Below are the ballot proposals for inclusion into the CRC’s final report. Very interesting that two of them are related to the environment. Another indicator pressure is mounting to protect natural lands.
In a previous post, Mr. Dorworth engaged in conversation and made some comments. I appreciated the dialog. Instead of continuing the dialog on that post, I decided to post this.
Mr. Dorworth said,
“Don’t know who you are”.
I’ve been involved with all the massive development east of the Econ for about 10-12 years and been writing about it for about 6 years. My initial focus was strictly traffic, hence the name FixMyRoadway. That view has changed over the years as I understand more about this area and as a result FixMyRoadway has morphed too. FixMyRoadway is now focused on traffic but also environmental concerns in our area. Also, FixMyRoadway was focused on just Orange County but because similar issues are appearing in Seminole County, FixMyRoadway has expanded to cover East Seminole County.
Did you know there is such a thing as the Geneva bubble? Did you know that the Econ is the 3rd most pristine river in Florida? Who would have thought we are living right in the middle of environmental wonders?
Mr. Dorworth said,
“As to why I am so resolute to get this wrong righted, an elected government forced down the value of a piece of land by an illegal and arbitrary boundary conceived of by a man who profits from the existence of that line and that I am committed to getting HI Oaks out of the rural and area to get a truly fair hearing.”
I asked Mr. Dorworth how a person can profit from the rural boundary line and wasn’t given an answer.
I think we all hold property rights sacred and believe people should have control over their property but even property owners have to abide by the rules set in place by county commissioners and in some cases at the ballot box. I live in a HOA. Can you imagine if I said I didn’t know a new amendment was put in place and came back years later and said I wanted to be excluded. I can scream and yell all day long and it won’t change the fact that the amendment is there especially if I was given a choice to opt out. Sure, I can go ask them for a variance but if they say no, I have to live with that.
I can’t speak to the claim that the Hi Oaks land should or shouldn’t have been in the rural boundary but today it is in the rural area and must abide by the same rules similar to what I live under in my HOA. Somewhere I heard that folks were given the option to opt in or out of the rural boundary and that’s why the line is so jagged. It seems plausible.
The Seminole County rural boundary is similar to what happened in Orange County when the rural boundary along the Econ was decided many years ago. From what I understand, land owners east of the Econ were given a one time “entitlement” which is why there are subdivisions around the Lake Pickett area that aren’t rural. Some landowner east of the Econ did not elect the entitlement and now find themselves in a similar situation as Hi Oaks.
I’m confused and have to ask. How could the owners not know about the rural boundary when it was being formed? Wasn’t it on the ballot and wasn’t there talk about it while it was being debated? It had to be big news at the time and there must have been articles in the paper about it as well as community meetings. It is puzzling.
Mr. Dorworth said:
“I am interested in getting Seminole County into the economic development engine of UCF”
(FYI: UCF is one of five economic hubs in Orange County)
One commissioner I knew had his pendulum pegged on the urban side and was hell bent on developing the rural area. Development in the right place is good and I admire developers who have the guts to take a risk and build hospitals, schools, fire stations, grocery stores, apartment building, and our homes but on the flip side when do we become good stewards of these lands we borrow for a small bit of time? Times are changing and urban sprawl is becoming a 4-letter word. Re-development is the new mantra. What is River Cross?
The Econ is the 3rd most pristine river in Florida and a person can say that development won’t contaminate it or have no impact but common sense says otherwise. How can laying all that impervious concrete help water drain into the aquifer? How can all that St. Augustine grass that must be fertilized and will end up in the storm water drains that will run into the Econ be good? How can all those people driving all those cars pumping out contaminants into the air and leaking fluids on the road that will also end up in the Econ help the environment? What about the people living downstream?
I don’t consider myself a tree-hugger (said with all affection to true environmentalists) but I’m getting closer to that club every day and hold dear those who are. I just know we don’t own this land, we just borrow it for bit and then pass it on to someone else. What do you want your legacy to be? I want to be known as just a simple guy who finally got it and didn’t sit by and watch this erosion but instead stood up and did something to make life better for the people who will borrow this land after me.
Mr. Dorworth, why not do something wonderful and ask Seminole County to pay you back your million dollars if the owners donate the land to a land trust that over time will bring it back to the pristine condition it was in 2004 by adding it to the ERWA as a conservation area that we all can enjoy. Now, that’s a legacy. I know, I know, I’m dreaming but it’s a blissful dream.
It’s happening now so pass the word. I got an email from 1000fof (1000 Friends of Florida) saying a number of bills may soon be transmitted , including the infamous SB-410 that was intended to override county oversight for a few specific development projects but will unintentionally impact planning to protect rural lands in dozens of counties across Florida. Please sign the petition if you haven’t already and send an email to the governor asking the bill be veto’d. More info on SB-410 found here.
Due to COVID-19, the Legislature has not yet transmitted many bills to Gov. DeSantis for his action. This includes SB 410 which opens up vast tracts of rural Florida lands for inappropriate development. We understand that a number of bills may soon be transmitted, including SB 410.
More than 12,000 Floridians have reached out to Gov. DeSantis to oppose SB 410 (and only a handful to support the bill), but we need to keep the pressure up. We ask you once again to urge Gov. DeSantis to VETO SB 410 by:
• Signing the petition at www.1000fof.org/veto-sb-410-petition/
• Sending an email to GovernorRon.DeSantis@eog.myflorida.com
• Calling the Governor at 850-717-9337
• Writing a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
• Sharing this request with your friends and associates
Let Governor DeSantis know that SB 410 will:
• Mandate that every local government in Florida include an unnecessary property rights element in its comprehensive plan which will be costly to prepare, create more bureaucratic red tape, and unnecessarily duplicate already-existing state and federal laws
• Undermine the authority of many county governments to protect rural areas from development, even if voters approved that protection
• Promote M-CORES by making it a higher priority to provide comprehensive planning technical assistance funding to counties with populations of less than 200,000 to determine if the area around multi-use corridor interchanges contain appropriate land uses and natural resource protection
• Allow previously approved (and built-out) developments of regional impact to be modified so that developers can exchange approved land uses outside of the DRI, undermining the initial DRI process
• Allow a party to a development agreement and a local government to amend or cancel that agreement without securing the consent of the other parcel owners whose property was subject to the agreement. This undermines the longstanding legal principle that all agreements pertaining to real property should be in writing and agreed to by all parties, in effect undermining property rights
You can find more information on SB 410 here, including veto requests from 1000 Friends and other organizations.
Let’s keep the pressure up! We appreciate whatever you can do to help.
With sincere thanks,
Policy & Planning Director
My family and I moved to Florida in 1993 and built our home in University Estates right next to UCF. Nothing was out here; we were in the “sticks” as we used to say in Wisconsin. But over the years more and more people moved in and pushed up against the rural boundary both in Orange and now in Seminole County. And developers want to jump the boundary and build in the rural area because land is cheaper there than in the urban area.
This trend will only get worse and it is not just our counties, it is happening everywhere. In the Sentinel today, Lee Constantine talks about Florida in general and what legislators are doing to destroy the environment and Jane Healy again brings up Chris Dorworth and his latest attempt to break the rural boundary.
Folks, I hate to say it but as more and more people move into Central Florida, pressure will continue to increase to build, build, build. We can fight battle after battle but when one battle is lost, the developer permanently wins. It doesn’t work the other way because developers can come back again and again. But once concrete goes down, there is no taking it out.
There are movements to put permanent protections in place. That must be the focus going forward because we can’t win every battle. Another focus must be putting people in office who understand the environmental consequences of all this development and what it means to Florida long into the future.
Reading the article in the Sentinel got my blood boiling …. again. According to the article, Mr. Dorworth has spent almost a million dollars in his efforts to get the River Cross land (High Oaks Ranch) approved. His multiple attempts to change the zoning on this property have all been turned down by the Seminole County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) yet he continues to push to have it his way.
According to the article, he opened another lawsuit against the county saying “the voter-approved charter amendment establishing the rural boundary should be tossed out because it is “vague” and “arbitrary.””
According to the article, “The county can arbitrarily and capriciously contrive whatever process it wants for considering requests.” That’s a fancy way of saying the board makes the decision on land use. I thought that was their job as that is the largest part of what their meetings are all about. That’s why there’s a Planning and Zoning committee (P&Z) that vets zoning requests before they get to the BCC and that’s why some are approved and others not. Someone has to make the decision and that falls to the county commissioners. When Mr. Dorworth purchased his option contract for the River Cross land, he knew the density was limited by the rural boundary and gambled he could get it approved.
But now again, he wants to circumvent the ruling body and force them to do his bidding and has even gone so far (according to the article) to say, “I think what they’ve done to me is malicious and capricious…. And I think that sooner or later, the rural boundary is going to be tossed out.”
No, Mr. Dorworth, all this seems to me to be self-inflicted and saying the rural boundary should be tossed out is an indicator of what you might think of the residents of Seminole County and gives us all a glimpse of your ultimate goal which seems to be to break and develop the rural area.
Reviewing campaign donations gives an insight in who a politician might be beholden to if they are elected. A few days ago I was looking at donations given to Emily Bonilla who is the District 5 Commissioner and came across these two entries in the snapshot below. This shows a donation of the maximum allowed by law ($1,000) by Chris Dorworth and I assume his wife giving $2,000 to Emily Bonilla’s campaign.
The question is, Why is Mr. Dorworth giving this amount of money to Emily Bonilla? In the past, other politicians have been crucified for taking money from developers especially Mr. Dorworth.
I first heard about Mr. Dorworth in 2018 when he tried to have River Cross passed in Seminole County (read about River Cross here:http://fixmyroadway.com/?p=3591). Then when that failed he tried to get a bill passed (read about HB-883 here: http://fixmyroadway.com/?p=3676) which would have secured River Cross by allowing urban densities within 3 miles of a state university. This bill would have allowed River Cross to be built without the consent of Seminole County. Mr. Dorworth next move was to sue Seminole County in federal court claiming Seminole County is violating the Fair Housing Act. That lawsuit is still on-going. He also came up with the idea of swapping his land with the Econ Wilderness Area that most everyone around this area knows about (read about it here: http://fixmyroadway.com/?p=5459). And now he has SB-410 that was passed and is waiting to be transmitted to the governor for signature (read about SB-410 here: http://fixmyroadway.com/?p=5556). And now along with SB-410, he want the Seminole County BCC to consider removing River Cross from the rural area. He has been after this for a long time.
It is unsettling to know that Emily Bonilla took Mr. Dorworth’s money. There is no refund and the money was given on 1/22/2020 so she decided to accept it. Why would Mr. Dorworth give money to Emily Bonilla. All we can do is guess so here is a theory.
Mr. Dorworth is trying everything in his power to develop the River Cross land that is on the other side of the Econ in the rural area. But what he needs most if he ever gets the go ahead to develop the land is a bridge. Without a bridge, he is landlocked. This the same issue that Sustany ran into when they wanted to develop the Rybolt land. The bridge must be built if River Cross has any chance to ever be developed.
Rybolt has been trying to get a bridge built for a very long time as shown in the first picture. Rybolt envisioned a little city on the other side of the River crossing over the Econ at McCulloch.
Sustany envisioned the same with their bridge and development on the Rybolt land and almost got it passed. The second picture shows a road through their property and a bridge.
Now Dorworth wants to develop River Cross and needs the same bridge over the Econ at McCulloch shown in the last picture. If that bridge gets built, Sustany will surely follow.
But the bridge is on the dividing line between Orange and Seminole Counties and both counties must agree to build the bridge. The person Dorworth must convince to allow the bridge is the Orange County County Commissioners and it starts with Emily Bonilla. Mr. Dorworth must convince Emily Bonilla to support the bridge. What better way to start than to make a campaign contribution.
All this is just an opinion based on observation and only Emily Bonilla knows why she accepted money from Mr. Dorworth but I remember how Commissioner Edwards was pummeled and accused by many of being in the developer’s pocket and some even went as far as to call him corrupt because he took campaign contributions from developers.
Yes, the list of campaign donors do tell a story and certainly show who supports a candidate.
This year is election year for District 5 Commissioner in Orange County currently held by Emily Bonilla. One candidate running for the office is Anjali Vaya who deserves a hard look as she is a serious candidate.
But is she a good candidate for those of us who live on the east side? We want a commissioner who will work for us, not just one part of the district or one group.
So I asked her what she thought of the Econ River Wilderness Area land swap as protection of the rural area is important to many of us. This is what she had to say,”
In 2004 Seminole voters approved a ballot referendum that established the county’s rural boundary area mostly east of the Econ, Oviedo and Lake Jesup. The commission is therefore obligated to the people and shouldn’t hand any of their responsibility to the courts. * As a commissioner it shouldn’t be hard to make the right decisions when voters have made their will clear. When given the opportunity specific areas of both Seminole and Orange County have overwhelming support of the people to protect their rural boundary.
It’s therefore the commissions obligation to defend their decision to protect the boundary. This land swap to settle a lawsuit is just a way for the commission to capitulate their responsibility to the courts. When the government makes a promise to the people to protect something, they should protect it with all their authority.”
While the land swap was in Seminole County, much of this holds true for people who live in Orange County. We want a commissioner that takes the whole district seriously and will work for all of us no matter where we live.
Help Anjali Vaya get on the ballot by electronically signing her petition. It only takes a minute to complete.
Read about her here: https://www.voteforanjali.com/