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Hillsborough commissioners name environmental lands program after Jan Platt

By Bill Varian

TAMPA – The Hillsborough County Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to name its popular land-preservation program for its originator, former board member Jan Platt.

Known as "Commissioner No" for her stubborn refusal to bend to developers and other elected officials, Platt, 77, came up with the idea for the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program in the 1980s. It was approved by voters 25 years ago and has since preserved more than 61,000 acres of county land at a cost of about $254 million, with two-thirds coming from property taxes.

Commissioners showered Platt with praise for her perseverance and dedication as a public servant. They also dismissed criticism from a few environmentalists who said the idea was hatched in haste and that the program shouldn't be politicized by attaching one person's name to it.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner acknowledged that the proposal he floated last month was spontaneous. It came as the board was celebrating the 25th anniversary of ELAPP, and Beckner said he realized during that presentation that the program and environmental stewardship are among Platt's most enduring legacies.