In 1970, right at Rotonda West’s start-up, the U.S. economy tanked and slowed development. Interest rates soared above 20 percent. Money for infrastructure became hard to find and borrow. (The government wasn’t handing it out back then!). Then, the Arabs embargoed oil shipments to America to encourage Washington to force Israel to make concessions in Mid East peace negotiations. The ensuing oil crisis caused long lines at gas stations across the country. Travel to Florida was constrained.
All this adversity impacted Florida’s land development and home building, not the least Rotonda’s. Changes in the tax code didn’t help. New regulations on treatment of passive income curtailed Florida’s condo market. And Rotonda’s, too.
The free-swinging “buyer beware” period in Florida real estate was also ending about then. Developers could no longer sell lots like cans of beans. Authorities were more intently scrutinizing everything developers did. Permitting became tighter. New regulations surged into the system.
The environment was another problem for developers.“Ecology” became a new buzz word, as did “wetlands.” The newly-found interests of eagles, scrub jays, gopher tortoises, sea turtles and certain snakes now had to be addressed. This retarded construction in Rotonda West. Huge changes had to be made to Rotonda West’s biggest original development plans, in terms of both scale, and timing.
The end result was that, in effect, oil, taxes and scrub jays threw Rotonda West’s development off stride. It took ten years to get back to normal.
Note: These and other details of Rotonda’s history are chronicled in Jack Alexander’s popular book, “Rotonda: The Vision and the Reality.” Copies are available for $6.00 at the Rotonda West Community Center, 3754 Cape Haze Drive, Rotonda West 33947, (941) 697-6788.