or injured neighbors.
And the guys who participated in the Mayfair 500 riding lawn mower race in the Mayfair neighborhood on Super Bowl Sundays, because what else are you going to do during all the pre-game hype.
And the business owner who forms her own “gang” to pick up trash along the side of the road once a month.
And the two dozen people who show up at my house with beer and wine on a moment’s notice to help me eat a cooler full of freshly-caught seafood (on a Monday night, no less).
And the people who hatched the idea of creating a world-class film festival in Sanford while playing Dan The Man Trivia at a tiny table in a crowded bar.
And the people who organize their own illuminated bicycle parade at Christmas just because it’s fun.
And the local restaurant owner who quitely donates food to an after-school program so that the kids have a healthy snack.
And the hundreds of people who show up on a Sunday afternoon to watch their friends and neighbors race sofas. (Click here to learn more about sofa race.)
And the dozens of people over the years who have invited me to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners because they know I don’t have family living in the area.
There are many reasons to love the people of Sanford: their diversity, their genorosity, their creativity, their gusto for life, their frankness. I could go on and on.
Yet not a single one of those reasons are predicated on what is built or not built on Marina Island.
There are a number of Sanford residents who are are as much my family as my biological family. And like a biological family, they are driving me as crazy as a character in a Flannery O’Connor story.
The snarky comments, the over-heated rhetoric and the implied accusations coming from both sides are enough to make me want to say, “To hell with all of you.”
I’m not suggesting everyone gather around a campfire in Ft Mellon Park, hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” (Some of us can’t carry a tune, and no one needs to hear that.)
Honestly, I’m not even advocating we all have to like each other.
But there is no excuse for failing to treat others with at least a modicum of decency.
As Sanford residents, we often bemoan the negative perception of our town by those who live outside of Sanford. Some of that negativity is our own fault.
Sanford is a great place, and we all want to make it better. Sometimes we’re going to disagree on how best to do that.
Let us not be afraid to debate those differences because the issues are important. (Whether it’s Marina Island or any other issue.)
However, we must conduct those debates with respect and courtesy, never forgetting that a difference of opinion does not constitute a moral failing or sinister plot by those with whom we disagree. Sanford is still a small town in many respects, and we all have to live wth each other once the debates have ended.
Let’s put as much effort into strengthening our relationships with each other as we do on “winning” the issues-of-the-day. That requires each of us to take the first step and set the example for others to follow.
Sanford will never be as great as it can be until that is accomplished.
– By Dan Ping
Although Dan’s sentiments were in the right place with his Bokey article, he totally misses the point. The future of Marina Island will not determine Sanford’s greatness amongst its citizens, but it will effect the economic vitality of downtown Sanford and its waterfront for many years, and adversely if an Assisted Living Facility (ALF) is allowed to open in the run down motel on Marina Island.
With very few exceptions the debate and discourse over the ALF on Marina Island has been courteous and thoughtful. Yes, Sanford is like a big extended family, Dan’s like a third son to me, and like any family, there will always be a few who might lose their head in the heat of an argument. But the issue at hand is not about community or family relations. The issue at hand is the zoning change request by a developer who has not been an exemplary example of responsible civic behavior. Just take one look at Marina Island, and you will see that his stewardship of his “investment” has been an abomination.
Those same diverse groups, that Dan mentions, who have brought so much to our town through their hard work, innovation, ingenuity, and vitality, all for the sheer reason they love Sanford and want to see it grow and survive, are steadfast against the ALF. These same people with their Facebook page do not want an ALF crammed down their throats by just a few people.
We feel betrayed by our City Fathers that were elected to represent us, the citizens, their constituents, not a few wealthy investors, that apparently do not have the best interest of Sanford in mind. We feel betrayed because up until this issue, I think most people would agree we have been represented well. That is why their stance on this seems so far out of character.
We have yet to hear a clear explanation of why an ALF on Marina Island is a benefit for the City. Because we ask many questions or argue our points enthusiastically, does not lessen our community cohesiveness.
Dan, your big heart is in the right place, but don’t worry our Sanford family unit will stay as strong as ever through this, and who knows, maybe we will sing a chorus or two of “Kumbaya.”, but I’m not holding hands, ha ha.
I think Hank has missed the point! Marina Island is nothing to write home about right now and having spoken to a lot of people they don’t even know what they want on the island. A new hotel is the most common response but how will that benefit the residents of the city. The need is not here for a hotel and if it was built it will separate the island from the community. I personally think that condos is the answer as it will at least bring the young with disposable income to town. First we need the people and then we can support the shops, restaurants and bars.
I don’t know anymore than anyone else that this is the answer but I am open to suggestions unlike most people it seems.