The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Thursday, January 27, 1994, at 9:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Catherine C. Hanson, Chairman; Welton G. Cadwell, Vice Chairman; Rhonda H. Gerber; Don Bailey; and G. Richard Swartz, Jr. Others present were: Frank T. Gaylord, Interim County Attorney; Peter F. Wahl, County Manager; Mary Smith, Administrative Assistant to BCC Office Manager; and Sandra Carter, Deputy Clerk.
PRESENTATION BY REPRESENTATIVE DEAN SAUNDERS
STATE PURCHASE OF DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS IN GREEN SWAMP AREA
PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT/ZONING
The Chairman opened the meeting and requested those individuals who were present in the audience representing the following committees to introduce themselves: Agricultural Committee; Natural Resources Committee: Department of Community Affairs; Soil Conservation Service; Water Authority; and Land Development Regulations Committee.
Representative Dean Saunders, State House of Representatives, District 63, Lakeland, appeared before the Board to discuss the State's Purchase of Development Rights (PDRs) in the Green Swamp. He stated that he had thought, for some time, about creating ways for the State to accomplish some of its goals and, at the same time, help private landowners accomplish some of theirs and keep property on the tax rolls. He stated that Florida has the most aggressive land buying program in the Nation, noting that it is the most proactive, in setting money aside to purchase environmentally sensitive land, of any State in the Union.
Representative Saunders stated that he felt the State needed to look at buying development rights, as long as the landowners were willing to sell, therefore, had put together a piece of legislation and felt that, in working out the kinks, it should be tried in one specific area.
Representative Saunders stated that, in 1974, when the Area of Critical State Concern was established in the Green Swamp, it was contingent upon getting a referendum passed that would enable the State to buy sensitive lands, or somehow mitigate the impact to property owners in those areas of critical state concern, hence, the first environmental land purchase bond issue was approved, called Lands for You, however, not a dime of that money ever went to the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern.
Representative Saunders stated that he was just trying to pick up where that left off and try to provide a way for the State to accomplish its goal of preserving and protecting the Green Swamp and its water resources, without taking the land off the tax rolls, and without the State having to pay to manage it, which he noted is exorbitant. He stated that the State is not a very good steward of the land and he feels that private ownership is going to get better stewardship.
Representative Saunders stated that the draft Bill before the Board this date would create what will be called the Green Swamp Land Authority. He stated that there will be eight (8) members appointed, including the County Managers, or their designees, of Polk and Lake counties. He stated that the Governor will select the names of six (6) people, from lists submitted by the Boards of County Commissioners of Polk and Lake counties, representing a cross-section of interests within the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern.
It was noted that at least two of the members must represent the interests of property owners within the boundaries of the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern, and, of the original authority members, four shall serve one year terms and four shall serve three year terms. Subsequent appointments or reappointments shall be for three year, staggered terms.
Representative Saunders discussed what he defined as a Land Protection Agreement, noting that it would be a covenant that a landowner would voluntarily enter into with the Green Swamp Land Authority. He stated that he anticipates the program will run for three years, however, it could last longer, if the State wanted it to. He stated that it will be funded $10 million per year, as follows: $4 million from the CARL Fund, $3 million from Florida's Communities Trust, $2 million from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, and $1 million from the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Representative Saunders stated that the Green Swamp Land Authority would enter into negotiations with the landowner, provided the landowner wanted to sell and had an interest, however, he could not be paid more than the appraised value of the land. He noted that most of the land involved is on the CARL list, which was another reason for creating the Bill.
Representative Saunders stated that he does not anticipate public access, noting that, if one sells their development rights, it does not give the public the right to access one's property. He stated that, if the public wants to buy that right, they can enter into discussions with the individual. He stated that it will not prohibit somebody who is raising cattle from converting his cattle ranch into farming, or somebody farming from converting to citrus, noting that one can switch one's agricultural operation back and forth, as the market dictates.
Commr. Hanson questioned, if the State were to buy development rights, whether they could also buy timber rights.
Representative Saunders stated that they could, if they wanted to, and, if the landowner agreed to do so, noting that it would be on a voluntary basis. He stated, however, that it would not give the State condemnation powers.
