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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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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12/24/2015 – Rriding down McCulloch Road on the sidewalk

Some people asked why not use the sidewalk to commute by bike.

Knowing people would wonder about this, I put together this video showing riding down McCulloch Road on the sidewalk which is about as much fun as riding on the road.

This is on 12/23/2015 at 9:45 am. Our sidewalks are great for pedestrians but not so good for cycling. Especially cycling to commute. Commuters want to get where they are going fast and not be burdened trying to navigate pot holes, uneven pavement, mud, debris and especially dangerous crosswalks that requires slowing or stopping. Crosswalks are very dangerous to cyclists because drivers aren’t expecting a bike to cross. Driver are looking for cars and want to get out into the flow of traffic so sometimes a bike crossing and is not seen. Many drivers also expect the bike to stop and give way to the car. Also, most sidewalks are not wide enough for two bikes to pass safely.

We must make our roads safer for cyclists and change this culture to get people using bikes more and more to help control traffic congestion.

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12/21/2015 – Environmentally Sensitive areas and Development – Part I

East Orange County has traffic problems but it is also under increased pressure to be developed which will affect humans but also affect the environment and wildlife.

Here is a short video showing how development and roadways can impact wildlife. The video shows a discussion at the PNZ (Planning and Zoning) meeting and is not in our area but the gentleman who spoke during public comment made some very important points. This is Part I.

The followup video, Part II, will bring all these thoughts home and relate it to the environmentally sensitive area between the Econ and St. Johns. You will see it in a few days.

We need to ensure the CRC (Charter Review Committee) really understands how important this area is and why it needs to be protected. Please share this video and the followup.

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12/18/2015 – Traffic on McCulloch comparing when UCF is in session and not

Want to see what traffic looks like when UCF is in session and the day after the semester ends. This is quite interesting and should erase any question about where most of the traffic goes on McCulloch Road.

Extending Research Parkway to N. Tanner will fix this problem.

Nov 18th is no particular day. It is just a random day I decided to video and not because traffic was heavy. It was just because. Dec 16th was intentionally picked because it is the day after the semester ended. Both days were at 8 am.

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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.
  • THIS MONEY DOES NOT COME BACK TO THE DEVELOPER.
  • 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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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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Planning and Zoning

6/17/2015 – Email supporting Lake Pickett Applications

Below is the email I wrote to the Planning and Zoning Commission in support of the Lake Pickett Applications.

From: rj@rjmueller.net [mailto:rj@rjmueller.net]
Sent: Monday, June 15, 2015 8:54 PM
To: Olan Hill (Olan.Hill@ocfl.net); ‘district5@ocfl.net’
Cc: ‘mayor@ocfl.net’; ‘district1@ocfl.net’; ‘district2@ocfl.net’; ‘district3@ocfl.net’; ‘jennifer thompson’; ‘district6@ocfl.net’; ‘Chris.Testerman@ocfl.net’; ‘Jon.Weiss@ocfl.net’; ‘Alberto.Vargas@ocfl.net’; ‘Janna.Souvorova@ocfl.net’; ‘Blanche.Hardy@ocfl.net’; ‘Renzo.Nastasi@ocfl.net’; ‘Lynette.Rummel@ocfl.net’
Subject: Proposed Lake Pickett Development Text Amendment Applications

Mr. Hill,

Would you please forward my email on to the members of the Local Planning Authority in preparation for the upcoming meeting on Thursday.  This is in regards to the Lake Pickett property applications.

I am stating that I am in favor of these developments with the reasons below.

This is the third attempt to develop the Lake Pickett properties.  The first time I was mostly an observer but did have the occasion to visit Mary Lamar on her property for a show and tell.  The second I was strongly opposed because there was no plan for traffic and it made no sense to put homes on the properties without a plan for the roadways.  This time I am strongly in favor of the Lake Pickett developments because a plan is in motion to responsibly develop these properties while at the same time fix the traffic issues.  There are many others who feel the same way and live in my community of University Estates and the surrounding communities.  This is evidenced by the number of likes and reads of posts on the Facebook website I created at http://www.facebook.com/fixmyroadway and my blog site at http://www.fixmyroadway.com.

  • I believe these developments are compatible and consistent with the comprehensive plan.
  • I believe the agreements that will be forged after transmittal will establish a wise plan on how these properties will be developed as well as protect the rights of the residents who live in the area.
  • I believe these developments will cement in stone no commercial or high density housing on S. Tanner Road giving the residents who live there the rural lifestyle they now enjoy.
  • The same is true for Lake Pickett Road and 419 north of Lake Pickett Road also giving the residents who live there the rural lifestyle they now enjoy.
  • I believe these developments will stop the uncontrolled spread of urban sprawl to this area through responsible development using the latest Transect development techniques being used by Orange County.
  • There has been talk about these developments being urban sprawl.  I believe it will be urban sprawl if these properties are developed individually and without a global plan as is being proposed this time.  If these applications are denied, urban sprawl will continue as it has with haphazard small developments and Orange County forced to approve in the name of consistency and compatibility.  Eventually Lake Pickett will be developed.  This may be the only opportunity to plan the whole area as one and truly have responsible planned development.
  • I believe these concepts will promote walk-able communities that are also in close proximity to one of Orlando’s five economic hubs and if the roads are planned right these communities will be in commuting range by cyclists to UCF and Research Park reducing energy consumption.
  • Regarding traffic, I believe the money these developments will provide coupled with the recent announcement of 200 million in transportation funding by Orange County will empower Orange County to make the necessary improvements to the roads so needed in East Orange County.  It will literally erase the neglect from the past and put a plan in motion to fix these roads.  Even with the money Orange County is borrowing, it alone will not be enough to make all the necessary improvements.  This holds true for the money from the developers.  That money is not enough but put both sources together there could be enough to get us where we need to be.   This is exactly the plan we need.
  • I want to make this point very clear seeing there are signs all over the place frightening people with the thought of 15,000 more cars on the road.  I am OK with 15,000 more cars if they can get to their destinations faster and safely.  I am NOT OK with even one more car on the road with the current traffic congestion.  I feel people out here have been ramped up using traffic as the hot button.  And it has worked.  Everyone is fine tuned to the traffic issues as evidenced by the last community meeting.   We all want the roads fixed.  I don’t think anyone will disagree with that and say they don’t want the roads fixed.  This is one point that everyone is in agreement.  This is the golden opportunity to fix the roads.
  • But the residents also don’t want changes to the rural character of the area.  I understand the fear of losing a way of life.  I think if done right these people will have their way of life.  Here is a little story to bring this to life.  My property backs up to UCF property.  My house is one of the closest to a 45,000 capacity football stadium.  But walking out my back yard and looking towards the stadium, I might as well be in the middle of Lake Pickett.  All I see are trees.  I don’t know that a gigantic stadium is there and I certainly don’t know there are building upon building on a campus that holds 61,000 students.  But it is there and it is about ¼ mile from my house.  I believe LPS and LPN have listened to the residents and have placed buffers and large lots on S. Tanner, Lake Pickett and 419 and when complete, the residents who live there will not even know there is a community inside the property.  The alternative is to piecemeal the property with many small applications submitted to planning and who knows what could happen.  There might even be a strip mall on S. Tanner as there is right behind O’Berry Hoover  Road.  I think they call it “Waterford Lakes”.  This is the time to do this right and plan this community as one.
  • I also believe these planned developments will allow the county to more easily control the environmental impact to the community and protect the Econ basin again through responsible planned development.  Again, small developments cannot possible be controlled as easily as one very large one.

Please approve these applications to move through transmittal so East Orange County can move forward and close this chapter on the Lake Pickett properties and also begin the road repairs we so desperately need in East Orange County.

Sincerely,

RJ Mueller

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Orange County Community Meeting

5/27/2015 – Setting Expectations

In a few short days the 3rd and final Lake Pickett Community meeting will be held. This one is to wrap up the meetings so Orange County staff can prepare to present to the LPA (Local Planning Agency) and following that the BCC (Board of County Commissioners).

The meeting is at Corner Lakes Middle School on June 2nd at 6:30 pm.  

Please attend.

This meeting is important because Orange County staff will again take notes of comments, suggestions and concerns from residents. This information is used when they prepare their presentation to the LPA (Local Planning Agency) and BCC (Board of County Commissioners).  We have been told there will be a discussion on traffic which is the primary concern of most people who live in this area.

I am very concerned about traffic.  Every time I go down McCulloch and think what it will be in 10 years if nothing is done to fix it, I feel saddened and dismayed.  This goes for N. Tanner, Lake Pickett, S. Tanner, 419 and Hwy 50 as well.

Here are some facts for you to consider:

  • FACT: If the Lake Pickett properties are denied, there will be no fixes to any roads except Hwy 50 from Dean to Old Cheney which is underway now.
  • FACT: HWY 50 is a state FDOT (Federal Department of Transportation) project, not county.
  • FACT: The HWY 50 section from Old Cheney to 520 is on the FDOT project chart but is not funded.  It will be many years before it is funded with money from the Federal Highway Trust Fund.
  • FACT: The county has very little money to build roads.
  • FACT: MetroPlan just passed a motion to reallocate up to 30% of money now used for roads into mass transit (buses, Sunrail) starting in 2020.  If money is diverted there is less money for roads.  Money comes from the Federal Highway Trust Fund
  • FACT: 18.4 cents of every dollar at the pump goes into a Federal Highway Trust Fund which filters down to the state and county to pay for roads.
  • FACT: The Federal Highway Trust Fund is in trouble.  Here is the most blunt phrase in this article: “But the fund is nearly broke.”  Read here: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-highway-trust-fund-20150520-story.html
  • FACT: The county relies on Road Agreements with developers to build and improve road.
  • FACT: The county is relying very heavily on the Lake Pickett developers to pay for a very large portion of the roadway improvements.
  • FACT: Many of the county roads are failing or will fail in the near future.  Meaning the roads are over-capacity.
  • FACT: None of the roads in this area are on the county’s project chart so it will be many many years before anything is improved
  • FACT: Regardless of these developments, more traffic will come to our roadways and the problem will get worse.
  • FACT: At some point these properties will be developed.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you want the roads fixed?
  • Do you want the area to stay rural and nothing done to the roads?
  • Do you want to see our traffic problem get worse and worse over time?

I can’t answer these questions for you, all I can do is impart knowledge I have that has been gathered over years of research on this subject.  Personally, at this meeting I want to hear what the county and developers have to say.  I want to see what can be done to fix these roads.  I want to see the impact the developments will have on the area and if there is a way to work together to solve the problems.  I think we are moving in the right direction.  There have been many meetings and phone calls to make this work and solve our traffic problem keeping the way of life of the residents in the forefront.

Here are some examples of gains over the last months:

  • The developers reduced the housing densities
  • Lake Pickett road has been buffered to be rural in nature
  • The Seminole County line has a 400 ft buffer and low density housing
  • S. Tanner has buffers with one acre lots and no lots will exit onto S. Tanner.  the lots have the same width as the lots across the street.
  • In LPS (Lake Pickett South) densities are highest along Hwy 50 and in the center of the properties away from the county roads.  There will be no apartments on the property.
  • In LPN (Lake Pickett North) densities are highest at the center.  There will be only residential homes with no commercial or apartments allowed.
  • The rights of citizens living in the area are foremost in the minds of the developers and county
  • The county has revised the amendment several times based on input from residents – still in draft now
  • A bright light is on this area and we are forefront in the minds of the county and other agencies.  We have focus now.

I feel the only way we will fix this problem is to find a way to work together to solve it.  Just saying no does not provide solutions.  We are in a situation that requires compromise and a give and take on all sides if this problem is to be solved.  All I ask is you come to this meeting with an open mind and willingness to listen.  If this meeting is promising, I would like to see the process move forward to the next step where the real work begins.  The BCC vote on July 28th is for “Transmittal” which only means it has promise.  The second BCC (Board of County Commissioners) vote late in the year is for “Adoption” which is the final vote.  But in between there is a myriad of hurdles that have to be crossed and the primary one being the Roadway Agreement.  This could all fall apart if the county and developers cannot come to an agreement.  Believe me when I say this.  If Commissioner Edwards has a hard choice making a motion for “Transmittal”, he will have an even harder choice making a motion for “Adoption”.  I believe he will be working very hard to make sure this will work because our future depends on it.  I think this just might be the hardest decision he will have to make in all the years he has served a a commissioner and I for one will be praying for him to make wise, thoughtful and good decisions.

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Traffic in East Orange County

5/13/2015 – Some crystal ball stuff about traffic

At the May 12th meeting I heard a lot of people asking a lot of questions about traffic so I thought I would write a blog of what I know.  Here it is in no priority order and completely random as thoughts come to my mind.  Let me put a disclaimer on all of these comments as they are just my comments and only educated guesses so if it doesn’t turn out like this, it is only my best guess.  It will be interesting to look back in 6 months and see how close I came to the mark.  But if you want to know what I know, read on.

South Lake Pickett Farm SKetch

South Lake Pickett Farm SKetch

Will the developments be built?

There is no crystal ball but I do know this.  I have watched countless hours of video from the BCC (Board of County Commissioner)  meetings and they always make very thoughtful votes and in favor of the majority. I can almost tell you how each board member will vote based on how they have voted in the past.  If there is an overwhelming number of people against this development, I will go out on a limb and say that Commissioner Edwards will not support the developments and most likely the other commissioners and mayor will vote in sync.  I have seen some very gut wrenching and difficult votes that had to be made and saw all kinds of emotion from the commissioners and mayor.  Emotions like sadness, anger, frustration, empathy, regret, and joy too.  My personal feeling is these men and women try to do what is best for us, the residents.

The process goes like this.  When a rezoning is in front of the BCC, the commissioner from that district is responsible for making the motion and is then seconded by another member and then a vote is taken.  In this case, Commissioner Edwards, our commissioner in District 5, will be asked to make the motion as this is in District 5 and he is the commissioner who initiates the vote.  I don’t know what he is thinking right now but if I were in his shoes seeing the tone at the meetings and the situation traffic is in right now, at this moment I could not support the developments and would make a motion against.  Who can tell what the next few weeks will bring.  These developments hinge on traffic and a solution to the problem and enough money from the developments to help fix traffic.  If there is a solution to traffic as residents are most concerned about then it might move forward.  Commissioner Edwards is well aware of this and I am confident will make the right decision when the time comes.

What is the county staff role in the application process?

I have had a lot of interaction with county staff through emails, phone calls and meetings.  I find the staff to be very customer oriented, very professional, courteous and willing to help in any way.  The staff have a very difficult job in my opinion.  Whatever they feel inside, they must remain neutral.  The application process is defined by law and no one in the county has the option to deny an application from going through the defined process.  If the applicant wants to take it all the way to the BCC for a vote they have that option.  The staff can recommend denial but in the end the BCC makes the decision.  If the staff recommends transmittal then it is purely based on consistency with the Comprehensive Plan.  The staff looks at a boat load of criteria that has to be met and if every one is checked off then they find the application consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and will recommend transmittal.  Recommending transmittal means it will go before the BCC for a vote for transmittal.  This means the applications can move to the next step which is Adoption.  If I were to sum up the role of the Orange County staff, it would be this statement that was told to me by one of the county staff.  She said, “we are the guardians of the residents”.  I liked that and I do believe this is their function and their job.  I will say that the signing of the bill by the governor in 2011 made their job much harder and easier for developers to get developments through the system.  But in the end they have to perform their job as defined and required by law.

Will the Woodbury extension be built?

Good question. First, only if the developments are approved.  Without developer money it will never be built because the county doesn’t have the money to build it.  Let’s establish that fact first.  In fact if the developments are not approved you can say goodbye to any road improvements whatsoever as there is no money for road improvements and our roads are not even on the project chart or way down the list.  And with this recent vote at MetroPlan, it will be even harder to get funding.  Watch the video above to get the details.

Woodbury extension

Woodbury extension

The Woodbury extension is a new road that would go from the corner of Lake Pickett and Percival over to Woodbury and Challenger Pkwy.  I think there is a very slim chance this will occur even if the developments are approved.  This is based on a couple of facts.  Eminent Domain would have to be used to buy houses and property to build the road.  This is very expensive and a ball park estimate would be something around 20+ million for this road which includes buying property.  I seriously doubt there is enough money being contributed by the applicants to pay for this road as well as all the other improvements necessary  Let’s add things up.  20 million for Woodbury, 15 million for Lake Pickett, 10 million for 419, 10 million for McCulloch.  We are at 55 million and that doesn’t even touch Hwy 50 which is a state road.  Originally the developers were going to put in about 55 million but that was at higher densities than they have now so let’s say at the density they have now I would estimate 35 million.  There is just not enough money to do all the work that needs to be done.  Seeing Woodbury is so expensive and this idea very much disliked by the residents, I would think it might go by the wayside but the traffic presentation in a couple of weeks should reveal what the most likely course will be.

Will McCulloch be 4 laned?

McCulloch is a hot potato.  It is on then it is off.  About 15-20 years ago the county was going to 4 lane McCulloch from Dean all the way over to N. Tanner but the residents close to McCulloch and Rouse raised such a fuss that it was killed and in fact put on a “do not touch” list forever.  It is still on the list even though it is on another list that says it should be 4 laned.  As of right now it is untouchable.  It will not be improved in any way.  I can say for sure that the bridge across the Econ will not happen any time soon.  That has been verified many times by county staff, our commissioner, the developers and just about anyone else I ask.  That is off the table for now.  But 4 laning McCulloch from Lockwood to N. Tanner is sort of on and off.  Right now it is a no go but may be back on the table with the traffic study that is underway now.  In any case, we will know soon enough what the recommendation will be when Orange County staff completes their study.  My best guess will be it will be 4 laned.

Will Lake Pickett be 4 laned?

Again, it depends on if these developments go in.  If the developments don’t happen, forget it.  There is no money to do it.  If the developments go in then my very clear vision tells me it will be 4 laned as shown on the diagram above.  It has to be to support the traffic from LPN.  There is just no other way to move traffic effectively to the west from LPN.

 Will 419 be 4 laned?

Again, it depends on if these developments go in.  If the developments don’t happen, forget it.  There is no money to do it.  But as Renzo Nastasi said in the May 12th meeting, it will only be 4 laned from Lake Pickett to Hwy 50.  It will not be 4 laned from Lake Pickett to the county line.

Will Hwy 50 be 6 laned?

In time regardless of the developments.  Construction is already underway from Dean to Old Cheney which also includes the bridge across the Econ.  The bridge will be stripped for 4 lanes but will be built to handle 6 lanes so when the time comes it is ready.  From Old Cheney to 520 is on the books to be done but currently unfunded so without these developments it is a long way off but at some point will be done.  LPS has said they will front the money to 6 lane Hwy 50 from Old Cheney to 419 to accommodate their development.  When I say front I mean loan the money to the state which will be paid back at some future date.

Will traffic ever be fixed out here?

My crystal ball tells me no in no uncertain terms if the developments are killed.  If the developments do go in then it is questionable if there will be enough money to really make a difference.  Again, we need to wait for the traffic study in a couple weeks.  The cold hard facts are that Orange County doesn’t have any money to fix the roads and are turning to the only source they can to get money to build roads which is developers.  Here is how it works whether we like it or not and when I say we I mean everyone including Orange County staff, the BCC and even the developers themselves.  In this case the developers are being squeezed for every dollar that can possible come from them because Orange County knows how bad our traffic problem is and wants to fix it.

With the MetroPlan Board vote explained above we are in for a hard road.  The only other option is a tax.  Usually this is a 1 cent tax for a period of time but there are issues that go along with this.  The biggest one being trust.  If the taxes are collected how do we know our roads will be fixed and not spent on another part of the county.  And politicians know they are not very popular and have traditionally shied away from this tax.  It may be our only option out of this but it must be done in such a way that the roads the taxes are used on are clearly defined.

What does Seminole County think of all this?

Seminole County is very concerned with these developments.  They want to remain rural in this area.  There was a request by Seminole County to enter into a joint agreement of some sort with Orange County that did not materialize.  View this video with Brenda Carey who is one of the Commissioners from Seminole County speaking about this at the Expressway Authority meeting.  I think it sums up what Seminole County is thinking.

Orange County Comprehensive Plan Amendment Schedule

Orange County Comprehensive Plan Amendment Schedule

What happens on July 28th?

Maybe nothing if the deadline for the traffic study is not met.  You can see the timeline on the right.  We are in the community meeting part of the process and there is a traffic study from LPS that Orange County (OC) is waiting for.  If the traffic study doesn’t come in time, there is a chance this will have to be pushed off to the next cycle.  I don’t think LPS wants to wait so they will do all they can to get the traffic study to OC.  But then staff has to review both LPN and LPS traffic studies and combine them into their traffic study to see if they can work.  If they don’t feel it can adequately accomodate the traffic problems then they won’t recommend transmittal.  This doesn’t mean the applications won’t go forward.  The applicant themselves can force them forward without the consent of OC staff.  If that happens the applications go to the LPA (Local Planning Agency) for review and approval or denial to go to the BCC.  Even if the LPA denies the applications they can proceed to the BCC for approval or denial.  The BCC can then approve or deny the applications for transmittal and this happens on July 28th.

Application Process

Application Process

What is transmittal?

Transmittal means the applications can enter the Adoption phase where the real work begins.  This is where all of the different agencies get involved to ensure the developments meet their requirements.  This includes agencies such as OCPS, Police, Fire, St. Johns and a myriad of other agencies.  Each agency will look at the developments and make comments in their area of expertise.  These comments go to staff and are compiled for the second go around. More community meetings but with much more detail and another vote by the BCC at a future date.

I hope this gives you some idea of what is going to happen and standing up in a meeting and just saying we don’t want these developments is not quite so simple.  What is being heard is you want things to stay the same and you don’t want traffic fixed.  That is what will happen.  Orange County will hear loud and clear that you don’t want the developments and therefore you don’t want the traffic fixed. I don’t think that is what most people really want but that will be the end result, no fix for traffic.

I am just looking at this in a very pragmatic way.  I am not behind the developer or the county or the residents or a faction such as SOC who strictly wants no change to the area which translates to no change to the roads.  If that is what you want then be content sitting in traffic and be prepared to sit longer and longer as each day passes and the years go by.  If you want traffic fixed then think about what has been written in this post.

My position is this.  If these developers can help solve our traffic problem with the county and perhaps some other innovative ideas then I am all for and even a one cent gas tax if that means fixing our roads.  But if these developments only add more traffic to our already congested roads then it is not a good option.  I will trust the traffic experts at Orange County to come up with the right answers and do what they are supposed to do which is work for us.

I will be posting an email I sent to Orange County with a plan that I think will work.  Keep in mind I am not a traffic expert and am only looking at this from what I know.  I have already received some not so positive feedback on my ideas but that is exactly what we need to hear, the truth.  We need to know what we are up against so we can work to fix it.

If you got down this far in this blog it must mean you are interested enough in these issues. I would encourage everyone to go to this next meeting with an open mind and not look on anyone as “the bad guy”. I think we are all in this together and it is together that we will come to a solution.

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