A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
SORRENTO TOWN HALL MEETING
MAY 23, 2001
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Wednesday, May 23, 2001, at 7:30 p.m., at Round Lake Elementary School, Sorrento, Florida, for the Sorrento Town Hall Meeting. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Catherine C. Hanson, Chairman; Robert A. Pool, Vice Chairman; Debbie Stivender; and Jennifer Hill. Commr. Welton G. Cadwell was not present, due to another commitment. Others present were: Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney/Interim County Manager; Wendy Taylor, Administrative Supervisor, Board of County Commissioner’s Office; Fletcher Smith, Senior Director, Community Services; Wendy Breeden, Library Services Director, Community Services; Jim Stivender, Jr., Senior Director, Public Works; Sharon Farrell, Senior Director, Growth Management; and Sandra Carter, Deputy Clerk.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE
Commr. Stivender gave the Invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
PRESENTATION ON LIBRARIES
Mr. Fletcher Smith, Senior Director, Community Services, addressed those present, stating that the Department of Community Services is in the business of helping people. He noted the various divisions that fall under Community Services, such as Library Services; Citizens’ Commission for Children; Community Development Block Grant; Housing and Community Development; Veterans Services; Probation/Court Services, etc. He stated that District 4 has a couple of ongoing projects, which have been made possible by Community Development Block Grant funds, one of them being the paving of roads in the Lake Kathryn area, which he noted are in terrible shape. He stated that his division has also been able to help low income families in the Forest Hills area pay their assessments; it has put over $120,000.00 into a prescription medication program for low income residents in the County; and it has been able to help low income families who have qualified for the Solid Waste and Fire Assessment Program. He stated that, so far, the County has spent over $250,000.00 out of its Community Development Block Grant Program for medications, road assessments, and the Meals-on-Wheels Program.
Mr. George Dore’, Branch Manager, East Lake County Library, addressed those present, stating that the East Lake County Library was dedicated October 6, 2000 and that, even though it is smaller than most libraries, it offers the same services that the larger libraries offer. He stated that the library is about to embark on its first summer program, which is geared to children from Kindergarten to Sixth Grade, and that they expect a good turnout, at which time he encouraged those present to sign up for said program.
Mr. Wayne Gudzinskas, Assistant Director, Library Services, addressed those present, stating that Library Services provides the citizens of Lake County with a wealth of resources, through their libraries, such as books, videos, computers, the Internet, etc. He encouraged those present to participate in the Library Services system.
Ms. Wendy Breeden, Library Services Director, addressed those present, stating that the County currently has nine libraries - six member libraries and three branch libraries. She stated that there will soon be three more branch libraries in Astor, Paisley, and somewhere in the central Lake County area. She stated that a service the Lake County Library System offers is that, if they do not have a book in the system that an individual is requesting, they will go outside the region, the State of Florida, or even the country, to try to obtain what that individual is requesting. She stated that they offer a courier service, where they will bring material that an individual is requesting to the nearest available library to said individual, and a books-by-mail service, where they will mail material to an individual who does not want to have to go to the library to pick it up, which she noted is great for the elderly, someone who does not have transportation, business people, etc. She stated that the County’s Library System has the following website: http://www.lakeline.lib.fl.us which she encouraged people to utilize, noting that there are a lot of resources available to them on the internet. She stated that the Library System also links directly to the County’s website, enabling one to access county departments and resources that it offers. She stated that the Lake County Library System has a reciprocal borrowing agreement with the Orange County Library System and currently has one in the works with Volusia County, which she noted should be going to the Board of County Commissioners for approval in June of this year. She stated that the County has a new literacy program, which it has had a tremendous response from, as well as a Summer Reading Program. She encouraged those present to take advantage of the services that the County’s Library System offers.
PRESENTATION ON ROADS
Mr. Jim Stivender, Jr., Senior Director, Public Works, addressed those present and discussed various things that fall under the Public Works Department, such as the fact that they are responsible for maintaining the 1,200 miles of roads in the County; they review all proposed development in the County and coordinate road projects with FDOT and the cities; they maintain use of the gas tax funds and road impact fees that are collected in the County; and they are over Mosquito/Aquatic Plant Management. He discussed various road projects that are currently ongoing in the County and reviewed a handout that was made available to those present, which contained proposed county and state road projects. He briefly touched on the Hwy. 441 road widening construction project that is currently underway in Tavares, noting that 45,000 cars per day travel said highway, which is over capacity. He stated that, over the next 5 to 7 years, Hwy. 441 will be under construction, noting that FDOT is going to be six-laning it from the east side of Leesburg to Donnelly Street, in Mt. Dora, and will be adding paved shoulders and doing detail work from Donnelly Street to the Orange County line. He stated that there is no long term plan for six-laning that segment of roadway. He stated that a preliminary study was conducted on the SR 46 corridor approximately three years ago and, due to the results of said study, public hearings are scheduled to be held between 2006 and 2008, to see what needs to be done with that corridor. He discussed the SR 429 extension to the Western Beltway, noting that the Expressway Authority approached the Board approximately two years ago requesting approval to do a study of Lake County. He stated that the request was granted by the Board last year and the study should be completed sometime in November or December of 2003, however, noted that, before the Expressway Authority can take any further action, it has to approach the Board, to see if they wish to go any further with the addition to the beltway. He briefly discussed the County’s special assessment program, noting that it has been very successful. He stated that the County has been doing special assessment projects since 1982 and has done over 90 thus far. He noted that the County has to obtain approval from 55% of the property owners, in order to do a special assessment project.
Mr. Stivender then answered questions from the audience, such as whether any Lake County residents were on the Expressway Authority or any of the search committees for the beltway; where residents can get more detailed information about the proposed SR 46 project; the issue of stormwater runoff; and whether it was a fact that the Expressway Authority plans to start construction on the northwest Lake County ramp to SR 429 by 2004, to be completed by 2007.
It was noted by the audience that the residents of Lake County do not want the County to look like Orlando, with an expressway running through it; that they feel Lake County needs representation on the Expressway Authority; and that they feel the SR 429 extension is going to dump more Orange County traffic into Lake County, therefore, do not want it.
The Board was asked whether they supported the proposed SR 429 extension to the Western Beltway.
Commr. Hanson stated that she would not support the SR 429 extension or the widening of SR 46, if it entails other than limited access. She stated that she could not guarantee into the future, however, noted that there should not be any land use changes, with regard to said projects.
Commr. Hill stated that she has not seen the proposed SR 429 extension, therefore, feels it would be premature for her to state whether she would or would not support it. She stated that she would have to look at the plans very closely, before approving anything.
Commr. Stivender stated that the Board has not been given the details about the proposed SR 429 extension, however, noted that they review everything they receive and try to take into consideration the best interest of all concerned. She stated that the Board is advised very well by the County Attorney and county staff and, once they receive something on the SR 429 extension, they will review the matter.
Commr. Pool stated that it has been indicated to the Expressway Authority that they will not have the authority to do anything, without approval of this Board. He stated that the Board would like to have input from the majority of the public, not just the group of people present at this meeting, as to how they feel about the proposed SR 429 extension coming through the County. He stated that a public hearing will tell the Board where the residents stand on the issue, what the Board should do about it, and how they should do it.
The Board was informed by a member of the audience that the County’s Comprehensive Plan does not protect its residents from growth, that the only thing that does protect the residents is if the Board chooses to vote against growth. He stated that he understood the EAR gives the residents of the County that protection; however, the Board has not and will not consider approving it, even though it has been honored and recognized by the State.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney/Interim County Manager, stated that the EAR, which is an appendage to the County’s Comprehensive Plan, was approved by the Board and is in effect. He stated that the Growth Management staff is currently working on developing the amendments that the EAR calls for, however, noted that it will take several years for it to be adopted into the Comprehensive Plan.
It was noted by a member of the audience that a meeting was held recently in Mt. Dora, where a representative from E-Pass informed those present that SR 46 has already been approved to be six-laned and should be completed within 7 to 10 years. She questioned what is going to happen to the Mt. Dora and Sorrento areas, when that occurs.
Commr. Hanson stated that she had not heard anything about six laning SR 46.
Mr. Stivender stated that he did not know where that individual got his information, noting that he had been to Tallahassee and had met with the Secretary of Transportation and nothing was mentioned about six laning SR 46.
Mr. Stivender was questioned as to when the County planned to put in paved shoulders on SR 42, to which he responded that materials are currently being stocked to do so, from the dairy to the river.
A member of the audience stated that he feels the County should be allowed to mandate representation on the Expressway Authority’s search committee.
Mr. Minkoff stated that it is not possible to have representation on said committee, because the Expressway Authority is statutorily created by the Legislature, however, noted that, if they were to build a road system through Lake County, there would have to be input, on a continuing basis, from the Board of County Commissioners and the only input the County has had at this time is at staff level.
Mr. Charles Lee, representing the State’s Audubon Society, informed the Board that the Audubon Society is very concerned about SR 46 and the potential for a beltway extending through Lake and Orange counties, noting that it has wildlife sanctuary properties, as well as properties that are protected by the State, that are at great risk of destruction, as a result of new roadway construction projects. He suggested, as an environmental advocate and a property owner in the County, that the Board seriously consider whether they want to see SR 46 widened to six lanes and, if the answer is “No”, he would suggest they approve a Resolution and send it to the County’s legislative delegation, asking them to instruct the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the Expressway Authority that they do not want the road widened. He stated that, if the Board would like to see a modest expansion of the road, in a limited access capacity, he would suggest they inform the Florida Legislature of that fact and ask them to relay those sentiments to the FDOT and the Expressway Authority. He suggested that the Board not let the decisions lead them, but that they lead the decisions.
Commr. Pool stated that what happens with the SR 429 extension to the Western Beltway needs to be the will of all the people in the County, not just the will of those people present at this meeting. He stated that public hearings need to be held, before the Board can take any action on the matter. He stated that there may be just as many people in favor of the beltway as there are those that are not in favor of it.
PRESENTATION ON SMALL AREA STUDY
Ms. Sharon Farrell, Senior Director, Growth Management, addressed those present, stating that several years ago Commr. Hanson asked staff to take a look at the Mt. Plymouth/Sorrento area, anticipating the growth that has occurred in that area within the past six years. She stated that staff initiated a study of the area, considering its growth pressures and rural character, and held townhall meetings, where they collected a lot of information and viewpoints, which she noted was the first step in formalizing a conceptual plan for the area. She stated that, since her department has such a small planning staff, the County contracted with a firm in Orlando to address all the growth concerns and put together a framework for the County. She stated that, with so many people coming to the County, the Board has to take a look at some of the larger tracts of land and make a decision about them, as well as look at some design criteria. She stated that the EAR, alluded to earlier, was adopted by the Board and she has had her long-range planning staff do some of the minor amendments. She stated that census data the County received shows an incredible amount of growth in the Mt. Plymouth/Sorrento area, noting that it is the third highest growth area in the County. She stated that the small area study is just for a very small area within the Wekiva River Protection Area and that the framework the consultants are putting together for the County is not a done deal - it just lays out some issues for the County.
Commr. Hanson stated that her concern with the Mt. Plymouth/Sorrento area is not to promote growth, but to look at how the area is growing. She stated that, normally, an area that size, with its population, would be starting to look at incorporating. She stated that she does not necessarily support incorporating, unless the residents want it, but that is not what she is hearing. She stated that, if the County waits until that happens, it could be too late. She stated that the County has a chance now, with the small area study, to put a plan in place. She stated that, if the County does nothing and leaves the area like it is, then the Comprehensive Plan will manage the growth, however, questioned whether that is what the County wants, or whether they want better than that. She stated that that is what the small area study is for, to find out whether the residents want it better or just like it is. She stated that she needs to hear from the residents, as to what they want, and that is why the County is doing the small area study.
The Board was asked again whether or not they were in favor of the SR 429 extension to the Western Beltway extending into Lake County, noting that they had not fully answered the question earlier in the meeting.
Commr. Pool stated that the Board needs to find out what the people of the County want, noting that public hearings need to be held regarding the matter, because the Board needs more facts and more of the issues addressed, before it can make a decision on the matter.
The Board was informed that, when something of this importance comes up, some type of public notice needs to go out, other than a legal notice in the newspaper, because nobody reads it - that there needs to be more widespread notification of said meetings, to allow the Board to obtain various opinions.
Commr. Hanson stated that, as the County moves through the process at hand, there will be several public hearings, as mentioned, to obtain input from the citizens.
A member of the audience informed the Board that he is dependent on his well and, because of it, is terrified by the recent action that almost occurred in Tallahassee, to inject untreated water into the aquifer. He questioned whether the Board would state an opinion on it.
Commr. Hanson stated that the Board went on record against such action and feels that it had a big impact on the Governor’s decision to not move forward with the matter. She noted that the Board approved a Resolution opposing it, which was sent to the Governor.
The Board was questioned about the issue of billboards and what their stand is about them.
Commr. Hanson stated that last year the Board banned billboards in Lake County and, along with it, signage. She stated that Lake County has one of the strictest billboard ordinances in the State, noting that, if a billboard is eliminated due to road widening, it will not be allowed to be replaced.
The Board was asked about the status of turn lanes being installed at Camp Challenge; what they plan to do about helping residents in the County with their wells; what their view is regarding the conservation of water; why they continue to approve subdivisions in the County, when there are residents who are running out of water for their wells; and why the Board does not come to meetings such as this one prepared with questions to ask the residents about issues involving their community.
It was noted that the majority of those present would be in favor of the Board holding public hearings on the issue of the transportation corridors and that, if the County would provide public transportation, people would use it.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 9:35 p.m.
CATHERINE C. HANSON, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK