The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Wednesday, February 24, 1999 at 4:00 p.m., in the Training Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson, Vice Chairman; Rhonda H. Gerber (arriving at 4:20 p.m.); G. Richard Swartz, Jr.; and Robert A. Pool. Others present were: Sandy A. Minkoff, County Attorney; Sue B. Whittle, County Manager; Wendy Taylor, BCC Administrative Supervisor; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.
The following individuals were present from the City of Leesburg: Marcus Collins; Betty Richardson; Tony Otte, City Manager; Sally Sherman, Assistant City Manager; Bob Lovell, Mayor; Chet Blackmon, City Commissioner; and Lewis Puckett, City Commissioner.
The following individuals were present from Sumter County: Ben Strickland, Chairman of the Sumter County Commissioners; Gary Breeden, Director of Public Works; Tiny Rutter, Vice Chairman of the Sumter County Commissioners; Bernard Dew, County Administrator; and David Springstead, Engineering Consultant for Sumter County.
Commr. Cadwell explained that this was a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners to be used as a workshop and fact finding mission to make an educated decision on the turnpike interchange, in regard to Lake County's best interest. He stated that the issue would be placed on the agenda for a Board meeting, and the Board would take action at that time. He stated that today the City of Leesburg will make a presentation, and Sumter County will make a presentation, and then the Board will ask questions. He noted that generally the Board does not take public comment at workshops, but public comment will be taken during the regular Board meeting.
Mr. Gary Breeden, Director of Public Works, Sumter County, presented a Draft of the Preliminary Turnpike Interchange Concept Report, Florida's Turnpike & CR 468. Mr. Breeden extended his appreciation to State Senators Anna Cowin and Ginny Brown-Waite and State Representative Everett Kelly for their willingness to listen, and for expressing their concern about the location of an interchange that will cost approximately $9 million of taxpayer dollars. He stated that it was refreshing to see government officials look at projects from a perspective of how to serve the needs of all communities in the best manner possible and hopefully put in place infrastructure that will serve well past the current needs and projections. He also thanked the Lake County Board of County Commissioners for the opportunity to meet and discuss this issue in a forum that will hopefully result in an amicable decision that will best serve all the citizens. Mr. Breeden stated that Sumter County comes today convinced that, based on major changes that have occurred during the eight year period, and since the C-470 interchange idea was originated and funding was appropriated, it is only reasonable and prudent to stop and reassess the original decision. He wanted the Board to understand that Sumter County does not have an objection to an interchange at C-470, and its position today is that timing is such that it is going to be absolutely necessary to construct the C-468 interchange, in the short term, with the potential to see C-470 develop as time goes along. Mr. Breeden referred to the handout material and noted that the Concept Report was to document the potential feasibility of a new north-south roadway as an alternative to U.S. 27/441, and a new Turnpike Interchange at the crossing of the Florida Turnpike and CR 468 in Sumter County. He noted that Map 1, Alternative Florida Turnpike Interchange at CR 468, depicts the proposed interchange location and surrounding area. The proposed interchange site is approximately 4.0 miles south of the U.S. 301/Wildwood Interchange (Exit 304), 1.5 miles north of the Okahumpka Service Plaza, and 15 miles north of the U.S. 27/Leesburg North Interchange (Exit 289). The land use in the vicinity of the proposed interchange is primarily agricultural/pasture land and is primarily in one ownership (Bigham Hide Company, Inc.).
The following information was taken from the backup material presented at the meeting by Sumter County, and it was reviewed by Mr. Breeden:
The need for a Turnpike interchange in this location was analyzed based on existing and future land use and traffic conditions, data and analysis from a previous Lake County north-south bypass traffic study, and relative merits of the project. The following summarizes the findings.
The merits of the proposed north-south alternative and C.R. 468 interchange are as follows:
The proposed north-south roadway, and the Turnpike Interchange, provide an alternative to local, regional and long-distance travelers in the area. Map 1 depicts an alternative corridor alignment.
Benefit from the relief of traffic would be particularly pronounced in Lake County, where projected U.S. 27/441 traffic volumes reflect a future need for 6 to 8 lane capacities.
The proposed approximate alignment will enhance regional travel and existing and future travel patterns in the area.
Since the north-south roadway is an expansion of the existing Buena Vista Blvd. through the Villages (see Map 1), it will provide access to a large current and future population base, as well as to through traffic. Also, Leesburg, Coleman, Wildwood will be provided an additional Turnpike access point.
Since much of the proposed north-south alternative to U.S. 27/441 is in place, or committed by private development (The Villages), the remaining portion could be constructed at relatively low cost to local and state governments. Cost would particularly be low for Lake County and the City of Leesburg, who would not be responsible for improvements in this corridor.
Ms. Sally Sherman, Assistant City Manager, City of Leesburg, stated that she would be making a presentation on behalf of the City of Leesburg. With Mr. Otte's assistance, Ms. Sherman pointed out specific locations on a map, including the interchange, as approved by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOP), the turnpike and C-470, the interchange on the west, which is property that has been donated to the State for the interchange, and the property to the east, which is owned by the City of Leesburg, which has also been donated to the State for the interchange. She also pointed out the State right-of-way and noted that the property to the west and to the east was high and dry, and the City did not anticipate, nor has it had any problems with the property, as located and structured.
Ms. Sherman presented a Historical Overview of the efforts that have been taken by the City of Leesburg, in order to secure funding for the C-470 interchange. She stated that the City of Leesburg received a Resolution of Support from Sumter County dated February 26, 1991 for C-470, and a Resolution reiterating their support dated March 14, 1995. The City of Leesburg received a Resolution of Support from Lake County dated April 2, 1991 for C-470, and a Resolution of Support (No. 1998-67) dated April 28, 1998. Ms. Sherman stated that this clearly represents a partnership that has taken place for well over eight years. She stated that, when looking at the planning process, FDOT has expended over $1 million to date, as it relates to the efforts to move forward on the interchange at C-470. They have worked for eight years to secure this property and move forward on the development, they have conducted surveys, and the State Justification Report is scheduled to be completed by March 1, 1999. Ms. Sherman stated that the State has short listed three consultants to move forward on this project. She further stated that a commitment was formed for the C-470 interchange with the House and Senate approving funds on May 22, 1998, and being signed off by the President on June 9, 1998. It would require an Act of Congress to make a change to the funding that has currently been approved during the past eight years. Ms. Sherman discussed the issue of economic development, as it relates to the interchange and explained that there has been a number of annexations related to the C-470 interchange. The City of Leesburg has programmed the water and sewer utilities to be installed and completed within the next two years in anticipation of the interchange. Ms. Sherman noted that the City of Leesburg will be having its groundbreaking ceremony tomorrow for a $10 million wastewater treatment plant that is being put in the area, in anticipation of the approved C-470 interchange. She noted that there is a lot of economic development activity currently in place including Rogers Industrial Park and several large housing developments. Ms. Sherman stated that the City of Leesburg has just signed a Letter of Intent with Panda Energy Company for a $200 million partnership to have a power plant built right off of C-470. She stated that the Federal Corrections Complex currently houses 4,000 prisoners and has over 600 employees from surrounding areas, and it is currently underway with a $75 million expansion, which will increase the prison population, and the number of employees. Ms. Sherman noted that the Federal Corrections Complex is not taking a position, as it relates to either C-470, or C-468, however, they have made it extremely clear that the main entrance, and the only entrance, will be off of C-470. The Complex is currently using a temporary construction entrance off of 501. Ms. Sherman stated that Mr. Otte would be passing out some fact sheets that have been compiled, and documentation is available upon request to support the information.
Mr. Otte stated that the State, in its planning process, has determined a cost out amount for C-470 in the neighborhood of $9 million, with $6 million coming from the Federal appropriation from Congress. He stated that the engineering firm of Dyer, Riddle, Mill & Precourt has taken a look at the cost of C-468, which it would review at this time.
An engineer from Dyer, Riddle, Mill & Precourt presented an estimated cost of $25 million for the C-468 interchange, for approximately 25 miles of four lane divided highway, and noted that the estimated figures, which he presented in more detail for the expansion and extension of roadways, were based on the FDOT 1996-97 transportation planning costs. He further noted that the figures were strictly engineering and construction costs and that C-470 already has an interchange on I-75.
Mr. Bob Lovell, Mayor, summarized Leesburg's position by stating that Leesburg is located between two lakes, and it cannot expand north or south, except as it moves southwest The City has planned on the expansion for approximately eight years, and it has done a very good job in trying to move an industrial residential base to that area. Based on this kind of planning and the County's planning, the City has moved south as its long strategic plan. There are housing developments all along Highway 27, and Leesburg's utility now goes 15 miles south. Mr. Lovell stated that it benefits not only Lake County, but also Sumter County and its residents. The City recognizes that the Villages is expanding, but it does not think that the turnpike is a viable exit for the bypass. The City feels that the people in the Villages will still use Highway 27 for their travel needs. Mr. Lovell stated that the City does not mind having a partnership with Sumter County, if they want to pursue an exit at C-468, however, it feels it has relied on the County's long term commitment, and it would like the Board honor its commitment to Leesburg, and to those people in Sumter County who planned this in the past.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the County's greatest partnership is with the citizens of Lake County, and he did not feel that anyone present today, even after eight years, would not want to review other options, if they were available, in order to make the best decision for everyone.
Commr. Swartz stated that, in 1998, when the Board voted on this issue, he did not support it. Today's meeting begins the first time there has been a serious discussion about the location of an interchange, whether it be C-470, or C-468. It was his understanding that, when FDOT looked at the interchange at C-470, and perhaps at C-468, and did an analysis, FDOT was not willing to fund it, because they could not justify an interchange at either location.
Mr. Otte understood that, when FDOT gets a request for an interchange, they do an in-depth study, and they have a standard, which is to recover, within the first five years, half of the cost of the construction. As a result of the study on C-470, it showed that they were $5.8 million short of reaching that goal, and that was the number that was used in the Federal appropriation, which was successful. He indicated that the analysis, as noted by Commr. Swartz, was correct for C-470, but he had no knowledge of C-468.
Mr. Breeden stated that the growth projection for the next ten years for that area is going to change dramatically, and in that period, C-468 is going to out distance C-470 in traffic generated. Mr. Breeden stated that there were some numbers in the draft of the Preliminary Turnpike Interchange Concept Report including population data, but they may not be directly related to C-468. He stated that there is a study currently being performed that will project traffic figures relating to C-468, but the numbers reflected today will not show high enough use that FDOT will fund this interchange.
Mr. Otte stated that he was informed that the C-468 interchange had not been modeled to serve as a north-south bypass for Lake County. He has not seen where the planning process has taken place for C-468, where on C-470, they are already through the planning process. Mr. Otte stated that the City is not against C-468, and the City would like to assist in the planning process and see C-468 done, but first C-470 should be completed.
Commr. Swartz stated that his question to the City was whether there has been any analysis, or any specific study by their engineers, that relates to what the impacts would be on C-470, as well as any road improvements that would be done. He also wondered what the impact was going to be on the community of Okahumpka from the interchange of C-470.
Mr. Otte stated that he discussed the issues referred to by Commr. Swartz when he came before the Board for the Resolution last year, and when he was asked about the effect on Okahumpka, he stated "jobs". He stated that, in the Lake County Comprehensive Plan, it is an employment center, and it is designated for industrial growth.
Commr. Swartz stated that, besides the jobs that are occurring in Rogers Park and other areas, he questioned what the traffic impact was going to be on Okahumpka, and whether there has been any analysis made of improvements that would need to be made to C-470, the intersection at C-470 and CR 33, or the intersection CR 48 and Highway 27.
Mr. Otte explained that the roads referred to by Commr. Swartz were County roads, and the City has not done specific studies on these County roads other than to say that the level of service on C-470 is good, as it relates to an employment center and defined in the County's Comprehensive Plan.
Commr. Pool stated that he feels both interchanges should be constructed and questioned whether there were any models available for the Board to see that would show a good projection of what would happen at these build outs.
Commr. Gerber stated that she would like to see the numbers developed by Tindale-Oliver rather than rely on other numbers that are not going to be a part of the County's model into the future.
Mr. John Kuhl, Griner & Associates, addressed the question about impact studies to the C-470 interchange and stated that they were in the process of doing that as far as the Interchange Justification Report, and they will be going as far as CR 33. They have completed the existing condition analysis, which will be distributed in-house for review. Then they will do a final report, and then go to a future analysis where they will look at traffic impacts to the year 2025. He noted that this information should be available at the end of the summer, and that the turnpike has its own model. Mr. Kuhl explained that their study does not go as far as the Leesburg area, and they are concentrating mostly at the location of the interchange.
Commr. Swartz stated that he was not sure that C-468 was going to be the type of roadway that the people that live in the Villages will appreciate having as a four-lane expressway, or parkway, coming through their community, and he was not sure that it is going to be designed to be a real arterial for others to use. He would be interested in finding out how they feel about it.
Commr. Hanson questioned whether anyone has looked at using more of the existing roads going east to west, because she felt there was a lot of potential for the use of C-470 off of Highway 75 to get around Leesburg going east that needs to be considered when they start doing the modeling.
Mr. Breeden stated that Sumter County does not have a problem with the C-470 interchange, and they were here today to note that, in the last eight years, there have been a lot of changes, and there is going to be a tremendous amount of develop coming their way that cannot be ignored, and based on these changes, in their opinion C-468 should be dealt with first.
Commr. Hanson noted that Mr. Jim Stivender, Senior Director of Public Works, will be providing input on this issue at the next Board meeting for the Commissioners to consider.
Commr. Cadwell stated that this issue will be scheduled for 9 a.m. on March 9, 1999, and the Board will take public input at that time.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 5:40.
WELTON G. CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK