Orange County Government

2/26/2015 – Email to Mayor Jacobs and Commissioners

Mayor Jacobs and Commissioners,

Community meeting - Woodbury and Hwy 50

Community meeting – Woodbury and Hwy 50

On 2/25/2014 I attended a community meeting hosted by the planning department and District 4 regarding a rezoning on the corner of Woodbury and Hwy 50 from commercial to apartments.

Why should I care about a rezoning from commercial to 200+ apartments seeing I don’t live close by the property or travel the roads immediately around them? I care because of the trend that has formed over many years in East Orange County. Developments are allowed to be built without regard for the overall traffic issues in the area and the developer is only required to pay for their impact to the roads even if the road has already failed. I understand that there are other factors that come into play such as the 2011 law but I also know there are ways to develop responsibly and we must find a way to break this ever repeating trend.

We were actually told at the meeting by the developer in a very forward way that if Orange County tried to stop this development from going in based on traffic, there would be lawsuits against the county due to state bill 360 that was passed in 2011. When I expressed concern over traffic in the entire area, I was brought back in line and told that this was about this property and not the entire area. I had to state that this was a community meeting and we, the residents, were there to express our feelings and traffic in the entire area is our concern and this development will impact the overall traffic and add to the problem. Yes, the community meeting was about this property but it will affect everyone in the area who drives on Hwy 50 and only add to an already exasperated situation.

Community meeting - Woodbury and Hwy 50

Community meeting – Woodbury and Hwy 50

I understand that this property in all likelihood will be approved but this one single property is not the main issue. The issue is what has happened to East Orange County and what will happen as more and more of this occurs. If the roads were adequate and not failing, I wouldn’t care if this property was rezoned but it is the situation we have that makes it important.

I also know that the two properties on Lake Pickett are much different than this property. Traffic issues can prevent these properties from being developed because they require a change to the Comprehensive Plan and FLUM. We as residents are at a major disadvantage because we are not versed in all of the zoning laws and do not understand and are not educated on all this. We all work and have jobs that prevent us from really getting involved so we have to rely on you, our elected officials, to protect us. We knew there was some significance to the Comprehensive Plan but now know how ultra-important that it remain preserved. It is the only shield we have against more development which translate to more traffic. Personally, I want you to know that I am not against the developers. I like their plans and what they are proposing to do with these properties and feel I have a good relationship with both parties but we cannot rely on their money only because the traffic problem in East Orange County is far beyond their means to fix. In fact it is far beyond the county’s means to fix. This has become a regional and state problem now. If Orange County accepts the road plans proposed by the developers, the trend continues and will get worse.

Hwy 50 lights

Hwy 50 lights

The main bottleneck in East Orange County is Hwy 50 at the 408 which is Expressway Authority and a state road. The bottleneck is one mile to the east and west of the Hwy 50/408 intersection. There are eight lights in a two mile distance on Hwy 50 that slows and halts traffic so now people are choosing alternative routes to get to their destination. No matter how much money developers throw at the county roads, they cannot fix this problem. It will take the state, Expressway Authority, MetroPlan, Orange County, Seminole County, Research Park, UCF, the residents and the developers to fix this. We all have to be on the same train heading the same way. Developers can only do so much and it is simply not enough. These other organizations must also be part of the solution.

At this time, we, the residents of East Orange County, cannot allow our shield, the Comprehensive Plan and FLUM, to be changed until the traffic issues are addressed which means a fully funded traffic plan. It is our only defense against increased traffic problems and must be kept intact. I urge you to form a regional task force to focus on the traffic issues in East Orange County and come up with a regional plan to fix it long into the foreseeable future.

Please know that I and many people who live out here want to be involved and help. Please call on us to do what you need us to do to help solve this problem.

RJ Mueller

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Orange County Community Meeting

Community Meeting Alert!

Community meeting - Woodbury Apartments

Community meeting – Woodbury Apartments

There is a re-zoning application to re-zone commercial property to high density residential multi-family dwelling units on the corner of Hwy 50 and Woodbury. This means more cars on the road. Attend the meeting on 2/25 at 6pm at Lawton Chiles Elementary.

Read the details here:

http://www.orangecountyfl.net/Home/CountyCalendar.aspx…

Community Meeting Notice_2015-1-S-4-1_Woodbury Apts

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McCulloch Road

2/16/2015 – A President’s Day Observation

Traffic on McCulloch Rd

Traffic on McCulloch Rd

On my bike ride to work today along McCulloch I noticed traffic was light and then I remembered it was President’s Day, a holiday. But I think UCF still has classes. So this further confirms the suspicion that half of the traffic on McCulloch does not go to UCF but other places in the area or farther and the back roads are being used for commuter alternative roads. A while ago I stopped at the corner of Lockwood and McCulloch at the entrance to UCF and counted traffic. Almost exactly 50% of the traffic went into UCF while the rest went straight. The general feeling I get is that people think all the traffic on McCulloch is UCF but I am under the firm conviction that half goes other places perhaps to avoid the Hwy 50 congestion.

We need more lanes on Hwy 50 as well as the 408 extended to or past 520. We also need the intersection where 408 meets fixed as well as one mile to the east and west on Hwy 50 fixed. There are 8 stop lights in a 2.5 mile stretch on Hwy 50 that bottle-necks traffic forcing commuters to look for alternative routes which takes them onto the rural roads.

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Congressman John Mica

2/13/2015 – Letter to Congressman John Mica

Tonight I wrote a letter to Congressman John Mica.  Yes, a snail mail letter like in the old days.  Below is the letter I wrote and here is the word document, Congressman John Mica letter.

2/13/2014

RJ Mueller
14366 Stamford Circle
Orlando, FL 32826

Congressman John Mica
95 East Mitchell Hammock Road
Oviedo, FL 32765

Congressman Mica,

The reason for this letter is to bring to your attention the traffic issues in East Orange County.  I am sure you know something about this but I would like to explain why the situation has become increasingly worse over the last few years and ask for your support in helping raise the attention level of this issue so East Orange County receives more funding to correct the situation.

The specific area I am referring to is land east of the Econ River.  Because the Econ River is the dividing line between the Urban Service Area and the Rural Service Area, no funding has been allocated to improve any of the roadway east of the Econ River.  However, development has been allowed east of the Econ due to what are commonly referred to as “Entitlements” that were granted in 1991.  These entitlements allowed higher density sub-divisions to be built in the Rural Service Area bringing more traffic to the roadways.  Other development farther out has also increased the traffic burden.

In addition to this, two events occurred in 2005 that dramatically changed the traffic pattern in this area.  First, Avalon Park Blvd. was opened to Hwy 50 allowing an immense amount of traffic to pour onto Hwy 50.  Over the years this traffic has severely clogged the intersection of the 408 Expressway and Hwy 50 bringing traffic to a standstill.  There are 4 stop lights within a mile to the west of 408 on Hwy 50 and 4 stop lights within 1.5 miles to the east.   That is 8 lights in a 2.5 mile distance.

Hwy 50 is being expanded to six lanes but talks with traffic experts at Orange County shows that this will not be enough and the roadway will fail.

Because of the issue at the 408 and Hwy 50 commuters have tried to find alternative routes.  The only other East-West road is McCulloch Road north of UCF and on the Orange/Seminole border.  Commuters are now traversing roads that were intended to be rural and have made them commuter roads.  McCulloch is now failing.

We need attention in our area and we need funding to fix these roads.  My suggestion after speaking with many people on this issue is to form a regional traffic planning committee specifically formed to fix the issues in East Orange County.

We do not have enough representation in the various organizations to promote this cause.  On the Board of County Commissioners, we have Commissioner Edwards who works for our welfare and is doing what he can but this will take a much bigger effort than the County.  We do not have representation from our area on the Central Florida Expressway Authority and even though there are 19 members on the MetroPlan Orlando board, we have limited representation.

Our area must have more focus and representation so we can reverse the damage that has been done over the last several years due to the lack funding which has translated into our roads falling severely behind development.

To show you how serious I am in pursuing this effort, please visit my website at http://FixMyRoadway.com and my Facebook site at http://Facebook.com/FixMyRoadway.  I am just one guy who lives in this area trying to make our little part of the world heaven on earth.  As I always say in Spanish when people say to me “que pasa”, my answer is always “Viviendo el sueno”.  Help us live the dream.

What can you do to help this effort?  Can you help spearhead a committee to focus directly on this issue?  Thank you for any help you can provide.

Sincerely

 

RJ Mueller
East Orange County, Florida resident

 

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MetroPlan Orlando

2/9/2015 – MetroPlan meeting

Yesterday I left Commissioner Edwards office and hightailed it over to the MetroPlan public meeting that was in progress.  The meeting was a hearing by the Federal Government to certify MetroPlan and take input from the public.  I had no idea what I was going to but MetroPlan is part of the funding puzzle so I decided to go see what it was all about.

The MetroPlan office is downtown in Orlando on the north side of Lake Eola.  It is on the 3rd floor of the building and the meeting was held in a large board room able to seat about 20 committee members and about the same number of observers.  The Federal auditors were sitting at the front of the room with about 20 people watching and someone was speaking.  The people speaking seemed to be mostly people associated with MetroPlan with me possibly being one of the only resident in the room.

Harold Barley - MetroPlan

Harold Barley – MetroPlan

I saw the board chairman, Harold Barley, sitting at the front of the room but did not get a chance to speak to him.

MetroPlan is in the picture because this is the organization that decides where the funding goes for transportation in a three state area of Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties.  We need to make sure our area is represented on this board.

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Ted Edwards District 5 Commissioner

2/9/2015 – Meeting with Commissioner Edwards

Today I met with Commissioner Edwards and had a good discussion about the traffic situation.  The purpose of the meeting was to ask him how to get some attention on the traffic problem in East Orange County and what could be done to move our projects up on the list.  I mentioned in a previous post that no roads in East Orange County were on the project list two years ago.  Things are changing.  Commissioner Edwards is working hard on the road issue and gave me some information that shows roads are starting to get some attention even though we have a long road ahead of us.

Renzo Nastasi, Manager of Transportation Planning Division

Renzo Nastasi, Manager of Transportation Planning Division

I also wanted to know more about how the roads were funded.  Renzo Nastasi was also in the meeting and Commissioner Edwards deferred to him for answers to this question.  If you read an earlier post, you will know that I met with Jon Weiss and Renzo Nastasi last week and was given information about this subject.  But I did learn a couple of new tidbits.  Mr. Nastasi explained how funds trickle down from the US Government to fund state roads.  The US Government allocates funds based on population and hands out transportation money to the states.  The states then shovel it off to 27 TPOs (Transportation Planning Organizations) in the state.  Ours is called MetroPlan and covers 3 counties, Orange, Seminole and Osceola.  So MetroPlan decides the priority of how money is spent.  I wonder if we have any representation from East Orange County on MetroPlan.  I do know there are a boatload of committee members on the board so perhaps we do.

Another tidbit passed on from Mr. Nastasi is when we discussed the state of roads in Orange County.  I asked if there were any areas. not roads, areas, in the same condition our area is in anywhere in the county.  Mr. Nastasi explained that there are roads that are over-capacity but when it comes to an entire area, this is the only place.  So more reason to focus on East Orange County.

Commissioner Edwards has been working on accelerating the six-laning of Hwy 50 and has moved it up on the schedule.  The bridge across the Econ was not funded but now is and the section from the bridge to 520 has been broken into two projects with one going as far as 419 and the other from 419 to 520.  The funding of the section from the Econ bridge to 419 will hopefully move up on the priority list.

There is also emphasis on the 408 expressway and extending it to 520.  The money for the study is now funded and underway.  This study will take 1-2 years to complete.

The discussion turned to money and paying for the roads.  I am starting to realize that there is just not enough money coming into Orange County to fund all the roads that need to be built.   So I asked about taxes.  There is a reluctance by politicians to suggest taxes as it seems to be a four letter word.  Both politicians as well as residents don’t like taxes.  There have been attempts to add additional taxes and for the most part they have been voted down.  I think this is why the County looks to developers to pay their share and help with the infrastructure.  If the county can have developers contribute to the infrastructure repairs then maybe the problem can be addressed.

But the analogy I gave to Commissioner Edwards went like this.  Imagine you have a puzzle in pieces on a table and you need to put it together.  But there are pieces missing from the puzzle.  The puzzle will never be finished.  The developer money is just one piece of the puzzle and without the other pieces, it really can’t help finish the puzzle.  The pieces in our puzzle are the state, Expressway Authority, MetroPlan, the county, the developers and of course the residents.   all of them are needed to finish our puzzle.

 

 

 

 

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Ted Edwards District 5 Commissioner

Commissioner Edwards speaking about traffic issues at the 6/24/2014 BCC meeting

Below is a video of Commissioner Edwards talking about the traffic issues in Eat Orange County.  This video is at the 6/24/2014 BCC meeting which you can view at this link.  If you have a few minutes to watch the whole video, Discussion Regarding Local Government Infrastructure Sales Tax (scroll down to item 7 on the right), you will see that the Commissioners and Mayor are very aware of the infrastructure issues.  Commissioner Brummer who has since termed out wanted to add a Local Infrastructure Tax to the November ballot.  As we all know, taxes are a dirty word and no one wants them but I think because Commissioner Brummer was on his way out, he proposed the tax.  What I am learning about the traffic issue boils down to money and that means more of it.  This may be our only option out of this situation.

If you listen to the whole discussion which is 38 minutes long but well worth the time, you will see that the Mayor was against the proposal but not because it isn’t needed but because it has to be presented to the residents in the right way or it will most definitely be defeated.  No one wants more taxes.  This idea must be explored in more detail.  Here is the video showing how Commissioner Edwards thinks about this issue.

Commissioner Edwards speaking at the 6/24/2014 BCC meeting

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Planning and Zoning

2/6/2015 – Meeting with Orange County Planning Officials

Jon Weiss - Director of Community, Environmental nad Development Servvices Department

Jon Weiss – Director of Community, Environmental nad Development Servvices Department

Today I met with Jon Weiss and Renzo Nastasi from the Orange County Planning Department.  Jon Weiss is in charge of both planning and traffic and Renzo Nastasi who is the manager of the transportation planning division.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the future traffic plan for East Orange County and to understand how any improvements are funded.

I can’t say I understood everything that was told to me due to my ignorance of these details and some went over my head but I did glean some information that I found informative.  As time moves on these details will become clearer and I will be able to convey them to you.  I will do my best to relay what I understood.  Mr. Weiss and Mr. Nastasi are very knowledgeable regarding the roadways in East Orange County and had more information than I could possibly absorb.  So I have a huge disclaimer that the information in this post is my words only and will need to be confirmed.  The take-away from this post is the big picture of where money comes from to pay for the roads.

Renzo Nastasi, Manager of Transportation Planning Division

Renzo Nastasi, Manager of Transportation Planning Division

It is no secret that there is an un-written rule that anything east of the Econ has received no funding for road improvements over the years.  This is because of several factors that I will cover in a different blog.  Because of this development has far outpaced road improvements so we find ourselves in a state that something must be done to fix this problem.

The funding that pays for roads comes from two sources.  The first is gas tax and the second is development through impact fees and proportional share agreements.

The revenue that comes from gas tax is not based on the price per gallon but instead a set price that has not changed in the last 20 years because residents do not want an increase.  So in effect, the county takes a tax cut every year based on inflation.  A gallon of gas in 1990 was around $1.15 and let’s say that Orange County received $0.23 per gallon which was 20% of the price of a gallon of gas.  Today the price of a gallon of gas in $2.09 and Orange County receives $0.23 per gallon which is 11% so in effect Orange County has lost 9% over the last 20 years due to inflation.  Now you could argue that more gas is sold due to more people so the only way Orange County will receive more gas tax is if more gallons are sold which means growth in Orange County.  If you think about it, this is a problem in itself because it means that as more people come to Orange County, yes, there is more gas tax  revenue but will the amount of money brought in by gas tax be enough to even fund the road repairs.  I have heard and it has yet to be confirmed that the entire amount brought in by road tax is used for maintenance of the roads and not new roads.  I believe this to be true so we might as well take gas tax off the table as far as new roads or major road improvements are concerned.  A future project would be to find out what the tax revenue from gas tax was in 1990 and what it is today.  Read this article in the Orlando Sentinel that quotes Commissioner Edwards and Mayor Jacobs.

Orange County Transportation Impact Fee Zones

Orange County Transportation Impact Fee Zones

The second source of revenue for roads is development.  Let’s say a church wants to build a school and has a lot for the school.  Fees are levied by the County called Impact fees and the church will have to pay the impact fees which are used to build new roads.  The idea is the school will generate more traffic on the road that will need to be improved based on the additional traffic.  However the money goes into a big pot and is used somewhere in the Zone.  Let’s say the school is being build somewhere in Bithlo and they pay $30,000 in impact fees.  That money could be used in Winter Park.  So because many residents have resisted change to the area east of the Econ and because that area is outside the Urban Service Area, impact fee money over the years has gone elsewhere and not been used to improve our roadways leading to this problem.  We must continue to impress on our county officials that we are at a point now that cannot be ignored and some action must take place to get these roads improved.  In our case of the school, the church will not get any of the money back from impact fees.  It is a fee that is paid and received by the county.  This is not the case with proportional share agreements or Roadway Agreements as the county calls them.

Roadway Agreements

Roadway Agreements

The other part of money from development comes from something called proportional share agreements commonly known as Prop Share or Roadway Agreements.  The best way to explain how this works is with a simple example. Suppose you buy a gift card for yourself from Amazon for $100. Amazon doesn’t own the money, you do but you now have a $100 credit with Amazon that can only be spent at Amazon.  This is the same with Roadway Agreements.  The developer buys themselves an Orange County gift card called a Roadway Agreement that they can use at a future date against the development of the property.  They are not able to use the credit anywhere else, it must be used on the property itself that is being developed so this money is used directly for road improvements that are impacted by the development.  So then what is the real advantage to Roadway Agreements if the developer eventually gets the money back by using up their gift card.  According to the Orange County website that states, “Roadway agreements are an important part of the development process and allow property owners to earn road impact fee credits by making improvements to clogged roads or dedicating right-of-way to expand the road network. Developers gain by channeling their improvements near their project, and citizens affected by a development project receive better roads.

I have to spend more time processing all this but I don’t think it is fair to lump Roadway Agreement monies in with Impact Fee money as it is money that is never owned by Orange County.  It is used by Orange County but with the promise of returning it at some future date.  We have much more to learn about Roadway Agreements but this is how I understand the concept.

Richard Crotty Parkway

Richard Crotty Parkway

We also discussed some of the slides I showed in my video, 25 years in under 3 minutes.  Staff is fully aware of the problems we have with the roadways and is working on solutions.  They are fully aware there are not enough east-west conduits and that even 6-laning Hwy 50 will not be enough going into the future.  We talked about a 408 extension and other options such as the Richard Crotty Parkway and 4-laning McCulloch.  Nothing is decided and nothing is off the table.

Overall, the meeting was good and productive.  I gained more knowledge of how roads are funded and what it takes to improve our roadways.  I think we need to continue the dialog with all parties involved to come up with a solution that works for us now and into the future.

 

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Congressman John Mica

2/3/2015 – Phone Conversation with Congressman John Mica’s District Representative

Patrick Kelly - District Representative for John MicaYesterday I spoke with Patrick Kelly who is Congressman John Mica‘s District Representative who has an office right here in Oviedo.  It was a very interesting conversation and also put me on the track towards MetroPlan Orlando.  Mr.. Kelly is a very pleasant and helpful person to speak to and I appreciated his knowledge and experience.

The reason for my call was to see if I could meet with Congressman Mica who serves in a leadership role on the House Transportation Committee and talk to him about the traffic issues.  Unfortunately, Congressman Mica, is in session for two months and will not be in the area.  But our phone conversation was very informative.

Transportation Projects Listing

Transportation Projects Listing

I asked how roads were funded and Mr. Kelly explained that most of the roads I was referring to were county roads except for Hwy 50 which is a state road.  So Congressman Mica cannot help with the county roads.  In fact he cannot help directly with the state roads either because of the way the government allocates money to the states.  I have to fully understand and confirm this but as it was explained to me, money flows from the government to the state.  The state then takes that money and allocates it to regions.  This is where MetroPlan fits into the picture.  Apparently MetroPlan is our regional planning organization for transportation and has something to do with how funds are allocated.  I will be posting more info on MetroPlan on subsequent posts so stay tuned in.

I will be attending the next MetroPlan meeting on the 11th to try and understand what this entity does and how they operate.

A visual image comes to mind of a food truck with the back open and people handing out food to lines and lines of people.  The food truck is MetroPlan.  We are the people in line.  Except we are not in the line.  If your not in the line, you don’t get the food.

Mr. Kelly suggested I write a letter to Congressman Mica explaining the situation so he is aware of our problems here in East Orange County.  I will do that and post it in a subsequent blog.

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Jennifer Thompson District 4 Commissioner

2/3/2015 – Meeting with Commissioner Thompson

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with Commissioner Thompson in her office and we talked about the traffic situation in East Orange County.

Orange County District MapThe reason I went to see Commissioner Thompson is because she is the commissioner for District 4 that is just to the south of District 5.  The border between District 4 and District 5 is Hwy 50.  The map on the right clearly shows the Districts and if you click on the map you will see the official District map.

Even though I went through my maps and what has happened over the years she is fully aware of the issues in this area.  Her suggestion was to start talking to MetroPlan.  MetroPlan Orlando is the metropolitan planning organization for Orange, Osceola, and Seminole Counties.  The website states, “Our organization provides the forum for local elected officials, their staff, and industry experts to work together to improve transportation options for Central Florida.

Several commissioners are part of MetroPlan and this organization has a strategic business plan that runs from 2014-2018.  I have not had a chance to thoroughly read this document but when I do I will post a synopsis.  I believe this organization must be part of fixing our problems in East Orange County.

Thank you, Commissioner Thompson, for the meeting.  Perhaps I will see you out on one of the half or full marathons sometime.  Happy running!

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