A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
SEPTEMBER 19, 2005
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Monday, September 19, 2005, at 5:00 p.m., at Minneola City Hall, Minneola, Florida, to hear a petition to rezone property by the Lake County School Board. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Jennifer Hill, Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson, Vice Chairman; Welton G. Cadwell; Debbie Stivender; and Robert A. Pool. Others present were: Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Cynthia W. “Cindy” Hall, County Manager; Wendy Taylor, Executive Office Manager, Board of County Commissioners’ Office; and Judy Whaley, Deputy Clerk.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, gave the Invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
PUBLIC HEARING - REZONING
REZONING CASE PH#50-05-2- LAKE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS - HARRY FIX, AICP - TRACKING NO. 56-05-CFD
Commr. Hill stated that the purpose of tonight’s meeting is to hear a request for Rezoning Case PH#50-05-2; Lake County Public Schools; Harry Fix, AICP; Tracking No. 56-05-CFD, a request to rezone from PUD (Planned Unit Development) to CFD (Community Facility District).
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, explained the quasi-judicial process a follows: the Board is acting as a judge or hearing officer on the application filed by the School Board for rezoning of the property. The County Code provides that other interested persons could participate by filing a Notice of Appearance at least five days before tonight’s meeting. No such notice has been filed by any other party. He explained that Lake County rules do provide that, at the end of the presentation by the School Board, all members of the public will be able to speak. At that time, speakers do not need to be sworn nor can they be cross examined. They essentially may give comments to the Board on what they think the Board should do with this decision. He pointed out that the Board’s decision must be supported by evidence that is heard tonight, either for or against the rezoning petition. Mr. Minkoff concluded that evidence is not opinion but is fact that has to be presented to the Board.
Commr. Hill explained the procedure for the public hearing as follows: after presentations by staff and the applicant and questions by the Board, members of the public will be allowed to speak. After public comments, the applicant will be allowed rebuttal time. The Board may ask questions and may make statements or comments and a motion will be made. She noted that various Board members have received e-mails, phone messages and letters and have had personal visits.
Commissioners Hanson, Stivender, Pool, Hill and Cadwell disclosed, for the record, that they have met with parties from both sides of the issue.
Mr. Jeff Richardson, Planning Manager, Planning and Development Services, Lake County Department of Growth Management, presented Rezoning Case PH#50-05-2; Lake County Public Schools; Harry Fix, AICP; Tracking No. 56-05-CFD, a request to rezone a 115 +/- acre parcel from an existing PUD (Planned Unit Development) to CFD (Community Facility District) for the construction of a high school and middle school. The site is in the Minneola area, approximately 8/10 of a mile east on Sullivan Road from the intersection at U.S. Highway 27 (Hwy 27). He explained that the existing PUD (Highlands PUD) has not been developed and pieces of it have been rezoned. Regarding the status of that PUD, which currently has a vested rights determination that was issued for the development order and for the overall parcel, it is staff’s position that the vesting is no longer in place. He added that, while it holds the zoning, the rights to use the property are not there. To come back, it would have to conform to the current Future Land Use and current regulations.
Mr. Richardson continued the Summary of Analysis (included in the backup material) by stating that staff finds that there are several issues relating to consistency with the Lake County Comprehensive Plan. The proposed rezoning is not wholly consistent with Objective 1-5, Planning for Public Facilities and Institutional Activities. The issues may be able to be addressed; however, there is still one overriding issue which is the compatibility with the surrounding area.
Mr. Richardson stated that no one is arguing that there is not a need for public school stations in Lake County. The question, however, is the appropriateness of the site of this particular parcel. He explained the following Findings (included in the backup material):
Mr. Richardson stated that, at the printing of the staff report (May 26, 2005), four written comments were filed in support, twelve written comments were submitted in opposition and six letters of concern were on file. He noted that other e-mails have been received over the last several days. He stated that the Lake County Zoning Board granted approval of the CFD by a vote of 6-0, asking for deletion of the language after “Transportation Improvement:” Section 1.D and the addition of the following language: “Adequate access to the site shall be provided at the time of site plan approval.”
Commr. Hill commented that the school siting ordinance includes approximately 22 points that need to be met. She asked how many points the subject property meets.
Mr. Richardson responded that staff does find an inconsistency with the application and recommends denial at this time regarding size, and the land use location, other than the inconsistencies found with the dual siting and those inconsistencies with the Suburban land use category.
Commr. Stivender asked what the Zoning Board was referring to as adequate access and whether the School Board or the developer, not the County, would do that.
Mr. Richardson explained that the Zoning Board discussed the need for roadway improvements. He opined that the recommendation came about regarding who would do the improvements. There were no offers one way or the other. He opined that the Zoning Board wanted to be sure it could be shown, if approved, and at site development approval, that the roadways could carry the capacity as well as withstand the traffic.
Commr. Pool referred to Policy 1-5.7: “A high school site may be located in any allowed land use designation except where prohibited under Policy 1-1.15 provided the proposed site will accommodate the projected student population over a minimum of 10 years…if a proven need based on the projected growth of the geographic area can be shown, schools of any type may be located in any land use designation where allowed pursuant to Policy 1-1.15.” He asked if it can happen or not happen based on population projections.
Mr. Richardson responded that it can happen but there has to be documentation that shows that the location of the school will serve that population as it grows over the next ten years.
Commr. Stivender referred to a May 26, 2004, memorandum to the Board of County Commissioners from Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager, and Jim Stivender, Public Works Director. (A copy was marked Exhibit LC-2 for Lake County.) She explained that the points previously referred to by Commr. Hill are listed in the memorandum. She stated that quite a few do not meet the school criteria. She stated that the memorandum suggested that this may not be the right site now but it might be in five to seven years. She asked Mr. Richardson if he was referring to that 2004 study during his presentation.
Mr. Richardson concurred and remarked that the appropriateness and the timing may not be appropriate due to the improvements and conditions of the surrounding area, not necessarily the roadways, but the densities and intensities that are currently developing.
Commr. Stivender asked if the memorandum was forwarded to the School Board or their staff in May 2004.
Mr. Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager/Growth Management Director, stated that he does not specifically remember but is reasonably certain that the School Board, at some time, did receive the memorandum. He clarified that Items 4, 6, 7, 9, 14, 16, 26 and 28 (on Pages 3 and 4 of the May 26, 2004, memorandum) were items on the School Board’s due diligence checklist, not items in the County’s school siting ordinance.
Commr. Pool remarked that the report indicates that the City of Minneola has approved 963 units in Founders Ridge and 710 units in the Reserve at Minneola. He asked how many homes are approved at Sugarloaf.
Mr. Richardson responded that the total under the DRI (Development of Regional Impact) and the local PUD (Planned Unit Development) is 2,434.
Mr. Fred Schneider, Director of Engineering, Lake County Department of Public Works, continued the slide presentation by showing the Area Road Network map. He stated that most of these roads are under designed, structurally under built roadways and some are clay roads. He explained that the City of Minneola has approved 723 single family homes and 240 multi family units in Founders Ridge and has approved 689 single family units at the Reserve at Minneola. Both developments, as part of their development order with the City of Minneola, were required to do certain roadway improvements. Founders Ridge was required to improve N. Grassy Lake Road west to Hwy 27 with impact fee credits coming back from the County road impact fee fund.
Mr. Schneider discussed the next slide, an aerial photograph which was provided by the Founders Ridge developer, which shows the proposed school site. He noted that the Reserve was required to provide an elementary school site. He showed additional aerial views of Grassy Lake Road, Sullivan Road and other roadways in the area. Referring to the slide titled Proposed School Site Study Area Traffic Counts, June 8, 2005, he stated that there are approximately 318 trips per day on Sullivan Road near the edge of Hwy 27 and about 438 trips per day on N. Grassy Lake Road. These roads have very low current traffic volumes. Mr. Schneider explained that they took traffic counts at another high school in the area. Most high schools will generate about 2,500 daily trips and middle schools average about the same. He stated that the school site capacity issue would be that the trips would all come at one time of the day. He showed additional photographs and aerial views of the roads, including recently resurfaced N. Grassy Lake Road. The other roads in the area are not on the resurfacing program this year but will be looked at again next year, depending on traffic counts and available funding. He confirmed that Public Works, in the resurfacing program, would be adding an inch of asphalt to the existing roadways.
Mr. Schneider further explained that the current roadways do not meet collector road standards. If rebuilt as a collector road, we would tear up what is there, put down a new base and a new asphalt surface. Depending on how the Board moves forward with improving those roadways, whether an urban design with curb and gutter and sidewalks, or a swale design, both options can be explored.
Mr. Schneider stated that the roads have geometric problems as well as drainage problems and N. Grassy Lake Road needs to be retrofitted as far as stormwater. With low traffic volumes, there is not a big issue with water quality from a lot of grease and oils but when more vehicles are added, those water quality issues will need to be fixed. Mr. Schneider showed the Founders Ridge Maintenance Map which was prepared by Farner Barley. He stated that the Founders Ridge developer has agreed to improve some of N. Grassy Lake Road. The primary issue is right of way. He stated that the maintenance map has not gone to the Board for approval and the green areas shown on the map are what they are claiming as maintenance right of way. He further explained that a maintenance map is a legal document that would come to the County Commission for consideration of approval. He remarked that he has heard from some of the residents that they are not interested in having a maintenance map filed on their roadway. He noted that the next slide, an aerial view (Proposed 50’ Right-of-Way) was provided by the Founders Ridge developer. About 3,000 feet of N. Grassy Lake roadway does not fall within the developer’s property and will need additional right of way. He remarked that it would fall upon the Board of County Commissioners, the developer or another entity to acquire that right of way.
Mr. Schneider showed four concept drawings of N. Grassy Lake Road which were prepared by the Engineering Division, Lake County Department of Public Works. He opined that a little more than 50 feet of right of way might be needed for a two-lane roadway and existing homeowners would probably be backing out into the roadway. One slide showed a sidewalk and a slope not suitable for a driveway. Driveway easements would be asked for in order to rebuild those driveways to make that slope work better so that they can get into and out of their driveways. Regarding a four-lane look at N. Grassy Lake Road, he stated that most of the right of way could be coming off the north side. The developer recommended moving the road north and south to try to avoid homes and structures and some of the big power poles. This condition would be something similar to Sullivan Road or other area roads. The drawing of a four-lane roadway with a five-foot sidewalk shows a different way of acquiring the right of way. The existing right of way in this area is probably 20 feet wide. The four-lane concept is 100 foot wide, not including any slope easements that might be needed. With a two lane roadway, he commented that most of it could probably fit within 50 feet but some of those slopes and driveways would have to be worked back.
In response to a question by Commr. Cadwell, Mr. Schneider advised that none of these roadways are included in the five-year, funded Capital Improvement Program but, in anticipation of some things that are occurring, a $2 million fund is in the road program for 2008 without specific identification of roadways.
In response to a request by Commr. Pool, Mr. Schneider stated that he will show the map (Minneola Ridge Area-Wide Traffic Study) of proposed and approved developments and the future roads network at the end of his presentation. He explained that the Study is scheduled to come before the County Commission in October for discussion of the findings, without specific recommendations. That presentation will include the existing traffic roadway network, knowing there are two-lane roads under design, what would happen to the roads with all of the approved and proposed development in the area, and the number of lanes that would be needed east and west and north and south. The purpose of the discussion will be to give the evidence of the study and what will have to occur in the County’s roadway network in order to plan for that.
Commr. Cadwell asked for clarification and Mr. Schneider reiterated that the Study has not been presented to the Board of County Commissioners. He stated that there was a concern in bringing it to the Board prior to this rezoning hearing because of a possible conflict with issues regarding a specific developer’s rights and the School Board.
Continuing the slide presentation, Mr. Schneider showed photographs of traffic at South Lake High School and reiterated that the daily trips, whether at a high school or combined with a middle school, will be coming all at one time. When that occurs at South Lake High School, there is a 3,000 or 4,000 foot backup down Silver Eagle Road and that impacts the intersection at CR 565A. He explained that the roadways in front of the school, or internal to the school, should be designed to handle that large amount of trips. There should be a traffic management plan as to how to get the school buses, parents and student drivers in and out.
If the proposed school site is not designed well, Mr. Schneider indicated that traffic would be backing up all the way down Grassy Lake Road and tying up the intersection at N. Grassy Lake, even impacting the intersection at Hwy 27. He reiterated that the main issues are the structural conditions of the roadways, traffic management, the geometrics and the drainage. These improvements would need to be done before adding a large mix of new, young drivers who are not prepared to drive those kinds of roadways.
Mr. Schneider completed his presentation by showing the draft map of the Minneola Ridge Area-Wide Traffic Study. (The map was marked Exhibit LC-3 for Lake County.)
Commr. Stivender asked, if the request were to be approved and if the County Commission put money toward the road, would money from the already approved five-year roads plan be needed.
Mr. Schneider reiterated that $2 million was set aside for 2008.
Commr. Stivender remarked that $2 million will not build the road. She commented that other roads such as Hartwood-Marsh, Hartle Road and Hook Street, which we have been working on for about ten years, probably would have to be reprioritized.
Mr. Schneider concurred that is a possibility. He noted that the South Clermont Connector is scheduled for bidding in October or November and that project will cost about $6 million.
Commr. Stivender stated, for the understanding of the public, that the County has a list of priorities that have been worked out with the municipalities and staff.
Mr. Fred Morrison, attorney representing the Lake County School Board, stated that the purpose of tonight’s hearing is for the School Board to ask this Board’s approval for CFD zoning for this site in order to construct a combined middle-high school to serve the students of south Lake County, alleviate the overcrowding that already exists, and prepare for anticipated student growth from developments that have been approved by this Board, by Minneola and other south Lake County municipalities and by developments which are seeking approval. He gave a slide presentation titled Lowndes School Site Zoning (a print copy was presented to the Deputy Clerk and marked Exhibit A-1 for the Applicant) which included the following:
Mr. Greg Beliveau, LPG Urban & Regional Planners, Inc., presented a breakdown of the numbers shown by Mr. Morrison (copies were marked Exhibit A-2 for the Applicant). He stated that they used existing, approved and proposed middle/high students within a four-mile radius for a grand total of 2,087 middle school students and 2,819 high school students. He stated that this information was not given to County staff during the application process which illustrates that compliance with those two policies in the Comprehensive Plan does exist with this site. He stated that the site is bordered on at least three sides by projects that are approved or in the pipeline. He stated that the east side abuts a utility site.
Commr. Cadwell asked, in what respect, are the proposed students in the pipeline.
Mr. Beliveau responded that one has had a charrette and another is going through the approval process. He stated that a lot are in the system but not vested. He stated that they considered looking at what is vested out and looking at what has not been built. He stated that this does not reflect projects that are approved, platted or phases platted, that have not gotten future phases coming into County staff or to city staff. He opined that would be overkill because these numbers would be inflated if those projects were included. He stated that would take more time and they did not want to extend that process.
Commr. Cadwell asked for clarification of the number of approved students.
Mr. Beliveau explained that the approved students come from projects that have been approved and development orders that have been issued by either the County or the City of Minneola. He stated that some of these rooftops have not come out of the ground.
Commr. Pool asked if 5,386 is an accurate number of approved housing units in that vicinity.
Mr. Beliveau concurred that it is.
Mr. Morrison continued the slide presentation, as follows:
Commr. Cadwell asked how long unfriendly condemnation and takings of rights of way would take.
Mr. Morrison explained that a quick order of taking, the pre-suit negotiation and other things, could be done in six to eight months. He stated that the lawsuit itself, as far as what you have to pay for it, drags on for years unless it can be settled. He stated that probably the longest part of the process of getting right of way is engineering. He stated that, once you get engineering, you can move quickly to acquisition but do not have any idea of the cost.
Commr. Cadwell remarked that the County Commission would have to pay for that right of way.
Mr. Morrison commented that would be something that would have to be resolved and that it might be the County Commission or a combination with the School Board or developers.
Commr. Cadwell stated that, if the developer paid, he would get impact fee credits back so he would be up-fronting the money.
Mr. Morrison agreed it would be a wash for the developer.
In response to Commr. Stivender’s inquiry regarding the School Board’s power of eminent domain, Mr. Morrison stated that the School Board has that power but he has not done research to determine whether the School Board would have the authority to condemn road right of way when the School Board does not build roads. He stated that the County Attorney indicated, through Mr. Welstead, that he believes the School Board can but he has not confirmed that.
Commr. Cadwell remarked that, because of the new growth management law and what it says regarding the Capital Improvement Plan, these are the kinds of projects that will come off the list because they are not economically feasible. He added that they are on the list only until the Board meets to talk about what will be taken off.
Mr. Donald Griffey, P.E., Griffey Engineering, provided two traffic volume handouts to the Board (copies were marked Exhibit A-3 for the Applicant). Using ITE (Institute of Transportation Engineers) trip generation rates using 2,000 high school and 1,500 middle school students, he stated that they would expect to generate 5,850 daily vehicle trips which is consistent with what County staff is anticipating. He stated that, when looking at capacity and the volume allowed on a roadway, the adopted level of service for roads in this area, according to the Comprehensive Plan, is Level of Service D. He stated that the daily traffic volume associated with Level D is 17,300. The volume produced at the school site would be about one-third of the capacity of the roadway. He stated that a single two-lane roadway would be adequate to provide traffic access in and out of the school site and still be well within the County’s standards.
Mr. Griffey referred to his handout, Typical Road & School Traffic Volumes, which shows a distribution of traffic. He stated that he used traffic counts from four roads in the area to develop a daily distribution of what would be expected to be seen and where the morning and afternoon peaks would occur. He stated that he took that basic distribution and applied it to the allowable volume on Level of Service D, the 17,300, and created the graph. He noted that he combined the traffic for the middle and high schools to show the net effect of these two uses on this one site.
Mr. Griffey explained that these are old grove-to-market roads, they were surface treated years ago and have had a layer of asphalt added in the County’s resurfacing program. He recognized the need to rebuild these roads and confirmed that there are areas where right of way does not exist. He stated that he looked at the area and, while there probably are some areas with less than ideal right of way conditions, it is doable to put a curb and gutter road section in there, and pipe the run off down into the Founders Ridge development. He stated that there probably will be sections where you cannot meet the ideal cross section but the roadway is doable.
Commr. Cadwell asked Mr. Griffey, as a traffic engineer, if he would suggest an urban or rural segment of road on Sullivan Road.
Mr. Griffey suggested urban sections in all of these areas with closed drainage systems, and curb and gutter, for a variety of reasons. One reason is that drainage reduces the right of way requirement. He stated that, because of the large developments, the Board can work with the developer and co-locate or utilize a pond on their site with the closed drainage system. He stated that the other alternative is swales, but, as this area develops out, an urban section would be more appropriate. He confirmed that they consider the primary access route to be N. Grassy Lake Road up to Grassy Lake Road and that it would need to be rebuilt. He stated that they estimated that cost to be about $1.8 million which would include the reconstruction from N. Grassy Lake Road, up Grassy Lake Road, and turn lanes and a signal at Hwy 27.
In response to Commr. Cadwell’s comment regarding getting out to Hwy 27 as quickly as possible, Mr. Griffey responded that traffic can be managed and routes can be controlled. He stated that, if left for drivers to choose, they will find the shortest route. As traffic engineers and managers, they have the ability to provide controls.
Mr. Griffey stated that the photograph of South Lake High School is a good representation of the number of cars that would be seen, recognizing that there is a bit of traffic associated with middle and high schools. He offered that, in the case of South Lake High School on Silver Eagle, the problem might be a result of on-site traffic management rather than a capacity problem. He stated that a successful example would be Oak Park Middle School in Leesburg. He explained that a middle school was combined with an elementary school and a serpentine road was developed whereby traffic is on the site and off the roadway. He opined that those kinds of problems can be addressed on the site development.
Commr. Cadwell asked how far it is from the entrance on the main road to the parking lots at South Lake High School.
Mr. Schneider answered that it is about 3,000 feet, which is more than one-half a mile.
Mr. Griffey reiterated that, even though a middle and high school will generate a lot of traffic, if managed well, there will not be backups. He stated that, in looking at the draft study that was done by the County and looking at the amount of development they were using to project the volumes on the roadways, he quickly calculated an estimate of about $40 million in impact fees that will be collected from the proposed developments. He stated that, while the developers get impact fee credits, he has not been involved with one where they got 100% credit.
In responding to Commr. Pool’s inquiry about the $1.8 million, Mr. Griffey explained that is their estimate of what it would cost to rebuild N. Grassy Lake Road and Grassy Lake Road from Hwy 27.
Commr. Cadwell commented that the impact fee credits would come out of existing funds.
Mr. Griffey stated that it depends on how the development agreements are structured. Sometimes they are reimbursements and sometimes they are taken off as the building permits are pulled.
Mr. Morrison continued the School Board’s slide presentation, as follows:
Commr. Cadwell asked if the percentage of increase in home values in Greater Pines was much different from other parts of Lake County.
Mr. Morrison responded that he did not look at that. He stated that it is comparable with his neighborhood in Leesburg which is not next to a school.
Commr. Pool asked Mr. Morrison if he has legal recourse to challenge the decision, based on the information at hand, in the event the request is denied.
Mr. Morrison stated that one of the axioms of our legal system is, if you lose, you get an appeal. He stated that appeal means a lot of things but a small “a” appeal means you get to ask somebody to figure out if the person who gave you the decision you do not like did the right thing.
Commr. Cadwell remarked that appealing one of these cases is basically based on whether there was a fair hearing.
Mr. Morrison explained that this is an unusual case because it involves school siting which has the special standards to which he alluded. He stated that he has not looked at this because it is not something he really wanted to think about. He reiterated his remarks regarding F.S., Section 1013.33(13). He stated that, if the Board denies it outright, he supposes they could make the argument to a court that they showed enough evidence that it was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, that it had to be approved and then it would be remanded back to you to determine what the conditions are. He stated that is pure speculation but is a possibility.
In closing, Mr. Morrison stated that, legally under the new growth management act, some real school concurrency with some teeth in it is coming. He stated that it is not as much as the School Board might of have liked because developers have an “out” by making a proportional contribution in dollars. He stated that the concurrency, if it hits and the schools are not there, could potentially lead to a situation where the Board could not grant building permits anywhere in Lake County because right now the Lake County School Board is a unified district countywide. If there is a deficiency anywhere, it applies everywhere. He stated that he hesitates to bring up a fear factor but, if the Board puts them 18 months or two years out of the curve on these schools, growth management would kick in before the schools are built. He asked the Board to keep in the back of their minds that school concurrency is coming and it could come back and bite us all.
Commr. Cadwell asked if districts can be created through interlocal agreement with the School Board under the concurrency language.
Mr. Morrison agreed that they can be created but explained that the School Board has, historically, resisted districting because they need the flexibility to use their impact fees everywhere in the County.
Commr. Cadwell confirmed with Mr. Morrison that, if they had an area that they established was in critical condition, they could decide to do that by policy.
Regarding the statement that the road system will be improved by developers at no cost to the County, Commr. Stivender remarked that she understands the developer cannot do the road unless the adequate right of way is available. She stated that this does not say who would acquire the right of way and she does not believe it is the Board’s responsibility. She asked if that is a reason for granting the request and if the School Board will take it upon themselves to do eminent domain to get the right of way.
Mr. Morrison responded that he has not looked at that legally but they would have to, at least, participate in that process if the Board makes them do that. He reiterated that is a condition in development, not a reason to deny it.
Commr. Cadwell asked Mr. Morrison if he thought the School Board would do that, knowing their conservative nature.
Mr. Morrison replied that the only project he has been involved in of that nature was a cooperative effort between Leesburg and the County years ago to acquire the right of way for what is now the Thomas Avenue extension behind Wal-Mart.
Commr. Pool remarked that Mr. Morrison mentioned that it is the Board’s responsibility to rezone this site and to put conditions on the approval. He asked what would happen if the School Board does not agree with the conditions.
Mr. Morrison explained that the statute utilizes the word “reasonable.” He stated that it says the Board may impose reasonable development conditions and there is room for reasonable people to disagree about what reasonable development conditions are.
At this time, Commr. Hill noted that four members of the School Board wish to speak.
Mr. Scott Strong, Chairman, Lake County School Board, stated that the needs are immediate. By 2009, there will be 45,000 students, up from the current 36,000, and by 2020 there will be 60,000 students. He stated that it will become more and more difficult for the School Board to find properties. He asked the Commissioners to consider the ruling of the Lake County Zoning Board. He opined that this will be an excellent decision ten years from now. Regarding the size of the site, he explained that the high school has a disproportional amount of utilization at night with the football field. In south Lake County, the School Board has spent a lot of money on buffering and walls and sound attenuation. He stated that very few homes immediately surround or adjoin the site and anyone moving in should be aware that the high school is going in. He stated that they reviewed multiple sites and this property was deemed by the School Board to be the most appropriate. Regarding the May 26, 2004, memorandum, Mr. Strong referred to the statement that the County has not approved new residential rezonings within a two-mile radius in the past two years. He remarked that the school system must serve the needs of the entire County and it is not relevant where they come from or who caused the problem. He stated that the School Board desperately needs the Commission’s help.
Commr. Cadwell asked if the School Board has any money to put into the transportation system.
Mr. Strong stated that the School Board has made the commitment to immediately fund the middle school because of extreme overcrowding. He stated that he would never rule out saying they have funds or no funds because he does not want to speak officially of the finances of the District. He stated that they want to be a partner and, if there is some arrangement that can be worked out to facilitate the rapid construction of this school, they will do everything they reasonably can. He pointed out that they lost over 8,547 spaces when the class-size reduction took effect a couple of years ago.
Commr. Cadwell commented that we have a great opportunity with concurrency. Lake County asked, and the State agreed, that we would be one of the pilot counties.
Mr. Strong remarked that Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has been an advocate for that and the additional funding will allow some of the behind the scenes paperwork to be pushed through at minimal burden to the County, the cities and the School Board.
Ms. Kyleen Fischer, Lake County School Board Member, stated that the Commissioners have worked with her for the betterment of education. She stated that she and Commr. Stivender met regularly last year with past Superintendent Pam Saylor and that Commr. Stivender introduced her to Mr. Howard Lefkowitz who was willing to work with the School Board and to help fund the roadways to a school site. She thanked Commr. Cadwell for the moratorium that gave the School Board a chance to breath. She stated that the School Board and the Commissioners have a responsibility to educate children and accept reality. She stated that 5,000 new units and thousands of new students cannot all fit into the same box. She stated that they have plans to make sure this school site does not impact the community. She encouraged the Commissioners to look at Oak Park and Leesburg Elementary to see how the road winds within the school site to eliminate traffic in the community. Ms. Fischer stated that the two boards will continue to work together. She stated that, if the Commissioners vote no tonight, many students will not have a seat or a quality teacher or a student environment in which they can learn. She thanked Commr. Pool for finding another site to consider and she thanked Commissioners Hill and Hanson for their work.
Mr. Larry Metz, School Board Member, stated that he empathizes with citizens who live on Sullivan Road. He remarked that the Board should not look at this decision as an all or nothing proposition with respect to the Sullivan Road issues because there are options to consider. He pointed out that, in older communities which are surrounded by newer or different types of uses, creative solutions are found, such as cul-de-sacs, gated communities or creating a neighborhood improvement district where right of way could be acquired. He stated that there are ways to restrict the traffic and he echoed the statements that Sullivan Road is not the primary access to this site. He stated that, in the site plan process, siting of the schools can be addressed. The most active parts of the campus do not have to back up against the houses. Mr. Metz stated that looking at what is approved, vested and proposed is the time to look at compatibility. He stated that a new elementary school will be open by 2007 on property a little to the south. They will do a major rebuild of Minneola Charter Elementary, more than doubling the permanent student stations. Those two elementary schools will have over 2,000 student stations combined and the question is where those kids will go to middle school. He stated that this site is the only site and the middle school needs to be open by 2008. He added that the high school would be open a year or two later. Mr. Metz stated that, if you consider the compatibility with what will be there in the future when the schools are on line, in 2008-2009, the compatibility issue goes away.
Mr. Jimmy Conner, Vice Chairman, Lake County School Board, noted new schools in each district and classroom additions in the last five years. He stated that they have bonded property tax revenues beyond 1.0 mills by a 1/10th of a percent and still kept the high bond rating. He stated that they used sales tax dollars on high schools throughout Lake County and they are taking the extraordinary step of bonding impact fees in order to put a middle school on this site. He stated that they need this rezoning for current student population. He stated that he agrees with those who are against all the growth in Lake County, but, even if the Board denies this rezoning, growth is still coming. He stated that the evidence produced by Mr. Morrison is one of the factors that the School Board considered when they decided to purchase this property. They looked at several sites, some in the Sugarloaf area and one that was closer to East Ridge. They hired Mr. Beliveau to do a study based on a comprehensive process and they found 110 acres of relatively flat property adjacent to a sewer plant that had just been approved by the Board of County Commissioners. He stated that the School Board had no idea that the rezoning would be an issue. They did not hear from the Sullivan Road people in opposition to this site at that time. He stated that, perhaps, their decision would have been different had the people opposed this. He stated that the School Board has to provide student stations for the students in elementary schools. He noted that East Ridge High School was built for 1,899 students and there are over 2,700 students there today. He stated that the proposed high school would be full by the time it is built even if no other development is approved. He emphasized the importance of this being for current residents.
Mr. Conner stated that the rezoning is needed; otherwise, double sessions are coming and they will not be temporary. He stated that there are no other good choices. He stated that, if we delay the start of a middle school, it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not a few million, because of the increased costs of construction. He stated that the Zoning Board recommended in favor of this even though staff recommended against it. He reminded the Board that Mr. Welstead told us that this would be a good site in five to ten years. Lastly, in looking at history, Mr. Conner stated that the School Board got a lot of criticism when they built Astatula Elementary School for the Arts because it had a couple of hundred empty student stations. He stated that, today, it looks like a great site because of planning and the empty student stations have been filled. He stated that history will prove that this is a great site and that the School Board went through the right process. He asked for the Board’s support because students do not want extended double sessions.
Commr. Stivender asked if there is a design for the middle and high schools.
Mr. Conner stated that money is budgeted in their master plan pending approval. The School Board is ready to move forward on the design and construction of the middle school and the planning for the design of the high school. He stated that they will be good neighbors and will work with the Board, staff and the community on designing the school away from the Sullivan Road folks if that is what is needed.
RECESS & REASSEMBLY
At 7:15 p.m., Commr. Hill announced a fifteen minute break.
Commr. Hill noted that Ms. Anna Cowin, Superintendent of Schools, had to leave the meeting because of a family issue and that Ms. Becky Elswick, School Board Member, is in the audience.
Commr. Hill opened the public hearing portion of the meeting and called for public comment.
Ms. Mary Priolo, from south Lake County, expressed her support of the School Board’s request, noting that she travels sixty miles a day to get her children to and from school.
Ms. Andrea Nurse, from the Four Corners area, stated that she backs the School Board’s decision, and remarked that her two daughters have been in five schools in six years and the family has not moved once.
Mr. Dave Dewey referred to Lake County Land Development Regulation Section 14.03.03, and stated that Items I and J were left out of the presentation. He read the following: (I) Whether the proposed rezoning would be in conflict with the public interest, and in harmony with the purpose and intent of these Regulations; and (J) Any other matters that may be deemed appropriate by the Lake County Zoning Board or the Board of County Commissioners in review and consideration of the proposed rezoning. He stated that the Board has some room on this one. He asked when do we stop ruining our beautiful rolling green hills.
Mr. Ed Gonzales referred to a brochure funded by development interests which has appeared in many mailboxes. He stated that there is no infrastructure at this location. He stated that builders prepaid impact fees at the lower rate and cost the School Board over $12 million. He asked the Board to deny the rezoning request.
Ms. Joyce Stefancic, who lives in the Sugarloaf area, stated that the negative effects include urbanization and habitat destruction, specifically that of Florida’s only endemic bird, the threatened Florida Scrub-Jay. She stated that she has seen Florida Scrub-Jays on the proposed school site. She stated that she is not for this site but is for building the school on a different site.
Mr. Robert Foley, Chair of the Windy Hill SAC (School Advisory Council), a member of the East Ridge High School SAC, and a member of VOICE (Voters Organization Involved in Children’s Education), noted school overcrowding, intolerable conditions, year-round sessions, portables, transporting students and changes in attendance zone boundaries. He expressed opposition to any form of alternate scheduling. He stated that the school district has provided sufficient information on the merits of the property.
Mr. Tom Frankenfield, a Lake County resident, stated that the location falls short because it is the habitat of federally listed threatened species, including the Scrub-Jay and the sand skink, which are protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. He stated that other concerns include the site’s proximity to Florida’s Turnpike which will cause a visual distraction and a noise level that will not be conducive to learning; the planned wastewater treatment plant across the road will produce a foul odor from time to time; the site is adjacent to high tension power lines; and the hill country of Central Florida is a major contributor to large underground aquifers.
Ms. Lorraine Frankenfield, a member of the National Retired Teacher’s Association, stated that the School Board’s paid study concluded that this property is not the right place for the school. She stated that the schools should be for existing students and need to be in the south end of the County. She stated that some middle school kids will have to be bused and data shows that students who are bused have problems, such as, attendance, dropout rates, less participation in extracurricular activities, generally lower grades and standardized test scores, and there is less participation in parent-teacher-student associations. She stated that she is not for approval of the request.
Ms. Michele Bodzioch, a mother of three, asked the Board to work with the parents in south Lake County, the School Board and other local officials. She stated that the State Legislature passed an infrastructure planning and funding bill that mandates school concurrency to be in effect by 2008 and Lake County asked to be one of six pilot counties. She stated that the two schools on this site, when opened, will be at or over capacity and that the school will not bring growth. She asked for support of the School Board and south Lake parents in getting the school built as quickly as possible on this property.
Ms. Tammy Phelps, a parent, a teacher, a lifelong resident of Florida, and a member of VOICE, stated that children are being overlooked. She cited the approval of 5,000 homes in this area and stated that the School Board needs the Lowndes property. She stated that this is not about roads but is about education. She expressed adamant opposition to double sessions and alternative schedules.
Ms. Cindy Barrow, Co-Vice Chair of VOICE and a member of the Pine Ridge Elementary SAC, stated that her support regarding the school site has vacillated, partly because developers need schools. She stated that she is a member of responsible growth groups such as the Alliance to Protect Water Resources and Citizens Coalition of Lake County; however, because she has been made aware of Florida Statutes governing how school sites are chosen, she holds a different opinion than what she stated at the Zoning Board meeting in June 2005. She stated that she has learned about the due diligence process the School Board went through to obtain the property. She stated that we must have a middle school in the Minneola area. She stated that residential growth has forced alternative schedules next year for middle schools. She asked the Board to vote for this site.
Ms. Diana Cook, a parent who moved from an Orange County A-school district to the Montverde area, stated that she would love to have a school on some of the lots for sale on County Road 455. She stated that she visited the proposed site and she thinks the site is perfect. She stated that birds and tortoises are not more important than any child is.
Ms. Arlene Sunderlage, a concerned parent, former educator and President of the Pine Ridge Elementary PTO, talked about school overcrowding, growth issues and the need to build schools. She asked the County to make a sound decision about educating the children that are already here and those who are coming.
Mr. Tom Lavecchia pointed out that houses are approved and proposed but he does not see any houses that are built. He expressed concerns regarding the environmental impact on the community and who will pay for the school and the roads.
Ms. Christy Jarzemski, who lives on the corner next to the school property, talked about the dysfunctional school system; C and D grade level schools; the developer who is working with School Board members and the City of Minneola; and taking property from people.
Mr. Rob Kelly, President, Citizens Coalition of Lake County, remarked that he is speaking for himself. He mentioned hostile eminent domain proceedings, switchback roads, outside experts who were hired by the School Board to speak for them, NIMBYs, and opinions that $40 million in impact fees can be used four different ways. He stated that this site feels unnatural and there are so many issues and such a huge taxpayer expense to rebuild the roads and take care of the environmental issues. He stated that growth can only come if this Board, or the cities, approves the growth. He asked the Board to deny the request.
Commr. Cadwell pointed out that, in the last five years, Minneola and Clermont have approved 14,000 homes while only 22,000 have been approved in all of the unincorporated area of Lake County.
Mr. Kelly stated that he attends County and city meetings and he hears remarks that if the city does not do it, the County will do it. He stated that a moratorium stopping growth is needed.
Commr. Pool clarified that 22,000 permits have been pulled in the last five years, not that 22,000 homes have been approved by the Board in the last five years.
Mr. Richard Jarzemski, who lives on Sullivan Road, stated that the next school belongs in the Lake Louisa Road area because the children are there and are being bused from there. He suggested that the power of 1,600 brokers and Realtors and their investors could find a new site in that area. He stated he is a Realtor and studies show that homes ten blocks away from schools reap 33% more than properties adjacent to schools.
Ms. Sherri Boam, a member of VOICE and the PTO President of Lost Lake Elementary, stated that her children will not succeed if they must attend school from 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. with double sessions and she fears for children who will be at home five or six hours a day by themselves. She stated that she supports the School Board wholeheartedly in their selection of this site. She stated that the development around the residents will disrupt their rural lifestyle, not the school nor the children.
Ms. Marnie Furlong, who has fifth and seventh grade children, stated that the site has environmental issues (Florida Scrub-Jays and sand skinks) that could keep even a scoop of dirt being taken from the land for an estimated two years. She stated that fish and game has said this should have been taken to them before the property was purchased. She stated that the person the School Board hired said do not do this and the hills are like a roller coaster. She stated that this school will not stop double sessions and the infrastructure is not there.
Mr. Randall Baker, Land Art Landscape Architecture, reminded the Board that there is no Comprehensive Plan in place and, according to the Planning Department, it is not complete. He reminded the Board that they promised they would not use eminent domain to take people’s property for the benefit of private developers.
Commr. Pool interjected that eminent domain is only for the good of the public, not for shopping centers and developers. It would be for schools, fire stations and public buildings.
Mr. Baker stated that Dr. Hilary Swain of Archbold Biological Station sent an e-mail to the Board this afternoon stating that the latest Scrub-Jay count on this site is 28 individuals and an estimated 21 groups. He stated that Scrub-Jays have to be mitigated within a two-mile radius at two per one acre of their territory. He stated that he has spoken with Ms. Paula Sisson, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the estimated territory is approximately 80 acres. Therefore, the School Board would have to find 160 acres, potentially, within two miles of this site, purchase it and develop it into scrub before any plan is approved by Ms. Sisson.
Ms. Celeste Quinn, who lives on N. Grassy Lake Road, stated that she is opposed to this site. She stated that children from south Lake County will be bused to this school if it is built because there are no homes. She noted the endangered Scrub-Jays, gopher tortoises and sand skinks that are in her yard. She stated that construction traffic will be coming in Sullivan Road because Grassy and N. Grassy Lake Roads will be closed for construction.
Mr. Thomas Murray commented that he objects to this but feels he is prejudged because he lives off of Sullivan Road. He stated that he has lived there over ten years and it will take a phenomenal amount of money to make Sullivan Road worthy of high school traffic and to make the site viable.
Ms. Patti Donahue, who has four children, stated that she is opposed to this school because she wants her children to know the earth is very delicate and we all need to take care of it. She advised that Ms. Ann Griffin, Lake County Water Authority, told everyone at the meeting held by the Public Works Department that it would be dangerous to build anything on the ridge before testing or a study is done to see how it will affect the aquifer. She stated that the school should be in the Four Corners area and she asked for a moratorium. She stated that houses are not there now because the people on Sullivan Road and Grassy Lake Road own the property up to the two-lane road. She stated that PUDs have been approved for high density but have fallen through.
Mr. Jimmy Donahue, a student, told the Board about living in the country in Minneola on 2.5 acres with Scrub-Jays and a gopher tortoise. He stated that he loves his home and the endangered species. He asked the Board to say no to the big high school and middle school and to save the land.
Ms. Kerrie Ireland stated that she supports the School Board and this site. She expressed confusion about how the developers were able to get houses approved and wondered if the same issues were attached to those developments.
Mr. David James, who lives on Sullivan Road, stated that his two boys are bused to Grey Middle School and South Lake High School but he thinks the property is not the right spot. He stated that he believes this will be a catalyst to continue building in the area. He stated that building the school will not solve the problem of taking care of all the kids. He opined that, if the school is stopped, the builders will reconsider building.
Ms. Sandy Baron, who has three children in Windy Hill Middle School, stated that she supports the School Board and this is a great site for the school. She begged the Board to approve this site and stated that another school is needed in Four Corners.
Mr. Jeff Frisz stated that the School Board had several months to see if the property could be rezoned when they put a contract on it. He stated that they spent $3.45 million on a purchase that was least favorable according to the comparison contrast study by LPG which cost the School Board several thousand dollars. He stated that, in May 2004, the Public Works Director and Deputy County Manager heavily advised against the purchase of the Lowndes property. He stated that the School Board was set to purchase a different site when the expiration of the Lowndes property contract was added to their agenda as an emergency item. He stated that the School Board sat on this property for 16 months.
Mr. Thomas Benfield, who lives on Sullivan Road, stated that he is disturbed about hearing from the School Board that they have the option for eminent domain. He asked if the School Board or the County would institute that.
Ms. Suzen Hillebrandt stated that they need to think about growth management, not growth planning. She stated that ten more sites could be purchased with the $20 million cost for roads and another $20 million for eminent domain costs. She stated that this is a zoning issue and that it is not consistent with the surrounding density of one home per five acres. She stated that the hills will have to be leveled to do this project. She asked who would be liable for accidents with the unsafe conditions. She stated that she will fight eminent domain. She stated that the School Board’s attorney left out the second half of the Deputy County Manager’s report (Exhibit LC-2) which shows seven items that do not meet the due diligence requirements. She stated that the Deputy County Manager suggested no, the Public Works Department said no, and LPG, in a report paid for by the School Board, stated they should not do this. She stated that Tindale-Oliver and Associates said do not use Sullivan Road. She asked the Board to say no.
Ms. Cecelia Bonifay, attorney, stated that she represents a number of property-owner clients throughout Lake County. She presented a printed set of slides (marked as Exhibit A-5 for the Applicant) and another copy of previously submitted Exhibit A-4. She stated that no evidence was presented tonight by the opponents as to the environmental issues on this site. She stated that Howard Lefkowitz, by virtue of his development order, will be spending $4.5 million for the roads in his development and will be receiving $1.9 million in impact fee credits for those that are off site. She stated that none of the improvements internally to his development, which is all of N. Grassy Lake Road, the extension up to the school site, and the connection to Turkey Farm Road, will receive impact fee credits. She stated that at issue is a small piece of right of way to connect Hwy 27 to his property. She opined that staff will tell the Board that, depending on how that right of way is looked at, it would be as little as three tenths of an acre up to four acres. She stated that we are talking about a couple hundred thousand dollars in a project for which the School Board will spend $100 million. She stated that, as referred to earlier, Sullivan Road should be made into a cul-de-sac, turned over to them and maintained by them.
Ms. Carol Bombardo stated that the schools should be located further south where the population is greater. She stated that the School Board said they could not find a large enough parcel to accommodate both schools and she offered that a solution could be to split them. She stated that we cannot wait the four to six years it will take to settle the problems created by rezoning the Lowndes property. She asked the County Commissioners to vote no.
Mr. Joseph Bombardo, who lives just off Sullivan Road, stated that he has three children that he takes to school in Groveland. He stated that, after almost three years, there is no where else he would rather live. He stated that the area is not built for a school and the roads are terrible.
Mr. Egor Emery stated that he supports the staff report in opposition to this rezoning, specifically Policy 1-5.7. He expressed concern that the environmental issues have not been answered per the Comprehensive Plan’s goals and objectives. He called attention to Policy 7-11.6, Reduce Energy Consumption for Transportation - “The Future Land Use Element shall support efficient urban growth patterns to minimize transportation demand. The county shall identify and implement transportation strategies that will lead to reduced per capita consumption of non renewable energies.” He pointed out that this is in the 1991 Comprehensive Plan. He stated that switchbacks a la Disney do not make any sense. He stated that the School Board should do a better job of reporting on the animals in the back yards and the environmental issues. He stated, for the record, that he hopes the Commissioners are not simply taking a survey count of the yeas and nays. He stated that he would like to see the Florida Code used for our benefit. He stated that many sections of the Comprehensive Plan should address school siting issues.
Mr. Ed Havill, Lake County Property Appraiser, stated that property values have soared all over Lake County. He stated that buying this property was a bad business decision by the Lake County School Board. He stated that, according the media, the district thoroughly explored other sites but the School Board did not contact the Property Appraiser’s Office or the Tax Collector. He stated that Chairwoman Hill did contact him and Bob McKee a couple of weeks ago and asked if it is true that no sites are available in Lake County. He showed a map of 80+ acre pieces (one owner per parcel); along with a 30-page printout for properties in Ranges 25 and 26 (the map/printout are marked Exhibit O-1 for the Opposition). He asked the Board to vote no.
Ms. Elaine Renick stated that this is awkward because she has been a VOICE supporter and many of the people who are for this site are VOICE supporters. She stated that she is a member of the Windy Hill Student Advisory Committee. She stated that this school was needed years ago but the hearing is about this site and whether it is what we need. She opined that everyone has the same goal which is to get a school as soon as possible. She stated that it is not easy to acquire right of way even when people are willing to give it up. She stated that these people know that if they give the right of way they will ruin their homes and they will put up a fight which will take time. She stated that the environmental issue is a time issue. She stated that she has some experience with land use decisions and, even with initial approvals, until it is on the ground it is not there.
Commr. Hill read the following statement by Mr. Dave Nollmeyer, a resident who had to leave early, “It seems that whenever a developer or politician wants to “sell” an idea they inevitably resort to “It will be good for Grandma” or “It will be good for the children.” The site will eventually serve only the vast quantity of homes the development brings - vote no.”
There being no further public comment, Commr. Hill closed the public hearing portion of the meeting. She noted that the applicant will be allowed rebuttal time at this point.
Mr. Morrison reiterated that it is not the School Board’s charge to pick the best site; they are charged with picking an appropriate site. Regarding eminent domain, he stated that, as far as the School Board is concerned, there is no intention of exercising eminent domain on Sullivan Road or the properties that feed off it. He stated that they would be willing to explore alternatives with the County and the residents, like a cul-de-sac or some other way of restricting access. He facetiously thanked Mr. Baker for filing false reports of toxic waste dumping with the EPA because that gave them the opportunity to interact with their bureaucrats. He stated that calls his (Mr. Baker’s) credibility into question and he would like to meet with Mr. Baker to get the address of the person who counted Scrub-Jays so that they can inform her it is trespassing to be on someone’s property without permission.
Regarding the three-minute time limit for public comments, Mr. Morrison stated that he fells compelled to respond that the County Attorney’s presentation suggested anybody who wanted to could file a notice of appearance and participate in this hearing as a party. If anyone had done that, they would have had the same right the School Board has to present at length. Mr. Morrison stated that habitat is a site planning issue and there has been no competent evidence presented that there is a habitat problem.
Mr. Morrison stated that he has lived here all his life and he noted significant development which has taken place in Lake County. He stated that the only constant in Florida is change. He stated that change is coming to the area where the school site is and the map is a graphic demonstration of that. He stated that, if you move to Florida and you pick a particular area because you like some aspect of it, you should either be able to afford to buy it or be prepared to kiss it goodbye because, eventually, somebody will develop it. He stated that he sympathizes with those who will be affected by the growth but, if not schools, it will be rooftops. He stated that schools are needed and would benefit a large number of people in Lake County and not just add to the school crowding problem.
Commr. Pool asked if Minneola City Council’s support was given in a public meeting.
Mr. Morrison stated that they have made assurances to School Board staff and to School Board Member Jimmy Conner that they were in support of this and they have provided assistance in terms of being willing to extend utilities to the site.
Commr. Pool concurred that continued growth will be seen wherever we are in Florida. He stated that he vacillated pro and con on this. He opined that there are conditions that everyone may or may not want to add to the request, should this Board decide that this may be the proper site based on the information at hand. He stated that he was told by Mr. Conner that this is one of the flattest sites the School Board could find. He asked Mr. Morrison if they are taking down some hills to build this school.
Mr. Morrison replied that he is not a designer but does know, by looking at the topo (topographic map) for this site and other sites, that the change in elevation from the highest to the lowest on this site, excluding the depression, is slight. He added that the depression might be a natural location to put the stormwater.
Commr. Pool remarked that whatever is built there, the stormwater has to remain on site to be perced (percolated) down to the aquifer.
Mr. Morrison concurred and stated that Mr. Fix confirmed that, in general, school sites, particularly co-located school sites with athletic fields, will provide more green space per the 115 acres than a residential development.
Commr. Cadwell asked if Minneola staff said they would support the utility customers or if the Council said they would support the site. He asked Minneola Vice Mayor Shane Perreault if their board took action supporting this rezoning.
Vice Mayor Perreault stated that his board has not taken a vote on rezoning but the majority of the Council, from discussion, does believe this will be a good site for a school. He stated that he believes the wastewater treatment plant and sewer lines are going to be run toward the area. He advised that there is a discrepancy of about 600 feet that was not going to be installed and that was an issue.
There being no further questions for Mr. Morrison, Commr. Hill noted that the Board will now make statements, comments or motions.
Commr. Hanson commented that this is a no-win vote. She stated that she has listened intently to all the comments and she thinks the site is ahead of its time and that it does little to address the existing deficiencies for south Lake as a whole. She stated that it does deal with future needs but it probably will create much need for busing in the near future and for several years. She stated that many of the developments are proposed, not approved. As seen on the map, some zonings have been approved a long time but were never developed and have kind of gone away, or they found another design. Commr. Hanson stated that it is important to find other sites. They can be found quickly, they can be smaller and there can be more of them. She opined that it is important to look for neighborhood schools. She stated that she thinks the site is probably a good location for the future, that there are several environmental issues and the right of way issues could take time and be expensive. She remarked that those issues will slow the process and that she mentioned them for discussion.
Commr. Cadwell stated that this has been hard but the Board is responsible to the citizens of this County in letting them get to work and school. He remarked that there was a similar problem with East Ridge and they had to put off some projects that should have been done. He stated that all processes when buying property are hard and do not seem fluid. He stated that he is looking at the purchase of that property from a pure land use side and a transportation side. He stated that the transportation network cannot handle that school and other projects in the plan cannot be put off. The transportation network is needed for this school site. He stated that we will do everything we can to help find a site but, with the evidence presented by staff today regarding the compatibility with the surrounding area and the transportation needs, he would tend to vote against it.
Commr. Pool stated that he has listened to everybody. He stated that transportation is a key issue and that Sullivan Road should absolutely be cul-de-saced. He opined that, if Sullivan Road were cul-de-saced, some of those here tonight probably would not have that much of heartburn if they knew traffic would never come down that road. He stated that suggestion was not brought forward in public but it would protect many of the rights. He stated that tonight’s decision is going to pain somebody, either the School Board, children or residents of the area, every day. He stated that he has tried to argue both sides of this issue and he feels that a school is important. He stated that, with 5,384 units approved, people in this area are not going to go away. Those are really going to come. He stated that Sullivan Road should be closed regardless of tonight’s decision and the hills should be left intact. He stated that they have that power to do just that. They have closed two roads in south Lake County for traffic reasons. He stated that the location of the school site should be away from those residents who live right there and a 115-acre site would allow that to take place. He stated that eminent domain is a very, very touchy subject. Nobody wants to use eminent domain for anything other than the good of the public. He stated that the Board is not going to do it for shopping centers or developers but, if the School Board feels so strongly about this site, the School Board, not this Board of County Commissioners, should use their eminent domain powers for right of way issues. He stated that he was not elected to take property unless it absolutely is necessary. But, he opined that this school site is vitally important for the future of Lake County and especially south Lake County. He stated that he does not know how quickly another site can be found. He stated that Mr. Havill’s map included Lake Louisa State Park and Hilochee (Wildlife Management Area) and thousands of acres that do not fit the bill.
Commr. Pool stated that he supports the school site and will make the motion to rezone the site.
Commr. Hill asked to make comments before the motion and Commr. Pool agreed that was acceptable.
Commr. Hill thanked Mr. Havill and Mr. McKee for the research that may be of use to the School Board. While every site on that map may not fit, perhaps 50 sites do. She remarked that she had heard that this was the only site and it was either do or die with this site alone. She stated that this Board is responsible to all taxpayers in the County, not just parents with children. All taxpayers have the right to demand that their dollars are spent wisely and carefully. She stated that staff gave a compelling case that will show the amount of dollars required to make this site accessible and it will cost the taxpayers millions, even without the properties that are to be condemned, which could result in a lengthy court battle and much more cost. She stated that the applicant has made a bargain with one of the biggest developers in this region. If the request is approved, and once the roads and the other infrastructures are complete, it would give the developers carte blanche to develop even more subdivisions and, once completed, this school will be overcrowded. She explained that when she voted against the treatment plant in 2003, she and Commr. Cadwell said it will be a major catalyst for development in this area and it has been. She opined that this taxpayer boondoggle will very likely do the same thing and, if approved, will encourage more development.
Commr. Stivender stated that she met last year with the School Board in efforts to come up with sites. There was a site selection committee and there probably are other sites like those mentioned by Mr. Havill. She stated that, however, the site before them tonight has already been purchased and they have done their due diligence and there needs to be a school. She stated that she has been moving forward with the School Board to get schools built because they are overcrowded. She stated that she understands VOICE’s side of the issue because she has two children in schools that are overcrowded. She stated that she understands the people who live out there. She opined that if enough requirements are put on it, with the berm guarding them, not letting them go down Sullivan Road, making them responsible for paying for the road, not the Board of County Commissioners, there would not be a problem with putting it there. She agreed with Commr. Hanson that this is a site they would need in five years but she thinks they are going to need it sooner than that with what is already there. She stated that whether or not we approve anything for the biggest developer in Lake County there are already approved units that will fill that school.
Commr. Stivender seconded Commr. Pool’s motion.
Commr. Pool stated that his motion will be to uphold the recommendation of the Lake County Zoning Board and approve Rezoning Case PH#50-05-2; Lake County Public Schools; Harry Fix, AICP; Tracking No. 56-05-CFD, a request to rezone a 115 +/- acre parcel from an existing PUD (Planned Unit Development) to CFD (Community Facility District) with the following conditions: eminent domain powers to the School Board only; that Sullivan Road be cul-de-saced and not used in any way, shape or form at the end of it; and that the school be positioned on the site the furthest away from the residents that live there.
Commr. Stivender seconded the motion as amended.
Commr. Hill noted that there is a motion and a second. She called for any other comments or questions.
Under discussion, Commr. Stivender commented that she is not sitting here so that she can get re-elected in 2008. She stated that she is trying to do the best thing that is going on for Lake County and that is why she is voting the way she is voting.
Commr. Hill called for a vote on the motion which failed by a vote of 2-3.
Commissioners Cadwell, Hanson and Hill voted “No.”
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 9:25 p.m.
JENNIFER HILL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK