9/8/2016 – Letter to Board of County Commissioners regarding Environment

From: rj@rjmueller.net [mailto:rj@rjmueller.net]
Sent: Friday, September 9, 2016 11:13 AM
To: ‘mayor@ocfl.net’ <mayor@ocfl.net>; ‘district5@ocfl.net’ <district5@ocfl.net>; ‘district1@ocfl.net’ <district1@ocfl.net>; ‘district2@ocfl.net’ <district2@ocfl.net>; ‘district3@ocfl.net’ <district3@ocfl.net>; ‘jennifer thompson’ <district4@ocfl.net>; ‘ted.edwards@ocfl.net’ <ted.edwards@ocfl.net>; ‘Scott.Boyd@ocfl.net’ <Scott.Boyd@ocfl.net>; ‘bryan.nelson@ocfl.net’ <bryan.nelson@ocfl.net>; ‘victoria.siplin@ocfl.net’ <victoria.siplin@ocfl.net>; ‘pete.clarke@ocfl.net’ <pete.clarke@ocfl.net>; ‘Jennifer.Thompson@ocfl.net’ <Jennifer.Thompson@ocfl.net>; ‘district6@ocfl.net’ <district6@ocfl.net>
Subject: Lake Pickett properties – Why they are so different from other properties

Mayor Jacobs and Commissioner Edwards,

Commissioner Edwards says the Lake Pickett properties are the hole in the donut.  He also says people who live in sub-divisions like Cypress Lakes or Corner Lakes don’t have the right to say how the Lake Pickett properties should be developed.  He thinks that the Lake Pickett properties are the same as Cypress Lakes and Corner Lakes and should be developed the same way.

I don’t think he has read or has forgotten the document created by St. Johns River Water Management called the “ECONLOCKHATCHEE SANDHILLS CONSERVATION AREA” that was written when the property was purchased in 2009.  (http://www.sjrwmd.com/landmanagementplans/pdfs/2009_Econlockhatchee_Sandhills.pdf).  I don’t think he has seen or remembers this map from page 11 of the document.  Notice the orange area and the area it covers.  It covers the Lake Pickett properties.  It does not cover Corner Lakes or Cypress Lakes or even the Lake Pickett Rural Settlement.  This orange area is designated a “Priority 2 Strategic Habitat Conservation Area” by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.  Priority 2 is the second highest level.

This area is very different from other areas and has to be protected.  Development in this area has to be done completely different from other areas.

Strategic Habitat Conservation Area

Strategic Habitat Conservation Area

Gopher Tortoise in its Burrow

Gopher Tortoise in its Burrow

We have all heard of Gopher tortoises.  We have all seen them crossing the roads and cars stopping and drivers getting out to carry them to the woods.  But do you really know anything about them?  They aren’t just cute reptiles, they are a keystone threatened species and protected by state law. In all the world they only live here in Florida and a couple of neighboring states but their numbers are declining and why?  Because of exactly what is happening at Lake Pickett.  By concreting over this land, you will surely be responsible for assisting in the extinction of these reptiles.  By Florida law Gopher tortoises must be relocated before any land clearing or development takes place, and property owners must obtain permits from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission before they can move them (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/Gopher-tortoise/rules-and-regulations/).  But moving them does not guarantee their survival and where will they be moved to?

Other Species that use the Gopher Tortoise Hole

Other Species that use the Gopher Tortoise Hole

If a tortoise burrow is not found and it is concreted over, the tortoise dies a very slow death.  Many times it is the baby tortoises buried in a tomb they thought was a safe haven from predators.  They didn’t count on the worst predator of all, man.  They cannot dig out of the burrow with a living room on top of it.  And because of their slow metabolism they can live for months before dying.  Can you imagine being buried alive for months?  A baby tortoise’ life that can live as long as we live cut short and sentenced to death by burial.  Who is going to oversee this undertaking and ensure every one of those reptiles are found and relocated.

When the Sandhill property was purchased there were close to 400 burrows surveyed and that is only 700 acres.  How many Gopher tortoises live on the Lake Pickett properties?  I asked that question at the community meeting and the answer I received from Mr. Miklos was yes, they must be moved and everything will be done per state law.  This answer is coming from the owner of Bio-Tech Consulting (http://bio-techconsulting.com/about-us/leadership/) who was hired by the Lake Pickett North developers.  As you are well aware Mr. Miklos is also the chairman of St. Johns River Water Management board of directors (http://www.sjrwmd.com/governingboard/boardmembers.html).  To a citizen like myself, this seems like a conflict of interest.  How can the chairman of SJRWMD also be the environmental contractor for the developer and effectively do his job at SJRWMD with no bias?  I am sure it can be rationalized but I cannot see it.

Other Species that use the Gopher Tortoise Hole

Other Species that use the Gopher Tortoise Hole

You are playing with fire when you decide to develop this area in this way.  You are not being good stewards of the land.  Land owners may have a deed to these properties and think they own them but no one owns any land.  We are simply the stewards of the land and how we treat it determines what other generations will have to enjoy or not.  It will determine if the Gopher tortoise and the other 350-400 species who depend on the tortoise for their homes survive.   What is happening now is very short-sighted and irresponsible and enforces what people believe to be true regarding developers and the commission.

Please stop and consider the environment above all else.  There is no need to rush this with so much at stake.  If this land is to be developed then do it right and not in this crazy, haphazard and irresponsible way that I believe Commissioner Edwards is driving.

Going full circle, I believe every person wherever they live has every right to demand this area be preserved and developed in a very responsible manner considering what it means for our children and their children.


RJ Mueller

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wag the dog

4/8/2016 – Is the tail wagging the dog?

I was thinking about the idea of building a bridge over the Econ and the massive amount of additional traffic this will bring and decided to write this blog.  I am going to talk specifically about “GROUND ZERO” (Lockwood to N. Tanner on McCulloch).  This is by no means an isolated case.  This happens county wide and explains how development is in control of infrastructure in many cases.

Ground Zero - Lockwood to N. Tanner on McCulloch

Ground Zero – Lockwood to N. Tanner on McCulloch

How should the county handle GROUND ZERO? (in my opinion)

We know the stretch of road is bad.  We see it every day.  It is rated an “F” on Level Of Service (LOS) rating with 1,300 trips.  That is a really bad “F” as shown in the diagram below.

Lockwood to McCulloch LOS

Lockwood to McCulloch LOS

Orange County is required to maintain an acceptable LOS (Level of Service).  This is only my opinion but I think what should happen is Orange County should look at this roadway and do a study to determine the best way to bring the LOS rating up to an acceptable level.  For example, perhaps widen GROUND ZERO to 4 lanes.  An “F” rating for a 4 lane road is 2,000 trips so by doing that, the road would be at an acceptable level as 1,300 is well below 2,000.  There are complications to 4 laning McCulloch that need to be sorted out and personally I am not too excited about the idea because I live on McCulloch and I am not sure how this would work.  Many questions need to be answered with the most obvious being is there enough room to build a 4 lane road.  I think Seminole County would have to be involved in the decision and as far as I know they are not on board.  Also, there are other options that are better and should be considered first.

What is a better option?  Orange County could find a way to divert traffic off of McCulloch onto other roadways to reduce the trips such as add the Richard Crotty Parkway as shown below.  Most of the traffic that comes onto McCulloch in the morning flows up N. Tanner.  We know that a good portion of this traffic is directly related to UCF and Research Park.  By adding this roadway, traffic will be diverted into UCF and Research Park reducing the trips on McCulloch and will most likely bring it into an acceptable LOS which is down below 880 trips.  But a traffic study would have to be done to determine if that is the case.

In either case, this does not include any development or a bridge across the Econ.  

But this is NOT reality or even possible given the way Orange County operates.  Read on ….

Richard Crotty Parkway


What is reality and how this works in Orange County?

In the case of GROUND ZERO, here’s how it works.  Refer to the concept plan below.  A landowner bought the Rybolt land in the hope they could re-zone the land and develop the property at a much higher density than it is zoned  now.  But the developer knows there will be resistance from residents so they have to find a way to overcome the resistance and in this case the developer is contributing money called “proportional share” to help “fix” roads thereby partnering with Orange County.  This entices Orange County to favor the development in addition to the perceived tax revenue it will gain.  Revenue is a subject for another time.  I believe the number that is being considered is 16 million.  So Orange County takes the 16 million and the developer builds a bridge, a road, AND 1,999 homes of which 50% of the traffic will dump onto McCulloch and will keep this road a “F” rated road.  My own unverified calculations are 1,300 trips plus 1,000 trips from this development = 2,300 trips which is an “F”.  This does not include additional traffic that will use the road which will come from Seminole County as well as over the bridge from who knows where.

The bridge is proposed for one reason and one reason only and it is not to serve existing property owners.  It is to serve this development.  The proof of that is the configuration of the roadway after the crossing as well as who is driving the bridge idea.  The bridge is not proposed by Orange County, it is developer driven.  The road snakes its way through the development with three roundabouts along the way intended to slow traffic.  This road is not designed to move traffic.  It is designed to discourage pass through traffic.  If it were being built for the existing property owners living close by to access McCulloch it would be a straight shot over to 419 allowing for maximum throughput.  Notice there is no entrance on 419 in the northeast corner so if a person lives in this development at the northeast corner wants to go up 419, they would have to exit way down on Lake Pickett and drive all the way back up.  Conversely if a person lives on 419 and wants to go to McCulloch they would have to drive all the way down to Lake Pickett and then access the road from there and that driver may then opt to use Lake Pickett instead because it might be faster than snaking through this development.  Does that make sense?

There is another hidden factor that no one is talking about.  The property just north of this in Seminole County.  It is vacant land right now and I have heard the property owner there would love to develop it.  Can you imagine another block of homes going in up there and an entrance made to this road with that traffic coming across the bridge.  GROUND ZERO becomes a parking lot.  What are we talking about, 500, 1,000, 2,000 more trips onto McCulloch.  Don’t you think this should be examined much more closely instead of this being pushed through at light speed?

In my opinion, this development does nothing to “fix” our roads and only compounds an already existing problem.  Read on ….

Conceptual Regulating Plan

Conceptual Regulating Plan

In summary, all this does is continue the spiral downward and does nothing to fix the roads for the long term.  Orange County needs to stand on it’s own two feet and stop relying on developer money to fix roads.  If history is any indication, it has proven that this model doesn’t work and in the case of “GROUND ZERO” will just lead to more of the same.

Many people, residents, your neighbors, who are intimately involved with both Lake Pickett North and Lake Pickett South have looked at the road issues from every angle possible and I think a common theme has emerged.  The theme is there is no way our infrastructure in this area and the way the roads are laid out will ever be able to support the density of Lake Pickett North at 1,999 units.  There is a saying that goes, “Don’t fill a 5 lb bag with 10 lbs of ….”.  Fill in the blank yourself.

This is a Trojan horse.  It sounds great but will just lead to more gridlock west of the Econ.  And don’t forget Lake Pickett South.  If Lake Pickett South is approved, it will bring even more traffic to Lake Pickett, N. Tanner and McCulloch.

Orange County must stop allowing development to control infrastructure and find ways to fund the roads without developer money.   How can one district in Seminole County that is smaller in terms of tax base make 250 million in improvements, (read here) and our district in Orange County which is much larger has to resort to using developer money to “fix” infrastructure and try to scrape together money to fix roads.

I will give credit to Orange County for securing 200 million in bonds for infrastructure but according to a presentation by Renzo Nastasi, traffic manager for Orange County, what is needed is 1.6 billion.  200 million hardly puts in a dent in what is really needed for county wide improvements.  This 200 million is less than what one district in Seminole County is spending on infrastructure.

I know Seminole County has a one cent tax that contributes about 125 million each year to a defined list of roads.  Why doesn’t Orange County do the same?  Orange County could generate 350 million a year with a once cent tax and in five year fix every road in the entire county without developer money.  Why are we being held hostage to development?  Does this make any sense at all?

The tail is wagging the dog.

wag the dog

wag the dog

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The bridge is not the solution

4/5/2016 – Ground Zero at McCulloch and N. Tanner

The intersection of McCulloch and S. Tanner has become GROUND ZERO for traffic problems considering this new idea to cross the Econ at McCulloch Road.

Why am I completely against this crossing AT THIS TIME?

Numbers!  Purely numbers and facts!

LOS = Level Of Service.  LOS is a designation that Orange county uses to rate roads.  As shown below from the traffic study for the Lake Pickett North (LPN) (Rybolt) development, the section from Lockwood to N. Tanner is rated “F” (Exist LOS on the chart).

There is no worse designation!

Notice the cap of 880.  880 is the threshold that takes a road from “D” to “F”.  Notice the 1,300 (Peak Hr Volume).  This means that this section of roadway is 1,300 – 880 = 420 trips above an “F”.  In English, it is a really really bad “F”.  Like your kid getting a 30% on a test.  That’s a really bad “F”.  So this section is really bad.  You say, “What else is new, we all know that”.  Read on….

Lockwood to McCulloch LOS

Lockwood to McCulloch LOS

Let’s project some numbers based on LOS.

880 is an “F” for a 2-lane roadway.
2,000 is an “F” for a 4-lane roadway.

Let’s just say that Orange County 4-lanes McCulloch Road in this section so an “F” becomes 2,000 trips.

Without LPN, traffic is already at 1,300 so it is not an “F” if it were 4-laned but still not good.  LPN wants 1,999 homes.  Peak trips are about 2,000 trips overall and if you look at the little diagram below you see 50%.  That number means that LPN is going to contribute 50% of the peak trips or about 1,000 trips onto that section of roadway.

LPN percentage traffic on McCulloch

LPN percentage traffic on McCulloch

1,300 + 1,000 = 2,300 making that section of roadway an “F”.

And don’t forget the other mega development with over 2,000 units with traffic that will come over on Lake Pickett and up N. Tanner to the exact same interchange causing even more problems.

Don’t forget the traffic from the north that would otherwise go across on 419 coming instead down Lockwood or Old Lockwood to GROUND ZERO!

Folks, as good as it sounds to put this road in now and as much as you want to support this, it is by no means a solution.  All this will do is just add more cars to an already congested road and we will be in exact same mess or worse.

The solution is to first fix connectivity on the west side of the Econ and put in a 4-lane road called the Richard Crotty Parkway that goes from the end of Research Parkway over to N. Tanner.  This will divert traffic off of the section on McCulloch that is already an “F” and give it relief.  It will also provide a south entrance to UCF from the east as well as a way into Research Park.  After all, the developers have told us that the bulk of people who will be living in their houses will work at UCF or Research Park so doesn’t it make sense to give them a better way to get there.  My feeling overall is the density the developers on Lake Pickett North is too high for the infrastructure to handle and must be reduced.

Richard Crotty Parkway

Richard Crotty Parkway

Orange County must put this road in first before even thinking about crossing the Econ at McCulloch.

Key note:  Orange County must maintain roads above a certain LOS.  How will putting a bridge across the road fix anything given that in time, this road reverts right back to an “F”.

Any good soldier knows that the most critical factor in any war is supply line.  You can’t fight a battle with a broken supply line and that is exactly what Orange County is thinking about doing.  First you must strengthen your supply line before moving forward.  Fix the roads on the West side of the Econ before even thinking about crossing over.  Putting in another road across the Econ into a broken road system doesn’t solve the problem.

If you have read down this far, here is my view on LPN.  The density is way to high.  It is a land locked area with no good ways to move traffic and no way to effectively accomodate all the traffic.  It is also in an environmentally sensitive area located right next to the Econ.  If this is going to be a viable development, density must be reduced.  It is just too high.  On another note, no thought has been put into multi-modal transportation like buses, bicycles or other forms of transportation.  We are stuck in the world of cars and it is the reason our traffic problems are so intense.




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3/28/2016 – Possibly the most important meeting in the next 4 years

Please attend the Charter Review Commission meeting at 4 pm on March 31st at the County Administration Center, 201 S. Rosalind Avenue, First Floor Orlando, Florida 32801. The CRC meets in the Chambers on the first floor. If you are so inclined please fill out a speaker card and express your support for the protection of the rural boundary.

On Thursday, March 31st, we will have a decision made that quite possible will affect us for the rest of our lives. This decision will decide the fate of East Orange County and so far it has come down to the vote of just two people who denied a request of the citizens to place higher scrutiny on re-zoning between the Econ and the St. Johns River. We need your help at this meeting. I believe that the two people who voted against this do not fully comprehend what is at stake.

Quite simply we want this:

“We want a unanimous vote of the Board of County Commissioners for any zoning changes between the Econ and the St. John’s River.”

When the large landowners and real estate business people found out this was going on, they showed up and sent lawyers that assaulted us full on by using words like these to describe our request: “undemocratic”, “un-American”, “tyrannical”, “veto power”, “political patronage”, political shenanigans”, “mob rule” and “political corruption”. I find the inference that the residents of this area because of their desire to preserve this area as being somehow unpatriotic, un-American or tyrannical is quite frankly insulting.

I believe property rights are sacred.  This protection in no way prohibits the landowners from exercising their rights to develop their property.  What it does do is ensure that this area is developed with the environment in mind.  The water in the aquifer, rivers, streams, lakes and springs does not belong to anyone yet we are it’s guardians.  It is our responsibility to ensure it is preserved for generations to come.

Please attend this very important meeting.

Read Senator Bob Graham’s email regarding successes and failures in our fight to preserve our water.
Senator Bob Graham email

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Traffic in East Orange County

2/14/2016 – Here’s what I know about the latest on roads in East Orange County

Here is what I know about the roads.

The Grow conceptual site plan

The Grow conceptual site plan

Let’s start with the project at Lake Pickett called “The Grow” which is the transmittal phase now and due to come up for an approval hearing soon.

“The Grow” is contributing 28 million in impact fees and proportional share money that will be allocated like this.  16 million will be used to advance the widening of Hwy 50 from the Econ bridge to 419.  This widening is on the FDOT long range plan but is currently unfunded.  When it does become funded and the money is allocated, the state will send the money back to Orange County, not “The Grow”  to be used somewhere on Orange County roads.  The other 12 million will be used to widen 419 from Hwy 50 to Lake Pickett Road.  This is the contribution from “The Grow” to the road issues we have in East Orange County.

What about the other county roads?

Over capacity segments in 2030

Over capacity segments in 2030

As you may know the mayor secured 300 million in bond money for Infrastructure that is under a name “INVEST in Our Home for Life” but is just called “Invest”.  200 million of this is allocated to the roadway system while the other 100 million to other infrastructure needs such as 15 million for bike and pedestrian improvements and other multi-modal transit projects.  28 million has been designated to be used in East Orange County.  Orange County is planning on widening McCulloch to 4-lanes from N. Tanner Road to Lockwood Blvd.  This will take a portion of the “Invest” money allocated to East Orange County.  The county does not currently have plans for the remainder of the funding until a traffic study is completed which is either underway now or will be underway soon.  The study is being paid for with “Invest” money.  We will not know where this money will be used or how until this study is complete.

Everything is on the table and is being considered in this traffic study but nothing is decided which includes the following:

  • A bridge over the Econ at McCulloch.  Notice I did not say to 419 but is certainly being considered
  • Widening Lake Pickett to 4 -lanes
  • A road from Lake Pickett to Woodbury
  • Widening Lake Pickett from Percival to Hwy 50
  • The Richard Crotty Parkway
  • Anything else that is discovered
408 Expansion Corridor Map

408 Expansion Corridor Map

Let’s dispel some myths that I have heard people say are definite.  Nothing is cast is stone such as:

  • Widening Lake Pickett from Percival to Hwy 50 is not cast in stone
  • A road from Lake Pickett to Woodbury is not cast in stone
  • A bridge over the Econ at McCulloch is not cast in stone

Let’s not forget the extension of the 408.  The second project group meeting is coming up and I will have an update in 2-3 weeks.

I have also heard that MetroPlan is performing a traffic study of the entire region which is a separate study from the one Orange County is performing so it will be interesting to see how that turns out.  Keep in mind these studies take time.  Many months in fact so be very patient.

It is great to see this focus and attention to our area and plans coming together to fix these roads.  But we still have a long way to go.

Richard Crotty extension

Richard Crotty extension

For example, the Richard Crotty Parkway, the red line on the map.  I cannot imagine the traffic studies not showing this road as a vital part of the roadway system.  We need another east-west road to move traffic.  We need connectivity from east-west to really create efficiency in our road system.  See a prior post about “Who Lives IN The DMZ Zone” and the second one called, “What is the DMZ Zone“.   Watch this video to see the DMZ Zone and connectivity.  I cannot imagine a bridge over the Econ at McCulloch unless the Richard Crotty Parkway is part of this study.  What that would do is have three east-west roads in the Rural Service Area crossing the Econ funneling down to two inside the Urban Service Area.  That would make no sense at all.  But Research Park is not too excited about the Richard Crotty Parkway and UCF is silent and neutral.

Also, Seminole County is not to thrilled with widening McCulloch or crossing the Econ at McCulloch so we will have to see how that plays out.

Sustany conceptual site plan

Sustany conceptual site plan

Let’s also not forget Lake Pickett North which was called “Sustany”.  I have heard this is coming back most likely in the the 2016 second cycle so we will have to see what that project looks like and how this will impact traffic.  The 2016 second cycle is from about September, 2016 to March, 2017 so the application will be submitted and you can expect community meetings a couple of months before September/October time frame.

But I am encouraged that we are moving in the right direction.  I have to admit I was somewhat dejected a while ago until I talked to some people recently and learned much of what I am relaying on to you.  In the world of Infrastructure wheels turn very slow and patience is all important.  All we can do is keep moving and keep coming up with ideas on how to keep this issue at the forefront in the minds of our elected officials to ensure we get the attention we deserve.



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9/15/2015 – Road Agreement with Lake Pickett South


Jon Weiss - Director of Community, Environmental nad Development Servvices DepartmentOver the next few days I am going to bring you up to speed on the road agreement presentation Mr. Jon Weiss, Director of Community, Environmental and Development Services Department, presented to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) on 9/15/2015 so you know what is in the agreement.  Below is a synopsis of the presentation.  The subsequent posts will be short video clips from the meeting that you can watch in under 3 minutes.  I will be posting these on Facebook so if you haven’t LIKED my page, click here to LIKE it.

To view Mr. Weiss’ entire presentation and the BCC discussion afterwards on Orange TV, click this link and navigate to item 9 or just wait for the relevant snippets I post.  Please use Internet Explorer as the video requires Silverlight to run and does not seem to work in Chrome.

My disclaimer:

  • In no way do I endorse Lake Pickett South.
  • I am neither for or against Lake Pickett South.  I am neutral on development.
  • All I want is the roads fixed so we can travel quicker and safer to our destinations!

The bulk of the transportation impact from the Lake Pickett South (LPS) development is on Hwy 50 as shown on the map below.  The other county roads are impacted with 8% on Chuluota Road and a few percent on Lake Pickett and S. Tanner.  There will no doubt be an impact to N. Tanner and McCulloch but as explained in Mr. Weiss’ presentation and discussion afterwards that will be county responsibility to fix.  Therefore the roads that will be improved with LPS money will be Hwy 50 and Chuluota Road.

Trip Distribution - Lake Pickett South

Trip Distribution – Lake Pickett South

Here is how it will work but first let’s dispel some myths.

There are some that think that all of the money the developer pays will come back to them in some form of credit somewhere in the future.  That is simply not true.  The developer will pay 28 million in transportation impact fees.  This is far above what is required which is about 9.5 million according to current impact fee calculations.  The reason for the large amount is the road issue.

There are some that think that the houses will be built before the roads are built.  Again that is not true.  Commissioner Edwards has made it clear the roads come first and in fact there is a new phrase being bantered about labeled , “Roads First”.  It is in the video and I will post a snippet sometime soon.

Mr. Weiss talked about 3 areas in his presentation:

  •  Monetary contribution to area needed transportation infrastructure
  • Roads first
  • Concurrency satisfaction

1. Monetary contribution to area needed transportation infrastructure:

The developer will pay 28 million for the roadway improvements to Hwy 50 and Chuluota Road.  16 million will go to Hwy 50 and 12 million to Chuluota Road.

Term Sheet Overview - Hwy 50

Term Sheet Overview – Hwy 50

Hwy 50:

As far as Hwy 50 is concerned.  FDOT will complete the design and permitting by August of 2016 but note there is no funding to build the road.  This is where LPS comes into the picture.  Here is the process:

  • LPS fronts 16 million to FDOT to build the road sooner than it would otherwise.
  • When FDOT would have built the road in about 2021, the 16 million is refunded TO THE COUNTY, not the developer.

So the money flow is from developer to FDOT then back to Orange County in about 2021.

Term Sheet Overview - Chuluota Road

Term Sheet Overview – Chuluota Road

Chuluota Road:

No studies have been done on the section of road from Lake Pickett to Hwy 50 so the county would pay for the design and permitting and the 12 million would pay for construction.

In this case the 12 million flows directly to the county.

During discussion, Commissioner Edwards stated that he wanted to make sure the developer paid no less than 28 million for road improvements.  He also talked about the 16 million for Hwy 50 and explained that if the cost is less than 16 million, the county would still get 16 million so the cost to the developer for Hwy 50 is 16 million regardless of the actual cost.  If the exposure goes above 16 million, then the developer will pay that over-run but that money would be refunded to the developer in 2021 or whenever the money becomes available from the state.

Commissioner Edwards wanted to also have a drop dead date for the 12 million for Chuluota Road.  the date is 9/21/2021 because this date ties into the building permits allowed and when they are allowed.  He also explained that the 12 million dollars could be spent elsewhere and not specifically for Chuluota Road because there may be other priorities tied in with the “Invest” dollars.

2. Roads First:

When the money is paid by the developer is very important as we want to make sure the roads keep pace with development.  Commissioner Edwards has made it very clear that the roads are improved as development takes place.  Here’s how it works.

There are 4 thresholds and the first (A).  The builder cannot pull one building permit until the 16 million is paid to advance Hwy 50.  Before the first house comes out of the ground the developer has to write a 16 million check to the state.  At that time the developer can built homes equivalent to 250 trips.  Simply put, trips are car trips to and from the home and are computed using a formula.  When SR 50 is 50% complete they can build more homes equivalent to 250 trips and when 100% complete can build more homes equivalent to 671 trips.  Remember that the total units that was agreed to was 2,256 units and 237,000 feet of commercial.  Trips do not equate to units.

At this point the development will be about 40% built out.  In order to finish the build out of the development or another 1,746 trips, the developer will have to pay 12 million before one unit could be built.  If they don’t pay the 12 million, then no more building permits will be issued.

The idea behind this schedule is to make sure that the roadways keep pace with development.

Term Sheet Overview - LPS

Term Sheet Overview – LPS

 3. Concurrency satisfaction:

Honestly I don’t understand anything Mr. Weiss said in his presentation about this requirement so I really don’t have much to add.  He was talking about platting and things that sounded like Greek to me so see if you can figure it out.

LPS is agreeable to all the conditions laid out in this discussion.

As a side note impact fees are currently being charged at 56% of the fee schedule for everyone in the county.  This equates to about 9.5 million in fees to LPS.  If this was 100%, impact fees would be about 17 million.  The developer is paying 11 million more than full impact fee pricing.  If it sounds like developers are getting a break on impact fees, the mayor pointed out that the BCC has never imposed 100% based on the methodology used to calculate impact fees today.  A different methodology was used in the past that equated to about 60% of impact fees.  So the number of 56% is nothing special for this applicant, it is about the cost that has been in effect for a long period of time.  I do remember a BCC meeting late last year where the impact fees were raised to the 56% from a lower percentage.

Commissioner Thompson said she thinks the priority is really West from Avalon Parkway on Hwy 50 as well as McCulloch Road.  That certainly does sound on target.

Commissioner Clarke did want to know if we are simply circling the wagons and not really making any gains with this development.  Another valid point.

408 Expansion Corridor Map

408 Expansion Corridor Map

Commissioner Edwards said that the big game changer is the extension of the 408.  Remember this study is underway now to extend the 408 from it’s end 520.  Don’t forget the meeting coming up on Oct 22nd at East River High School.

One last comment I want to make is I have been keeping up-to-date on the “comments” from the different agencies and so far there is nothing coming back from any of them that would impede this application from being adopted.

The way this works is the agencies take a look at the proposed development and are required to review the application based on their respective area of expertise.  If they see something they think is an issue, they make a “comment”.  There are a couple of comments but nothing that would impede the application from being adopted.

At this point in time, it seems as though the project is moving forward.

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Charter Review Commission

8/19/2015 – Should the Rural Service Boundary move east past the Econ?

Kevin Shaughnessy

Kevin Shaughnessy

At a recent Charter Review Commission Meeting, members of Save Orange County (SOC) made public comment to ask the Commission for charter protection of the Rural Service Boundary east of the Econ.  I was surprised to see the chairman of the committee, Kevin Shaughnessy, ask legal council to take up the issue and report back at the next meeting.  He made the comment that he was not sure that the Charter Review Commission can take away the approval process from the Board of County Commissioners so the question the lawyer needs to answer is if the charter can control a land use issue such as the Urban Service Area.    If you are interested, click here to view the video.  I am not quite sure what the committee would do other than ratify the Rural Service Boundary at the Econ.  I can’t imagine the committee trying to control the zoning of the Lake Pickett properties as there is already a defined process in place to deal with zoning changes through the Board of County Commissioners.  That would create havoc for future zoning requests.  Maybe I am missing something and will be eagerly awaiting the next meeting to hear what he has to say.

High Impact Urban

High Impact Urban

There is some fear that if the Lake Pickett properties are developed the Rural Service Boundary between the Urban Service Area (USA) and the Rural Service Area (RSA) which currently runs along the Econ river will shift east.  You can see the line on the map in purple running along the Econ south to north.  The USA is easy to recognize by the “High Impact Urban” red area west of the Econ while the RSA is the greener area to the east of the purple line.

I don’t know one person who thinks that this line should move east.  In fact I think this is one point that everyone no matter what your opinion is of how the Lake Pickett properties should be developed agrees.  The dividing line needs to remain at the Econ.

The Comprehensive Plan shows the Econ as the Rural Service Boundary between the USA and the RSA.  The map on the left came out of the Comprehensive Plan itself and shows the purple line that we all agree should be the Rural Service Boundary between the USA and the RSA.  But some feel that the text amendment for the Lake Pickett properties violates the rural service boundary and creates an urban area within the rural area.  I suppose one could argue that point.  However, if that is the point then it has already been violated many times over with Corner Lakes, Cypress Lakes and other suburban communities east of the Econ that also show up red in this map.  Even portions of Wedgefield show up in red.  They are classified as “High Impact Urban”.

The idea behind the Lake Pickett Text Amendment is not to promote more urban east of the Econ but instead to stop it.  The purpose is to create a transition area between the USA and RSA.  The density in the Lake Pickett South property has been reduced to 2,256 units.  It is not the lower density of the RSA but on the flip side it is also not the higher density of the USA.  It is in between which is the intention.  By creating this transition zone, no urban can be built east of this land.  That is the whole purpose behind the Transect idea and that is why Lake Pickett has it’s very own LP designation in the Comprehensive Plan.  Nowhere else in Orange County will there be an LP designation because it stands for “Lake Pickett”.

When it comes to preserving the rural area, I think we all have that very same goal in mind.  The differences lie in the paths each of us take to get to the destination.

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7/1/2015 – An update on the Lake Pickett Properties

A few months ago I spoke at River Run church regarding traffic in the area. At that time there was no plan to fix these roads and there was not enough focus on the area. Many things have changed since that time. Through great time and effort, East Orange County now has a very intense spotlight shining on it because it is the only large area in Orange County with this many traffic issues and there is no doubt people are very upset over traffic. This area has been neglected for a very long time and no money has been put into the infrastructure out here.  But now we have the attention of the county commissioners as well as the mayor and the Orange County staff.

We also have the land owners of the Lake Pickett properties who are working with the county to help develop these areas in a responsible way. They are being required to contribute 40-50 million dollars that will go to fix these roads.

Mayor Teresa Jacobs

In addition to this, the mayor made this announcement in the 2015 State of the County address recently.

“The capstone announcement outlined a proposal for one of the largest capital investment projects by Orange County, a $300 million initiative called “INVEST in Our Home for Life.” The funds will be spent on roads, parks, pedestrian safety projects, public and fire safety facilities and affordable family housing in Orange County.”

These funds coupled with the developer funds will get our roads fixed meaning the roads will accommodate the existing traffic as well as the traffic forecasted from these developments.

The alternative is no funding for roads and by 2030 all of the roads are over-capacity. This just can’t be allowed to happen. We have an opportunity now to have a say in how these properties are developed in one cohesive and organized way or the flip-side is to oppose it and end up with what I believe will be a much worse situation.

I watch each and every Board of County Commissioner meeting and keep in touch with the people downtown. I speak at many meetings during public comment and just recently spoke at the Charter Review Commission workshops in favor of a one cent sales tax for four years. This county has an infrastructure deficit of 1.6 billion dollars and a one cent sales tax for four years will eliminate that problem.  Here is my post of my public comment.

Many people are resisting this change but that is precisely why we are in this situation with our roads. It is because we are our own worst enemy and keep telling Orange County to go away. But we are at a point now when Orange County can’t go away because they must maintain the roads to a certain Level of Service. If you watch the videos closely you will pick this up rather quickly.

Rip Van Winkle

I liken our situation to Rip Van Winkle.  If you remember the story, he was a young man who left his sleepy little village to go hunting with his dog and woke up 20 years later with no dog and his village turned into a town with many more houses and shops.  He was bewildered and disoriented.  We are Rip Van Winkle and have been asleep for 20 years.

I am not sure how this all happened around us but I feel like Rip Van Winkle.  We can’t turn the clock back and undo it so we have to find a way to deal with it.  My approach is to embrace it and make it what we want it to be.  Opposing it can work for some period of time but the clock can’t be reversed and what is here is here to stay.  We are the town now that Rip Van Winkle walked into after 20 years.  He couldn’t go back and neither can we.

There has been a video a day posted and this will continue for the next week or two before the Board of County Commissioner meeting on July 28th. The videos are less than 3 minutes each so as not to bore you too much. We are at critical mass now and we should all be watching this closely.

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Planning and Zoning Commission

6/17/2015 – Tomorrow is the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting

Orange County Rezoning Approval Process

Orange County Rezoning Approval Process

Tomorrow is the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting that is another milestone for the Lake Pickett Text Amendment Applications.  You can view the agenda here: Planning and Zoning Commission – June 18, 2015 Agenda.  While this meeting does not decide the fate of the applications, it most certainly carries weight.  The commission can approve or deny the applications based solely on consistency with the Comprehensive Plan.  If the applications are approved, the next step will be a hearing in front of the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) who will either approve or deny “TRANSMITTAL”.  This is not the end game, in fact, it is only just another milestone.

If the Planning and Zoning Commission denies the applications on the basis of non-consistency with the Comprehensive Plan then the applicants have the option of appealing the ruling and can go in front of the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) who will make the final determination or they can redesign and resubmit or they can abandon the applications.

The vote by the BCC on July 28th is only for “TRANSMITTAL”.  This means the real work begins.  It means the BCC approved the applications provided many criteria are met by different agencies.  Agencies such as St. Johns river Management, FDOT and many more.  The applicant will have to satisfy all of the criteria and then go before the Planning and Zoning Committee and Board of County Commissioners once again for approval.

This phase is called “ADOPTION” and is where the most time and money is spent.  If Commissioner Edwards is not satisfied with the agreements reached with the applicants during this phase, the applications will most likely not survive.  I believe the fate of these applications lie not only in the will of the people but a plan that will fix the roads.  There would be no sense in approving these developments and leave the roads in the state they are in now or worse.  The only reason to proceed forward with the applications is if there would be a positive impact to the area.



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Orange County Community Meeting

6/4/2015 – What I thought of the 3rd Lake Pickett Meeting

This is what I wrote on Facebook.  See below what I wanted to write.


All I heard was make the developers go away. It seems that contempt for developers, county staff and our elected officials has superseded common sense.

For a minute, let’s pretend the developers don’t exist and they are not part of our traffic problem so get the signs that say 15,000 more cars on the road out of your head.

I don’t think anyone will say that traffic is fine. Traffic is bad and will only get worse. We have been complaining about it for years, right?

We have been concerned over police, fire and EMT response time. Concerned with long commute times that will only get worse. Concerned about school buses getting kids to school safely. When did all that evaporate and traffic is no longer a concern?

At the meeting I heard, go away, we are fine out here. Everyone has been so worked up over these developments that we have lost sight of the problem. Think about this instead. Renzo Nastasi, the traffic manager, said all the roads will fail by 2030 with red lines on every road, right? McCulloch, N. Tanner, Lake Pickett, S. Tanner, 419, Hwy 50 and Woodbury. The county must fix failing roads. It is their job whether we like it or not. And just fixing Hwy 50 is not going to work. The traffic on the county roads is here to stay. I think once we accept that cold hard fact, then we can move forward.

Do you really think 6 laning Hwy 50 is going to make all the traffic problem go away?
Do you think the county can let these roads fail?
Do you really think that they are just going to go away and let us live in this traffic nightmare?

I challenge everyone reading this to think clearly and try to help solve the problem. This is your time to provide input because there will come a time when it will be fixed regardless of what anyone thinks. The county has to do its job, they have to maintain the roads to a standard and trust me when I say, they will come in and 4 lane roads to provide more capacity for cars to move.


Traffic is here to stay and it is the county’s job to ensure we have an infrastructure in place to move transit.

In my next post I will tell you my view of the developers and where they fit in my head.

This is what I wrote first.  I think it is far more entertaining but a bit over the top so I will keep it buried down here for posterity sake.

The Lake Pickett Community meeting was a runaway freight train fueled by a mob ramped up with false pre-programmed images of disingenuous developers and untrustworthy government officials whose sole intent is to steal the rural area.  The tone of a meeting was set when the first speaker approached the mic and continued throughout the night with ranting, raving, heckling and cheering and doing all kinds of things 19 years olds high on pot would do at a Metallica concert.  We might as well have been in Baltimore a few weeks ago the way this crowd acted.  The tone was set long before walking into the room.  As soon as I left my house heading to the meeting I was greeted by propaganda signs littered everywhere attempting to instill fear in my heart.  15,000 more cars on the road they read.

Anyone who might have said anything in favor of these developments probably thought twice about speaking in front of this contentious pack of rowdies.  A couple of people tried and were heckled back into their seats.  This wasn’t a community meeting.  It was a rant where adrenaline and emotion ruled logic and reason.

This was a sorry display of humanity.  It was just short of a reversion to pitchforks and lynch mobs.  Some even resorted to personal attacks on our elected official by trying to use political affiliation and where the person lived against the man while many attacked a county employee and one blatantly called him a liar.

And all for what.  Nothing because the future is here.  What do you think is going to happen?  Do you really think with traffic this bad the county is going to just walk away and leave the roads as they are today?  Sorry, folks, it is way too late for that.  The chickens are lose and running amuck and you aren’t getting them back in the coop.  As much as you want to warp back 20 years and stop change from happening the future is here.  How can I be so sure?  Level of Service (LOS), that’s how.  Everyone was too busy trying to find thing to attack in Renzo’s presentation no one bothered to try to understand what Renzo was trying to say.  Let me say it very clearly.  With OR WITHOUT these developments by 2030 ALL THESE ROAD ARE RED, overcapacity, too many cars, gridlock, nowhere to go, stuck in traffic …….. BELOW THE REQUIRED LOS.  Should I go on, how clear can I make this?  THE COUNTY ISN’T ALLOWED to let the roads drop below a certain LOS.  It is not the county’s choice to make.  While everyone is beating their chests like a bunch of drunk gorillas, the county is doing the job we are paying them to do and getting flogged at the whipping post for doing it.  You can be mad at me, unlike me on Facebook or whatever you want to do but someone has to stand up and tell you the cold hard facts.  Traffic is at a point where it must be fixed and the county is going to fix it with OR WITHOUT these developments. THEY HAVE TO!  It may not be next year or the year after that but before 2030 these roads will be fixed and planning has or will start soon if it hasn’t already.  The developers make it easier because they help fund it.  But come hell or high water, these roads will be fixed.  You can take that to the bank.

One more thing, this mob mentality isn’t going to get away with this down at the chambers.  This ranting and raving is not allowed.  They don’t even allow cheers.  Fair warning.




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