Lake Pickett Text Amendment – Board of County Commissioner meeting
The Board of County Commissioner (BCC) meeting on July 28th was “crazy”. That’s the only word that comes to mind. We will get into that soon but here is the issue when it comes to traffic.
This blog is more of a record of what happened at the meeting. In my next blog I will explain why I think certain decisions were made and where I think this is heading.
Before I talk about the meeting, let me say one thing. I think some people have the perception I am an unfeeling, single-minded, robotic, logic-driven Vulcan whose only mission in life is to destroy the rural life of people who live in this area. I can’t think of anything farther from the truth. You would have to be living under a rock if you don’t think these properties will be developed some day and I think it is better to be in control of your own destiny than have it controlled for you by someone else. I know no one wants to hear this but change is coming to this area and my gut feeling told me this would be the time. If SOC decides now to embrace this change and work with the developers to make these properties a showcase of East Orange County I will most certainly fight to keep the rural character intact as I have so far by pushing for bigger buffers and decreased density. Whether we like it or not, it is us who have caused this by buying homes and living in the Rural Service Area in a suburban atmosphere. At the meeting I saw someone showing pictures of cars blocking sidewalks and lined up on either side of roads in Corner Lakes like the one below. That is not rural, it is most definitely suburban and shows that suburban has most definitely crossed the Econ already as someone mentioned.
Corner Lakes – residential road
Traffic Impact Study – 2030
The image to the right is the crux of the problem. Somewhere along this path you will have to understand that even without these developments traffic will continue to worsen. And the forecasts say that by 2030 all the roads will be overcapacity. This is irreversibly as more and more people move out to the Rural Service Area and live in a suburban way. The majority of people moving out here are not moving here to grow their own food or livestock, it is to find an alternative to the hustle and bustle of city life. Or to find cheaper housing. Most work West of here and that is the problem. We need more East-West arterial roads to move traffic. I beg you to embrace this and work together to come up with the ideas needed to fix this. Commissioner Boyd asked for this at the meeting and he was very serious and genuine but when he asked what you want he was overwhelmed by the crowd just saying “NO”. The mayor had to put a stop to it or it would have quickly gone out of control. The commissioners need us to tell them how to fix this and saying no doesn’t fix anything. We are their boots on the ground so to speak. If you don’t want the developments then come up with another way to fix the problem we caused instead of saying things are fine. Things are not fine and sooner or later you will have to realize these charts and traffic volume numbers don’t lie.
Why I am in the middle of all this mayhem!
Accident at Worchester and McCulloch
I am not going to stand by and watch traffic get worse and worse until someone is killed at the University Estates entrance, my entrance, and then 10 years from now hear everyone scream, “fix the traffic” when we have the opportunity now. The image in my mind that haunts me everyday when I ride my bike to work is to come around that corner and see a minivan with a mother and kids in it struck by a vehicle while she is trying to cross traffic at my intersection and I have done nothing to prevent it. That is what drives me forward and that is why I am so passionate about this. I took this picture after watching this accident unfold. This is not the only accident I have seen at my entrance. In fact there have been 105 accidents on this one mile stretch of roadway in a two year period. I am about to write a blog about a project that might occur in Seminole county that will bring more traffic to McCulloch. Is anyone watching or paying attention to that?
The big question in my mind is how do we not only get ourselves current on the roads but in fact get ahead of the curve. It seems that everywhere is always playing catch up and never ever get ahead. I think we can get ahead and have a very nice place to live with good safe roadways. Call it a pipe dream if you want but you can never achieve if you don’t try.
Back to the BCC meeting
Let’s move on to the meeting. As I said it was crazy. I am not really sure why and I am sure it was for good reason but several high profile land use cases were scheduled on the same day. And before you throw out that it is because the BCC didn’t want many people at the Lake Pickett hearings hoping people will leave, I am sure that is not the case and there is a very good reason. Whatever the reason the meeting started at 2 pm but Lake Pickett didn’t come up until 7:30 pm. The hearings lasted until 2:30 am. 7 hours of non-stop action.
There was a large turnout of red shirted Save Orange County people (red SOCs as I affectionately call them). They were there in opposition with a few people in favor of the developments. I was there because of traffic and what these developments could do to improve our traffic conditions.
Lake Pickett North Application
Sean Froelich – Lake Pickett North
I didn’t think the process was conducted well as the first hearing encompassed both Lake Pickett North AND the Text Amendment. It was confusing. In my humble opinion the text amendment should have stood on it’s own first. If it would have passed we would have been there until 4 am listening and commenting on two more hearing but if it failed we would have all gone home at 9 pm. Lake Pickett North presented their development ideas and many, many residents who lived around the property marched one by one to the podium to express their displeasure with the development as did some who were for the development or others like myself who were concerned with traffic. One person spoke well and suggested a impartial traffic study be conducted to look at ways to solve the traffic problems while maintaining the rural character of the area. He suggested looking at a two lane road across the Econ at McCulloch. Commissioner Baldocchi opened this door at the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) hearing. All options should be considered keeping in mind the sensitivity of the Econ River Basin and wishes of Seminole County. At this time, that option is too hot a potato to handle.
Commissioner Ted Edwards
At the end of the public comment the Commissioners discussed the application. Commissioner Edwards began as he is our district commissioner. He called the Econ a great growth management tool and spoke about the sewer lines and their restrictions. He thinks now is the time to look at developing across the Econ. He talked about how this was all about transportation and all these roads are partnership roads and have to be developed with partnership dollars. His position with the applicants is if they were not willing to address the roads, then he would not consider the applications. The applicants agreed to put in the roads up front which is what we wanted at a cost to them of 27 million. He also noted the opposition is coming from those who want to keep the area rural and from those that will be impacted by the widening of Lake Pickett Road. With that Commissioner Edwards stopped to allow other commissioners to voice their opinion.
Commissioner Pete Clarke
Commissioner Clarke came next and was opposed to LPN and crossing of the Econ. He would like to see something like rural Wedgefield in this area. He also mentioned the sewer lines and a promise made in 1998 not to increase the size of the sewer lines other than for the entitlements promised in 1991. He would like to see further work on this to see more to preserve the rural character of the area.
Commissioner Jennifer Thompson
Commissioner Thompson was also against the LPN and said that when she heard about this she was absolutely opposed because she thought how could we put one more car on the roads. On the opposite side of the fence she has a problem leaving $50 million on the table. So she was torn but in terms of LPN she was concerned that we would be sold one thing and would end up with something else. She does believe at some time we will cross the Econ and she did say that whether we want to admit it or not we are already across the Econ. She does see this as a hole in the donut but that doesn’t mean she supports the hole in the donut. She also talked about taking the money that may be spent on widening the roads into connectivity and also maybe we advance the money to FDOT to fund the widening of Hwy 50 from the bridge to 419. She would like us to continue to look at this and maybe find other solutions that perhaps don’t involve the developers.
Mayor Teresa Jacobs
Following Commissioner Thompson, Mayor Jacobs said she did not anticipate that we would cross the Econ in her term with more utilities and more development but she also said that these two projects are substantially better than anything that has come before the board. And the complement of road funding has made this extremely enticing to consider. But at this point she is not persuaded this is the time to move forward with LPN. To do something this big and impactful without 100% confidence and conviction that she lacks today, she was not comfortable moving forward with LPN.
Commissioner Scott Boyd
Commissioner Boyd was next and considering what was being said and the temperature of the board he asked if the applicant wanted to speak. While the applicant was discussing this among themselves, Commissioner Nelson spoke.
He commended Commissioner Edwards and his staff for all their hard work. He thought perhaps there was a way to work this project and would like to see this project transmitted.
At this point in the discussion the vote was 3-3 and the deciding vote fell to Commissioner Siplin. I sort of feel she was caught out unexpectedly and when she realized the situation that her vote meant going forward or not, reality struck. No fault of hers but she was definitely put into a position that she handled well. She had one note that said, “Too good to be true”.
So the unofficial vote was 4-3 against. At this point in time the applicant decided to request a continuance. After a minutes of discussion the applicant asked to withdraw. What that meant is that the applicant can come back in six months with a revised application and re-submit. If the BCC would have voted, the application would have been withdrawn and the applicant would not be allowed to re-submit for 2 years. This was a smart move on the applicants part as it allows them to consider the objections to their application and find a way to resolve them.
Lake Pickett South Application
Mr. Saathoff didn’t start his presentation because of how the LPN discussion went. It seemed at this point that everything was dead. Mr. Testerman from Orange County planning said OC staff needed to make the presentation on Lake Pickett South and then the applicant could speak.
After staff finished his presentation, the staff recommendation was to transmit the applications. LPS was also recommended to transmit.
Mr. Saathoff spoke about the close proximity to UCF and how there were more than 10,000 homes to the East of this project and east of the Econ was not really rural. At the end of his presentation he asked for a poll of the board to see where they stood. It seemed very obvious that he thought this was a wasted effort.
This point in the hearing was very awkward. No one seemed to know what to do and how to proceed. Discussions continued about the road money being provided by the developers to fix the roads. At this point there was no agreement on the roads. The issue that had not yet been finalized was the timing of when money would be dispensed.
Public Comment – waiting to speak
After this public comment followed with many people lining up to speak for 2 minutes. Again, there was many people speaking in opposition that lived close to the property. There were also people speaking in favor of the developments. By the end of the public comment it was almost 2 am.
Commissioner Edwards spoke first. He talked about the time and effort spent by Orange County staff and then said the decision comes down to the idea of crossing the Econ. He did point out that it is on Hwy 50 and in more of an urban setting. He left with a policy decision.
Commissioner Thompson went next. She thinks the project is unique. She has concerns about large tracks of land where owners walk away such as the situation with golf courses. She is dealing with issues with Stoneybrooke and Eastwood in her district. She was also concerned about the road agreement on Chuluota Road. Mr. Jon Weiss said it would take 5 years to get to construction of any roads and 2 years to construct the road. So any road improvements are 7 years out from now. If the people that live in this community work at Research Park and UCF then there are issues getting people there. The only avenue at this time is Hwy 50. She did say that she didn’t know if the uniqueness of this project is enough to vote for crossing the Econ. It seemed at this point she was a “NO”.
Next was Commissioner Boyd. He finds the project unique and he has been trying to promote “Ag” in Horizon West. He also talked about a blueberry pick farm that is very popular. He is in favor of transmitting to work through the issues.
Commissioner Clarke was still opposed. He researched Agri-Hood communities and noted that 70% of these communities were devoted to the farms. The “Grow” is less than 50%. He thinks we need to take a closer look at this and did mention Wedgefield as an example. He would like to see less denser development.
Commissioner Siplin went next. I guess she learned not to be last! She asked about the road agreements and where we were with that. Mr. Saathoff explained that he wanted the OC staff to lead the charge and not him. He noted that he did not want to be in the position to try to get the county to do work. He wants to give the county money and have OC do the work. This was the issue with the road agreement. He is ok with the money.
Commissioner Edwards was surprised that there seems to be interest in pursuing this project. He explained the road agreement and what he thought it was. Mr. Weiss, OC planning manager, clarified where OC staff was at now. He explained that OC did not feel comfortable taking on the road constructions and the over-runs that could occur. The risk is when the money would be available and available to the county. Commissioner Edwards did not want to take the risk of transmitting without a road agreement.
Mayor Jacobs said the only way she would support transmittal is if there is an agreed upon road agreement. Mr. Testerman said the project could be transmitted and a term sheet could come back in a couple weeks for review.
Commissioner Edwards made a motion to transmit under the condition that the terms of the road agreement would be acceptable to the county and contingent upon the Text Amendment. This transmittal is completely contingent on the Term Sheet which is the road agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, the applicant can withdraw the application and come back in the next cycle.
Mayor Jacobs said she would support moving forward on the transmittal but noted compatibility issues as well as road issues that need to be resolved.
The vote for LPS was 5-2 with Commission Thompson and Commissioner Clarke opposed.
The vote for the Text Amendment was made by Commissioner Edwards and passed with a second by Commissioner Boyd with Commission Thompson and Commissioner Clarke opposed. It was a 5-2 vote.
In my next blog I will explain where I think we are and if the text amendment will survive the adoption phase. it all hinges on the State approving it and the Road Agreement. More in my next blog…..
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