20151020 – I was stunned by the mayor’s comments at CRC

On 9/10/2015 there was Charter Review Committee (CRC) meeting where the mayor was invited to make some comments.  I have to say I am a strong supporter of Mayor Jacobs and usually agree with what she says but I was left speechless trying to understand why she said what she said at this meeting.  It has taken me this long to digest her comments and come to an understanding on what she was trying to say.  I think I have it straight now and it is time to write a blog explaining what is going on.  (Date in video is wrong.  It is 9/10/2015 meeting.)

Infrastructure needs deficit chart

Infrastructure needs deficit chart

The context of the discussion at the CRC meeting was related to the Sales Tax initiative that Commissioner Brummer is proposing to place on the ballot.  Regressing for a minute, in March there was a presentation by Mr. Renzo Nastasi, Orange County traffic manager, to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) showing a total infrastructure deficit of 1.6 billion dollars for all of Orange County.  You can view the presentation at this url:  http://otv.ocfl.net/otv/bcc2015/bcc031015/Default.html, scroll to item #6.  What that means is the list of roads that need to be built or improved total 1.6 billion.  But what I heard the mayor say is that Orange County doesn’t have a money problem for infrastructure for the next 10 years.  I was stunned trying to figure out if we really have an infrastructure deficit.  From where I sit, we have a big problem in East Orange County and if we don’t then why is Orange County so interested in Developer money.

I wrote an email to the mayor asking for clarification.  Click here to read it.  I received a response almost immediately.  Click here to read the response that was sent to the CRC.

Here is what I got out of the exchange and also the comments made by the mayor at the CRC meeting.

You really have to look at the context of the discussion which was not really about infrastructure but about placing a sales tax on the ballot in 2016 through the CRC.  It was obvious that the mayor is opposed to doing this for a couple of reasons.  The first of which is the fact that most of these sales tax initiatives have failed the vote.  The reason cited is that Orange County is not the best at selling it to the residents.  Many residents distrust government and are skeptical on how the funds will be used.  There is also a concern that the money collected now is not being spent.  In order for something like this to succeed, the public has to be convinced it is the right thing to do and it will benefit us.  The mayor does not want to use this card now and would rather wait until we truly need a sales tax for infrastructure and do the work to make sure it succeed.

She feels funding for our infrastructure needs is covered for the next 10 years as explained in the response email above.  I will have to trust her on that one knowing that we have been somewhat left out here in East Orange County for a long time.  You will note that the memo cites the sources of the funding for roads over the next 10 years and one of those sources are impact fees.  I suppose this also means impact fees from Lake Pickett South and Lake Pickett North if they are approved.  I don’t know if Orange County is counting these fees in the total number.  That would be a good question to ask.

I guess it is nice to know that our infrastructure issues are covered at least for the next 10 years.  So the big obstacle that I thought was preventing fixing our roads which is money is really not an issue now.  Knowing this I would hope that our roads in East Orange County will be planned and fixed as soon as possible.

 

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10/13/2015 – Traffic update – things are quiet

Things have been quiet lately with not much attention on traffic at least publicly but I do know that Orange County is working on a plan to allocate the 38 million from the Invest program.  The money is destined to East Orange County roads but we don’t know exactly where it will be prioritized.

Things are a little complicated so we are waiting patiently to see what transpires.  There are several balls in the air and my feeling is they all have to stay up in the air and fall into place at the right time.

Let’s take a look at each one by one:

  • The Invest money:
    38 million is being allocated to East Orange County roads but where is the big question.  This is a dilemma because among other factors, two are still in play; Lake Pickett South (LPS) and Lake Pickett North (LPN).  I am sure Commissioner Edwards and Orange County staff would love to know how this is going to play out because then they could decide which roads should be improved with the Invest money.  The fact is that we don’t know and it might be a while until we do.  How does Commissioner Edward and Orange County staff decide where to allocate the Invest money if they don’t know what will happen with LPS and LPN?  I am sure Orange County wants LPS and LPN to pay their fair share to mitigate the traffic their developments will generate so why would they use county money to fix roads that will be fixed with developer dollars.
  • Lake Pickett South (LPS):
    Trip Distribution - Lake Pickett South

    Trip Distribution – Lake Pickett South

    LPS has been transmitted but not approved and was supposed to be heard for approval in November.  But we know that LPS has been delayed.  Some would like to think that the delay is because of pressure from residents who are opposed to the development but I think that is wishful thinking.  I think a more valid reason is there are still issues that are unresolved.  It seems that the road agreement is done and the agencies have all but given their ok so it must be something else.  My only educated guess and I might be entirely off base but it might have to do with trying to bring together the money for the roads from all sources and try to coordinate road improvements throughout East Orange County.
    We do know from the road agreement that LPS money will fund the advancement of widening HWY 50 out to Chuluota Road and Chuluota Road itself so I guess we can take the LPS ball out of the air as their money has already been determined.  Their money is not destined to help the county roads such as Lake Pickett, S. Tanner, N. Tanner or McCulloch so the county is left with a bit of a problem as there will be a detrimental impact to these roads from LPS no matter how minimal.

  • Lake Pickett North (LPN):
    When LPN was in play, this development was going to fund the widening of Lake Pickett as well as fund some roads that would improve throughput to the west of LPN.  It was still undetermined if this would be the Woodbury extension or other roadways like McCulloch.  The LPN ball is up in the air because if Invest money is used to improve these roads now then LPN gets a free pass if and when the development is approved because money they were going to pay for the roads might have already been allocated by Invest money.  So with LPN off the table right now but an application bound to come back fro review by the BCC, what does Commissioner Edwards and Orange County staff do.  I have not heard how this is being addressed but I am sure we will know in the coming months.
  • 408 Extension:
    Right now there is a study that has just started to determine the best route to extend the 408 from the eastern end to 520.  This ball is still in play because CFX has not made a decision to do the extension until the study is complete which will take until the end of 2016.  My feeling is baring any real obstacles it will be approved but the big issue is how does this road get built.  At this time the path is slated to be along or above Hwy 50 but how much will that cost?  Too bad this wasn’t done years ago before all the houses were built out here when the path was unobstructed.  But that time is gone and we have to look forward?  Don’t for get the meeting on Oct 22nd, 5 pm at East River High School.  This meeting is the beginning of the study phase and you have the opportunity to give your input so attend.  CFX wants to hear from you.
Traffic Impact Study - 2030

Traffic Impact Study – 2030

Bridge across the Econ at McCulloch:
One other factor that was talked about is a bridge across the Econ at McCulloch which some think is still in play.  Planning and Zoning Commission Baldocchi opened this can of worms at the PNZ meeting on the Lake Pickett Text amendment.  Many people are opposed to this idea because they feel it will open the door to massive development east of the Econ that won’t stop until it reaches the St. Johns River.  Others are in favor because they think it makes sense to have a road here.  I wrote an email to Orange County on a bridge across the Econ and here is my feeling on the bridge over McCulloch now.

DMZ Zone

DMZ Zone

At this time I am opposed to the idea because it makes no sense to have three roads across the Econ in this area that funnel down to two roads once the Econ is crossed and inside the Urban Service Area.  The Econ would be crossed at Hwy 50, Lake Pickett and McCulloch, yet would funnel down to only Hwy 50 and McCulloch once inside the Urban Service Area.  This makes no sense.  First, the Richard Crotty Parkway would have to be build from Research Parkway to N. Tanner to provide another east-west corridor.  Why would we even consider adding traffic to the Rural Service Area while not improving the roadways inside the Urban Service Area to accommodate the increased traffic that would most definitely come from a bridge across the Econ at McCulloch.  Also read this post on the DMZ zone.

As new information comes to light, I will most definitely pass it on.

 

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