I got a call from the Anjali Vaya campaign informing me of a concern regarding Mike Miller and his vote on HB-883.
Remember HB-883. That’s the horrible, backdoor bill that almost became law which would have allowed urban development within 3 miles of any state university. It would have been the death knell for both the rural areas in Seminole and Orange Counties. Read about HB-883 here.
Mike Miller is the newcomer to the Orange County District 5 Commission race. We don’t know too much about him yet but according to WikiPedia, he served two terms in the Florida House of Representatives from 2014 to 2018. That was the same time HB-883 came up for a vote. He voted in favor of HB-883. That is cause of concern to any who live in East Orange County as well as East Seminole County because our rural areas are so closely connected. What happens in Seminole County directly affects Orange County.
On March 6th, 2018, Martin Comas wrote an article in the Orlando Sentinel that reads,
“Central Florida politicians are joining environmentalists and residents in opposing a fast-changing bill working its way through the Legislature that would do away with rural protections on land within three miles of a state university, including University of Central Florida. That means most land in Seminole County east of the environmentally-sensitive Econlockhatchee River — which has been mostly protected from high-density development after a countywide referendum — would be open to thousands of new rooftops, according to the latest amendments tacked onto the bill Tuesday.”
The article also says, “Constantine said former state Rep. Chris Dorworth, now a real-estate investor from Lake Mary, told him he has a contract to purchase nearly 700 acres of farmland in Seminole’s rural protection area and bordered by the Econ River, County Road 419, the Orange County line and Riverwoods Trail. He said he suspects Dorworth is pushing for the bill’s amendments.”
Anjali Vaya is running for the District 5 Commissioner seat against the incubent, Emily Bonilla and her opponent, Mike Miller. Anjali Vaya has not taken money from developers. Bonilla, who touts herself to be the defender of the rural area has taken $2,000 from Chris Dorworth as well as $3,000 from a developer connected to the “The Grow”. And just recently she received $2,000 from companies owned by John Miklos who owns environmental firms that worked for the River Cross development as well a Sustany. Bonilla has had harsh words for these contributors so why is she taking money from people she so strongly opposed? In fact, before she was a commissioner, she was a party to the lawsuit against Orange County of which “The Grow” was involved.
Orange County District 5 is a non-partisan race or it is supposed to be anyway. But that didn’t stop a Soros backed Democratic PAC. In an article on November 30th, Scott Powers wrote in FLAPOL, “United For Progress spent $96,360 directly to back Bonilla”. Will a SuperPAC swoop in at the last minute to help save her as they did in 2016. According to the Campaign Finance reports, Bonilla is almost out of money. She has total contributions of $68k but has spent $54k. Only 14k in the coffers. Is that why she is accepting money from people she has opposed in the past? Is she compromised?
East Orange County has a huge rural area presence that must be protected. We want commissioners who see the value in that protection and will honor the rural boundaries in both Orange and Seminole County. We also need balance and a commissioner who will work for the entire district, not just one side or the other.
Mike Miller needs to explain his vote on HB-883 to the residents of East Orange County and Bonilla needs to explain why she is taking contributions from people she is diametrically opposed.
I agree likability is a major factor in getting things done at the regional level and agree Bonilla’s fellow commissioners shut her out. I also agree they don’t like working with her.
But I disagree that they shut her out on this issue simply because they don’t like working with her. Bonilla likes to throw out absurd and impossible ideas without thinking them through or understanding the repercussions of the action then asks for a vote. Due process is a concept that Bonilla just doesn’t understand.
Here’s what happened:
She came to the board on June 23rd and gave a 25 minute presentation then asked the board to approve a public hearing for July 7th and direct staff to publicize the meeting which would be for the purpose of drafting a rent stabilization ordinance and ballot language that would go on the ballot for residents to vote on in November. She thinks the county, in just two weeks, has time to write a legal ballot initiative, notify the public and have enough conversation to draft an ordinance? Can you imagine the outcry from the public for pushing through a ballot initiative in two weeks without proper notice.
And the only way this is possible is if the board finds the housing emergency so grave as to constitute a serious menace to the general public. The county attorney said that they would have to do research to make sure there is a housing emergency so grave as to constitute a serious menace to the general public. The attorney could not estimate the time it would take to thoroughly research the issue but did indicate it could not be done in 2 weeks. The attorney cautioned that the ballot initiative would have to be able to be defended if someone sued the county. The attorney also mentioned that a similar ordinance by the City of Miami was invalidated so he would have to do the research to find out why.
Here’s what the other commissioners had to say:
Commissioner Siplin said she was hesitant to move forward until she has more dialog and doesn’t know if this situation rises to the level of a rent freeze.
Commissioner Vanderley pointed out that passing this will have a detrimental effect on affordable housing as less housing will be available. She also questioned if rental rates were rising during this pandemic. She was not in favor.
Commissioner Moore said she is not in support as she doesn’t see rents rising and would like to hear what the Housing Task Force recommends before rushing into this.
Commissioner Uribe said she has more questions than answers and she needs much more information as well as a concern over the legalities.
Commissioner Gomez-Corero said she wanted to see if there were any other avenues that could be taken but did support the initiative.
Mayor Demings said he did not hear a consensus that the commissioners supported the initiative. At this time, Bonilla tried to jump in and the mayor had to remind her he was speaking. He also noted that the time for submitting ballot initiatives was June 12th which had passed. The mayor said he felt as though the board was being asked to rush through something without proper process and being heard from all sides. The mayor also pointed out that landlords have expenses too and it is not all one sided. The mayor said he is not supportive of the initiative. He said he would never want to rush something to the ballot and compared it to the transportation tax that had hundreds of meeting and communication to the public and would never entertain something like this in a time frame of two weeks with no communication to the public.
After all that, Bonilla made a motion to have a discussion on July 7th. She knew 5 commissioner were not in favor yet chose to make the motion. The vote was 5-2; motion failed. I believe all the commissioners care deeply for the residents of Orange County and being forced to vote NO on an issue like this doesn’t sit well. I don’t think Bonilla understands what she did. Something like this puts the commissioners on the spot and forces them to take a stand on an issue where their only option was to vote NO given the circumstances.
We need a commissioner that has the respect of the other commissioners and can get things done. After reading this, does anyone still wonder why “they don’t like working with her”?
The Seminole County Board of County Commissioner race is heating up and the field is becoming packed. Two new faces have joined the race against Bob Dallari and Lee Constantine. Coincidence or by design?
Let’s start with the District 1 race. In Seminole County, party matters. Orange County is non-partisan so everyone regardless of party affiliation face off against each other. In Seminole County District 1, the candidates were Bob Dallari (Republican) and Katrina Shadix (Democrat).
If this race was between the two candidates, the race would have been decided in November but now that Matt Morgan (Republican) has entered the race, Bob Dallari will face Matt Morgan in the primaries on August 18th and the winner will go on against Katrina Shadix in November.
You may remember that Bob Dallari voted against River Cross which if built would have broken the rural boundary in Seminole County and given a reason for the Sustany developers to re-apply in Orange County. Bob Dallari also seconded the motion by Lee Constantine voting down Chris Dorworth’s bid to swap the Econ River Wilderness Area with the River Cross land east of the Econ. Chris Dorworth has made it clear that he will do whatever it takes to develop the Hi Oaks property (aka: River Cross).
I don’t know Matt Morgan but I do know Bob Dallari has shown that he values the protection of the rural area. Would Matt Morgan do the same or is he pro-development? If I lived in Seminole County and were voting in the Republican primaries, my vote would go to Bob Dallari.
District 3 looks a lot like District 1. In this District, the candidates were Lee Constantine (Republican) and Kimberly Buchkeit (Democrat). But now, Ben Paris (Republican) has entered the race. Lee Constantine will face Ben Paris in the primaries and the winner will go on against Kim Buchheit in November.
You may remember that Lee Constantine also voted against River Cross and made the motion that ended in voting down Chris Dorworth’s bid to swap the Econ River Wilderness Area with the River Cross land east of the Econ.
I don’t know Ben Paris but I do know Lee Constantine is unwavering in his protection of the rural area and has proven himself time and time again as a champion of natural lands. Would Ben Paris do the same or would it be a vote for the developer? If I lived in Seminole County and were voting in the Republican primaries, my vote would go to Lee Constantine.
District 5 is very crowded with 5 candidates. Two Democrats, two Republicans and a Libertarian. This is Brenda Carey’s district who is not running. Brenda Carey was the sole vote opposed to throwing out the Econ River Wilderness Area swap. It is hard to understand why she voted against all other commissioners. It would be nice to know which of these candidates are friendly to the rural area and which are pro-development.
This race is extremely important as a change in commissioners could mean disaster for the rural area. If pro-development candidates are elected, one of the first person knocking on their door will be Chris Dorworth asking to eliminate the rural boundary. We just can’t let that happen.
And for those of us in Orange County, if the Hi Oaks land is developed at the density the concept plan showed for River Cross, you can rest assured the next property that will be developed will be Sustany just south in Orange County.
In a previous post, Mr. Dorworth engaged in conversation and made some comments. I appreciated the dialog. Instead of continuing the dialog on that post, I decided to post this.
Mr. Dorworth said,
“Don’t know who you are”.
I’ve been involved with all the massive development east of the Econ for about 10-12 years and been writing about it for about 6 years. My initial focus was strictly traffic, hence the name FixMyRoadway. That view has changed over the years as I understand more about this area and as a result FixMyRoadway has morphed too. FixMyRoadway is now focused on traffic but also environmental concerns in our area. Also, FixMyRoadway was focused on just Orange County but because similar issues are appearing in Seminole County, FixMyRoadway has expanded to cover East Seminole County.
Did you know there is such a thing as the Geneva bubble? Did you know that the Econ is the 3rd most pristine river in Florida? Who would have thought we are living right in the middle of environmental wonders?
Mr. Dorworth said,
“As to why I am so resolute to get this wrong righted, an elected government forced down the value of a piece of land by an illegal and arbitrary boundary conceived of by a man who profits from the existence of that line and that I am committed to getting HI Oaks out of the rural and area to get a truly fair hearing.”
I asked Mr. Dorworth how a person can profit from the rural boundary line and wasn’t given an answer.
I think we all hold property rights sacred and believe people should have control over their property but even property owners have to abide by the rules set in place by county commissioners and in some cases at the ballot box. I live in a HOA. Can you imagine if I said I didn’t know a new amendment was put in place and came back years later and said I wanted to be excluded. I can scream and yell all day long and it won’t change the fact that the amendment is there especially if I was given a choice to opt out. Sure, I can go ask them for a variance but if they say no, I have to live with that.
I can’t speak to the claim that the Hi Oaks land should or shouldn’t have been in the rural boundary but today it is in the rural area and must abide by the same rules similar to what I live under in my HOA. Somewhere I heard that folks were given the option to opt in or out of the rural boundary and that’s why the line is so jagged. It seems plausible.
The Seminole County rural boundary is similar to what happened in Orange County when the rural boundary along the Econ was decided many years ago. From what I understand, land owners east of the Econ were given a one time “entitlement” which is why there are subdivisions around the Lake Pickett area that aren’t rural. Some landowner east of the Econ did not elect the entitlement and now find themselves in a similar situation as Hi Oaks.
I’m confused and have to ask. How could the owners not know about the rural boundary when it was being formed? Wasn’t it on the ballot and wasn’t there talk about it while it was being debated? It had to be big news at the time and there must have been articles in the paper about it as well as community meetings. It is puzzling.
Mr. Dorworth said:
“I am interested in getting Seminole County into the economic development engine of UCF”
(FYI: UCF is one of five economic hubs in Orange County)
One commissioner I knew had his pendulum pegged on the urban side and was hell bent on developing the rural area. Development in the right place is good and I admire developers who have the guts to take a risk and build hospitals, schools, fire stations, grocery stores, apartment building, and our homes but on the flip side when do we become good stewards of these lands we borrow for a small bit of time? Times are changing and urban sprawl is becoming a 4-letter word. Re-development is the new mantra. What is River Cross?
The Econ is the 3rd most pristine river in Florida and a person can say that development won’t contaminate it or have no impact but common sense says otherwise. How can laying all that impervious concrete help water drain into the aquifer? How can all that St. Augustine grass that must be fertilized and will end up in the storm water drains that will run into the Econ be good? How can all those people driving all those cars pumping out contaminants into the air and leaking fluids on the road that will also end up in the Econ help the environment? What about the people living downstream?
I don’t consider myself a tree-hugger (said with all affection to true environmentalists) but I’m getting closer to that club every day and hold dear those who are. I just know we don’t own this land, we just borrow it for bit and then pass it on to someone else. What do you want your legacy to be? I want to be known as just a simple guy who finally got it and didn’t sit by and watch this erosion but instead stood up and did something to make life better for the people who will borrow this land after me.
Mr. Dorworth, why not do something wonderful and ask Seminole County to pay you back your million dollars if the owners donate the land to a land trust that over time will bring it back to the pristine condition it was in 2004 by adding it to the ERWA as a conservation area that we all can enjoy. Now, that’s a legacy. I know, I know, I’m dreaming but it’s a blissful dream.
It’s happening now so pass the word. I got an email from 1000fof (1000 Friends of Florida) saying a number of bills may soon be transmitted , including the infamous SB-410 that was intended to override county oversight for a few specific development projects but will unintentionally impact planning to protect rural lands in dozens of counties across Florida. Please sign the petition if you haven’t already and send an email to the governor asking the bill be veto’d. More info on SB-410 found here.
Due to COVID-19, the Legislature has not yet transmitted many bills to Gov. DeSantis for his action. This includes SB 410 which opens up vast tracts of rural Florida lands for inappropriate development. We understand that a number of bills may soon be transmitted, including SB 410.
More than 12,000 Floridians have reached out to Gov. DeSantis to oppose SB 410 (and only a handful to support the bill), but we need to keep the pressure up. We ask you once again to urge Gov. DeSantis to VETO SB 410 by:
• Signing the petition at www.1000fof.org/veto-sb-410-petition/
• Sending an email to GovernorRon.DeSantis@eog.myflorida.com
• Calling the Governor at 850-717-9337
• Writing a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
• Sharing this request with your friends and associates
Let Governor DeSantis know that SB 410 will:
• Mandate that every local government in Florida include an unnecessary property rights element in its comprehensive plan which will be costly to prepare, create more bureaucratic red tape, and unnecessarily duplicate already-existing state and federal laws
• Undermine the authority of many county governments to protect rural areas from development, even if voters approved that protection
• Promote M-CORES by making it a higher priority to provide comprehensive planning technical assistance funding to counties with populations of less than 200,000 to determine if the area around multi-use corridor interchanges contain appropriate land uses and natural resource protection
• Allow previously approved (and built-out) developments of regional impact to be modified so that developers can exchange approved land uses outside of the DRI, undermining the initial DRI process
• Allow a party to a development agreement and a local government to amend or cancel that agreement without securing the consent of the other parcel owners whose property was subject to the agreement. This undermines the longstanding legal principle that all agreements pertaining to real property should be in writing and agreed to by all parties, in effect undermining property rights
You can find more information on SB 410 here, including veto requests from 1000 Friends and other organizations.
Let’s keep the pressure up! We appreciate whatever you can do to help.
With sincere thanks,
Policy & Planning Director
My family and I moved to Florida in 1993 and built our home in University Estates right next to UCF. Nothing was out here; we were in the “sticks” as we used to say in Wisconsin. But over the years more and more people moved in and pushed up against the rural boundary both in Orange and now in Seminole County. And developers want to jump the boundary and build in the rural area because land is cheaper there than in the urban area.
This trend will only get worse and it is not just our counties, it is happening everywhere. In the Sentinel today, Lee Constantine talks about Florida in general and what legislators are doing to destroy the environment and Jane Healy again brings up Chris Dorworth and his latest attempt to break the rural boundary.
Folks, I hate to say it but as more and more people move into Central Florida, pressure will continue to increase to build, build, build. We can fight battle after battle but when one battle is lost, the developer permanently wins. It doesn’t work the other way because developers can come back again and again. But once concrete goes down, there is no taking it out.
There are movements to put permanent protections in place. That must be the focus going forward because we can’t win every battle. Another focus must be putting people in office who understand the environmental consequences of all this development and what it means to Florida long into the future.
Reading the article in the Sentinel got my blood boiling …. again. According to the article, Mr. Dorworth has spent almost a million dollars in his efforts to get the River Cross land (High Oaks Ranch) approved. His multiple attempts to change the zoning on this property have all been turned down by the Seminole County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) yet he continues to push to have it his way.
According to the article, he opened another lawsuit against the county saying “the voter-approved charter amendment establishing the rural boundary should be tossed out because it is “vague” and “arbitrary.””
According to the article, “The county can arbitrarily and capriciously contrive whatever process it wants for considering requests.” That’s a fancy way of saying the board makes the decision on land use. I thought that was their job as that is the largest part of what their meetings are all about. That’s why there’s a Planning and Zoning committee (P&Z) that vets zoning requests before they get to the BCC and that’s why some are approved and others not. Someone has to make the decision and that falls to the county commissioners. When Mr. Dorworth purchased his option contract for the River Cross land, he knew the density was limited by the rural boundary and gambled he could get it approved.
But now again, he wants to circumvent the ruling body and force them to do his bidding and has even gone so far (according to the article) to say, “I think what they’ve done to me is malicious and capricious…. And I think that sooner or later, the rural boundary is going to be tossed out.”
No, Mr. Dorworth, all this seems to me to be self-inflicted and saying the rural boundary should be tossed out is an indicator of what you might think of the residents of Seminole County and gives us all a glimpse of your ultimate goal which seems to be to break and develop the rural area.