Representative Saunders stated that most of the states that have PDR Programs have some sort of buy back provision. He stated that he had put a buy back provision in the draft Bill, so that the landowner could petition to buy the rights back, at some point in time, but, it would have to meet a larger public purpose. He noted that the landowner could not buy them back just because he wanted to. He stated that there would have to be a particular need and that the landowner would have to apply to the Green Swamp Land Authority to do so. He stated that, if the Authority were no longer in existence, for whatever reason, the landowner would have to apply to the Board of Trustees, which he noted is the Florida Cabinet.
Representative Saunders stated that someone had indicated to him that it might impact one's ability to make a claim against the State, of a regulatory taking, therefore, he put language in the Bill that states, just because there are programs available, it does not mean that one, as a landowner, has given up any of his constitutional rights.
Commr. Bailey commended Representative Saunders for what he was trying to do, however, noted a concern he had about the membership and the authority of the Green Swamp Land Authority.
It was noted that the Green Swamp Land Authority would have four (4) representatives from Lake County and four (4) representatives from Polk County and that the only authority it would have would be the purchase of development rights.
Representative Saunders stated that they would also have to monitor the agreements, to make sure that they were in place.
Commr. Gerber questioned how the Bill would be enforced.
Representative Saunders stated that the Land Protection Agreement would provide provisions for enforcement and a method for termination and would be recorded and indexed in the same manner as any other instrument effecting the title to real property. He stated that it also contains a provision whereby the State will not only have to notify the Property Appraiser and the Clerk of Circuit Court, but the local government, as well. He stated that, just because the Clerk has the deed recorded, it does not mean that the Building Department checks it out, each time one goes in for a building permit.
Commr. Hanson stated that the program before the Board this date is an alternative that will allow properties to remain on the tax roll and monies to be spread out, for the purchase of more land, that will help those landowners that have been severely hurt, with respect to their land value.
Commr. Swartz suggested that the State go further. He stated that there are lands in Lake County that are on the CARL list that are not in the Green Swamp, or the Wekiva, that would not benefit by the averaging method, yet they received down zoning, which may have the same equivalent incremental impact. He stated that they need to (1) look at the Land Use Map, because it is not based on any rationale, it is where the "magic crayon" landed and (2) they need to look at other alternatives that can provide relief for the property owners, just as the County is looking at providing some relief through the sale of development rights, in areas like the Green Swamp.
Representative Saunders stated that the program is one he would like to see implemented in a number of places, because he feels that it protects the integrity of property rights and lets the Government, at the same time, accomplish their goal of resource protection. He stated that the Bill would help local government, in that properties would be kept on the tax roll and it would provide jobs to the economy, because landowners own the property and would be doing something with it and the State would not have to invest anything to manage the land, because it would be done by the private landowners. He stated that he would like to see the Bill much broader, but realized that it has to be demonstrated somewhere that it can work.
Representative Saunders stated that the rational to defining only the area of the Green Swamp was primarily due to the fact that it kicked back to the original designation of why the Areas of Critical State Concern were established and the bond referendum, at the time, so there is some continuity and history involved in the process.
Representative Saunders stated that a Bill would be proposed this year concerning the Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs), upon the recommendation of a group known as Partners For a Better Florida. He stated that he had not seen the Bill, however, noted that he had studied the TDR program and found that it is a fallacy that it works, because it is the State buying the development rights from an individual, as opposed to the State trying to create a market whereby private individuals buy from private individuals, because they want to increase their densities.
Representative Saunders stated that he is only aware of two places in the United States where such a program worked, being Maryland and New Jersey. He stated that TDRs are very complex and extremely difficult to put together and the investment to make them work is extraordinary. He stated that he feels his Bill is a cleaner, simpler way to do it.
Commr. Swartz stated that he felt what Representative Saunders was proposing, on the whole, was good and is needed, however, he reiterated the fact that he feels the State needs to do more.
Commr. Hanson concurred with Commr. Swartz, noting that she feels there are some tremendous inequities in the Comprehensive Plan, but, she feels that this is one way to clear up those inequities.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the draft Bill before the Board this date was not going to answer every question in the world, but felt that it was a good start and that no matter what side of the fence one was on, they would have to agree that it was a good thing.
Mr. Matt Rice, a resident of south Lake County, appeared before the Board and questioned how long one would have to wait to buy back their land.
Representative Saunders stated that no period of time had been specified.
Mr. Don Miller, a local resident, appeared before the Board and questioned whether, on the reevaluation, the Property Appraiser would pick up the new, lower evaluation on the tax rolls.
Representative Saunders stated that he would leave that matter to the Property Appraiser.
Mr. Miller then questioned, once an individual has sold their parcel, whether the Property Appraiser would reevaluate the portion of property that is left.
Representative Saunders stated that 90% of the land in the Green Swamp falls under a green belt exemption, so, if the development rights are removed, one would still have a green belt exemption.
Commr. Hanson questioned whether Representative Saunders was going to target the core area, as he had indicated he would.
Representative Saunders stated that said area was one of the areas that was going to be put in the Bill as a priority item.
Ms. Cecelia Bonifay, a local attorney, appeared before the Board stating that she was representing several clients that live in the Green Swamp. She questioned, when an individual enters into a contractual agreement and is going to forgo development rights, or, is going to give them to the State, for some duration, what that bundle of rights includes.
Representative Saunders stated that it would depend on what the individual agreed to, in the contract.
Ms. Bonifay questioned whether it meant that one would have to forgo pursuing any future development rights.
Representative Saunders stated that it would, noting that, if an individual sold his development rights, unless he purchased those rights back, he would forgo the opportunity to develop his property. He noted, however, that said individual would still retain the ability to do some agricultural interests. He stated that things such as single family homes (for members of the family), a hunting lodge, tenant housing (for laborers), etc. were left in the Bill, to keep it somewhat flexible.
Ms. Bonifay stated that it seemed the appraisal process was going to be the crucial part, at least to the landowner, in establishing that value, therefore, felt that it might be better left unregulated. She stated that, in a county like Lake County, which never had a Comprehensive Plan map, the County had certain policies which, more or less, stated that anything at one unit or more per acre was consistent with it.
Ms. Bonifay questioned how that would be factored into an appraisal process, noting that, if one looked at the very broad general policy plan, it would not give one a lot of guidance and direction, but, if one looked at the actual uses, it would be at a much higher density. She questioned whether Representative Saunders felt that these were the kinds of things that an appraiser would look at, or somehow factor in.
Representative Saunders stated that the answer to Ms. Bonifay's question was in the Bill, noting that it states, as of January 1, 1988, the rules and regulations that would apply would be those applicable as of that date. He stated that, as to what rules and regulations would be applicable, was something that the County would have to give the appraiser guidance on.
Mr. Frank Gaylord, Interim County Attorney, informed Representative Saunders that he once had an opportunity to negotiate with some people in Tallahassee and found that the appraisal process was a very difficult one, because Tallahassee had picked an appraiser from Pensacola. He questioned whether Representative Saunders would find it offensive to interject in the Bill the ability of the property owner to characterize what they believe the value of their land to be and then let the appraiser determine what he believes the value to be.
Representative Saunders stated that he would not have a problem in doing so. He stated that he felt this was one of the reasons why the County would want a local land authority, funded by local people who know the area, as opposed to somebody from Tallahassee.
Mr. Miller reappeared before the Board and questioned the buy back factor of development rights in the future, stating that, if a farmer passed away and left his land to his children, who decided to buy back the development rights, whether they could buy them back at the same price, or whether that valuation would fluctuate with the market.
Representative Saunders stated that the valuation would fluctuate with the market.
Commr. Hanson stated that was why she had a problem with the appraisal process. She stated that she did not have a problem with the 1988 pre-regulation appraised value, but she did have a problem with bringing it into the date of application, because, by doing so, it immediately cuts the value. She stated that she did not feel it was a fair appraisal process. She stated that it might have been the best formula that the State could come up with, but she did not see it as an equitable formula.
Mr. Joe Branham, a member of the Natural Resources Advisory Committee, appeared before the Board stating that, with respect to the selection of people to be involved with the acquisition of property rights, there are a number of aggressive land acquisition organizations. He stated that both water management districts are expertise in that field and their interests are somewhat closer to home, for the counties that are being discussed. He noted that there are some local ones too.
Mr. Branham stated that another concern he had was the issue of equity, noting that the argument the Board presented was that Green Swamp lands are already being included in the CARL acquisition. He stated that, within Lake County, there are a number of lands that are outside the Green Swamp that are also being considered. He questioned whether it would be possible for the State to extend the program, at least within the County, for those parcels of land that are being approached for land acquisition, even though they are not within the Green Swamp.
Representative Saunders stated that he did not have a problem with extending it, for a lot of parcels, however, in an effort to draw a circle around those areas that will and will not be affected, his preference would be to keep it the way that it presently is, to see if it is going to work. He stated that, if it works, and people want to extend the program, then the Wekiva area and some of the other CARL areas could be added. He noted that the Green Swamp is not just an area on the CARL list, it is also an Area of Critical State Concern, hence, the other reason for doing it.
Representative Saunders stated that the Polk County Board of County Commissioners adopted a Resolution, in support of the draft Bill before the Board this date, and that he would like the Board's approval, as well. He stated that he had spoken with Representatives Kelly and Bainter about the matter and that Representative Kelly had indicated a strong interest in it, however, Representative Bainter stated that he would like to look at it further, before making a decision.
Commr. Bailey stated that he, too, would like to have more time to study the Bill, before making a decision.
Commr. Hanson stated that she felt it was a positive concept and one that would keep property on the tax rolls. She stated that, if the Board's main interest in the Green Swamp is to limit density, then this is a form of compensation. She further stated that the Bill is voluntary, so it is a way to help compensate those landowners that have been hurt and it continues the agricultural industry in the area.
Commr. Hanson thanked Representative Saunders for his presentation.
Representative Saunders stated that he did not want to dictate to the Board what to do, regarding this Bill, he just wanted them to know that he would love to have their support. He stated that he was not asking for them to vote on the Bill this date, however, if they wished to do so, he would appreciate it.
Commr. Bailey stated that he would like to bring it back at one of the regularly scheduled Board Meetings for further discussion and action.
No action was taken at this time.
RECESS & REASSEMBLY
At 10:05 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would recess until 11:00 a.m., for a Workshop Meeting.
WORKSHOP - GAS TAX
ROADS-COUNTY & STATE/ROAD PROJECTS
Mr. Jim Stivender, Jr., Director of Public Services, appeared before the Board stating that Public Services' major source of funding comes from gas tax pennies, at which time he reviewed the history of gas tax funding and how it is split, percentage wise, between the County and the cities. He stated that the purpose of this work session was to discuss (a) reimposing the first two cents of the local option gas tax and (b) designating one or more of the revenues from gas taxes specifically for capital road improvements.
Regarding the first and second cent of local option gas tax, it was noted that, due to the fact that an agreement could not be reached on the methodology of distribution (the Board wanted the distribution ratio to be the same as the Road and Bridge Ad Valorem levy [82% County/18% Municipal] and the municipalities wanted it distributed the same as sales tax [60% County/40% Municipal]), distribution was based on 5 years of transportation expenditures [59.04% County/30.96% Municipal].
It was noted that it expires August 30, 1994, therefore, has to be reimposed by July 1, 1994, thus, the reason for bringing the matter to the Board's attention this date.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, stated that, if the County were to drop the two cents, it would cost the County approximately $250,000.00, per year, and would affect the cities, as well. He stated that this matter was brought to his attention by the Finance Department of the City of Eustis last year, during the budget process.
Ms. Kathy McDonald, Special Projects Coordinator, informed the Board that, according to new State road estimates for this year, the County's share would be $546,000.00, per penny, and the cities' share would be $245,000.00, per penny.
Discussion occurred regarding whether to base the funding on transportation expenditures or on population figures.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, stated that staff was recommending the County go with transportation expenditures, for the past five years, which would put the County at a little less than 69%, however, would probably be more favorable to all involved. He stated that the County could stay with the 69% figure, but, it would require approval from all the cities. He noted that all the cities had been invited to attend this meeting and give input.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, stated that, in 1993, the Legislature approved a local option five cent tax, which the County will deal with in the future. He stated that said funds are going to be tied directly to the Comprehensive Plan, which is significant to the County, because it is for Comprehensive Plan improvements. He stated that, at the present time, Mr. Greg Kern, Transportation Engineer, Public Services, is coordinating information to update the Comprehensive Plan Traffic Study, so that Public Services can coordinate all its programs and actually identify justified projects that said funding can be used for.
Ms. McDonald, Special Projects Coordinator, informed the Board that, if they wished to enter into interlocal agreements with the cities, the agreements would have to be in place prior to June 1, 1994.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, stated that he was looking for direction from the Board, this date, as to which route to take, so that staff could start the process of reinstating the funding.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he felt the County should stay with the transportation expenditures, as he felt the new percentages would be more fair for all involved.
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Bailey and carried unanimously, the Board approved for staff to consider the two cent local option gas tax, based on transportation expenditures for the past five years, but, with the new percentages, and to extend it for twenty years.
Mr. Bob Proctor, City Manager, City of Fruitland Park, questioned how said funds were going to be proportioned.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, stated that the 69% is based on transportation expenditures from 1978 to 1983, so the County will use expenditures from the past five years, so that it will be current. He stated that the cities have the option of going with transportation expenditures, based on their share of population, or with some other form.
Mr. Proctor stated that the only problem he had with that is that some of the smaller cities may have to save their funds for a couple of years, to do a fairly large size project. He stated that this is fine, if the two years that it takes for the cities to collect the money falls within a given five year time frame, but, he felt the cities might get hurt on the distribution formula, if they had to save for three or four years to come up with the money.
Commr. Swartz questioned, with regard to the share of funds that the cities get, whether there would be a deadline date involved for them to enter into an interlocal agreement.
Ms. McDonald, Special Projects Coordinator, stated that, if there are no interlocal agreements, from the cities, in place by June 1, 1994, that the County has agreed to, with the majority of the population stating that this is what they want to do with their portion of the funds, then it will default to the transportation method, so the cities will need to make some decisions.
It was noted that the cities would be notified, by letter, of said fact.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, stated that staff would try to bring the matter back to the Board sometime next month, in order to get the process under way and stay ahead of the time frame, to eliminate any possible problems.
Mr. Stivender noted, for the record, that staff had distributed to the Board an Index on County Roads, for each of the districts. He stated that it is summarized, current, and that Public Services will be distributing one to the Board on an annual basis. He stated that they also have their road program distributed and ready to go, noting that it had been approved by the Board in October, 1993.
WORKSHOP - FUNDING FOR RAILS TO TRAILS PROGRAM
ACCOUNTS ALLOWED/OUTDOOR RECREATION/PUBLIC SERVICES
Mr. Chuck Pula, Parks and Recreation Coordinator, appeared before the Board to discuss the South Lake Rail Trail Project. He stated that there is a lot of information dealing with the Rail Trail Project, however, staff has condensed said information, in an attempt to focus on two key issues, being (1) money and (2) the risk involved.
Mr. Pula, Parks and Recreation Coordinator, referred to a handout contained in the Board's backup material, containing an Information Sheet on the South Lake Rail Trail; a Cost Estimate for the entire trail (from the Orange County line to the Sumter County line) and for Phase I (from the Orange County line to Clermont/Minneola); South Lake Rail Trail Issues; and South Lake Rail Trail Possible Funding Sources. He also displayed and reviewed a Lake County Rail Trail Feasibility Study.
Mr. Pula, Parks and Recreation Coordinator, read into the Minutes information contained on the Information Sheet, which states that the State of Florida, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), budgeted up to $800,000.00 for Lake County to acquire Phase I of the South Lake Rail Trail Project. He stated that DEP also notified the County that it must decide, soon, whether or not it plans to go ahead with the project, or the available money will be appropriated to another project in Florida.
Mr. Pula, Parks and Recreation Coordinator, stated that, in order to acquire the property in Phase I, Lake County must enter into a multi-party agreement with the Division of State Lands and that the County is to purchase pre-acquisition services, according to the State of Florida, Bureau of Land Acquisition standards. All property purchased is to meet these standards.
Mr. Pula, Parks and Recreation Coordinator, stated that Lake County is then to offer the purchased property to the DEP, Bureau of Land Acquisition, for reimbursement of funds expended. DEP will purchase only those properties that meet their requirements. He stated that, if there is a problem with the title, or the environmental assessment, that DEP detects, they will not reimburse the County for those properties, however, they will expect the County to keep them, in order to keep the trail contiguous.
Mr. Pula, Parks and Recreation Coordinator, stated that DEP may also, under certain circumstances, reimburse Lake County for some of the acquisition costs, such as title insurance, survey, and the environmental assessment. He stated that this is provided the County can obtain properties at a below assessed appraised value, noting that the State will pay up to the appraised value for these costs. He stated that the time frame for reimbursement may be up to 24 months, however, they are presently looking at trying to revamp the process, because they have been criticized for not being able to turn it around faster. He stated that they are also looking at revamping their multi-party agreement, to try and make it better for the counties and cities that are purchasing property, but they have not done so yet.
Mr. Pula, Parks and Recreation Coordinator, referred to the Cost Estimate Sheet, contained in the handout, noting that it is the financial information, costs estimates, and expected source of funding for the rail trail project. He then reviewed said sheet, noting that the total cost for the entire trail is estimated to be $3,213,820.00, indicating the amount of funding that would be received and from what funding source. He stated that the only monies available, at the present time, are $800,000.00 from the
P-2000 program, thus, the reason for identifying Phase I. He stated that the County has enough money to begin Phase I, however, it does not have enough money to begin the entire trail. He noted that the estimated cost for Phase I is $1,609,375.00.
Mr. Pula, Parks and Recreation Coordinator, stated that Lake County must front a total of $933,975.00, to begin the Phase I acquisition. He stated that said money is needed because, once the acquisition process begins, most people will want to sell their property rapidly.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, interjected that the $933,975.00 alluded to is General Fund money, therefore, the County would fund the money, as it is budgeted for this year. He stated that said money is held by the State and then reimbursed after the project is completed and everything is taken care of.
Commr. Hanson interjected that said monies may not be reimbursed.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, stated that staff had met with the State, concerning the issue of ISTEA, and discovered that the Rail Trail Project is one of their "hot" projects. He stated that, according to the State's master map, this is a "green light" project.
Mr. Pula, Parks and Recreation Coordinator, referred to the Issues Sheet, contained in the handout, stating that the first issue was whether or not Lake County wanted to assume the risks involved, for an unknown dollar amount that will be reimbursed for rail trail properties purchased in Phase I, and the potentially long time frame for being reimbursed. He stated that the second issue was where the County would obtain the $933,975.00, to budget in 1994-95, in order to begin the Phase I acquisition; and the third issue was where the additional monies would come from, to supplement State and Federal money, to insure completion of the entire trail and to maintain and manage the trail.
Mr. Pula, Parks and Recreation Coordinator, then referred to the Possible Funding Sources Sheet, contained in the handout, and reviewed same with the Board. He stated that staff had researched the matter and determined that 1/4 mill would generate approximately $1,129,817.00, per year, for rail trails, hiking trails, horse trails, greenways, or whatever the Board elected to include in the referendum, countywide.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, informed the Board that, according to the State, ISTEA funds and P-2000 funds are separate funds. He stated that those monies are strictly for their particular uses and can never be combined, in any form or shape. In other words, the County cannot shorten the trail and combine those funds to build a shorter trail.
It was noted, however, that said funds could be used to fund components of the same project.
Ms. Eloise Fisher, Chairman of the Rail Trail Task Force, appeared before the Board stating that, if the County did not go forward now, she felt that the whole project was going to stop. She stated that she had attended a recent Florida Department of Transportation district meeting and discovered that the Rail Trail Project is on ISTEA's Five Year Plan and on the National Rail Trail Agenda, as well. She noted that Sumter and Orange County already have funds to pay for their portions of the trail, therefore, Lake County would be the missing link.
Mr. Craig Willis, Alternate Transportation Specialist, Public Services, appeared before the Board stating that west Orange County plans to start construction on their trail in April of this year, from the Lake County/Orange County line, and plans to complete it in October of 1994. He reviewed a map (on display) indicating various trails in the State, at which time he noted the ones that would be starting construction and what the opening dates would be for the others. He stated that the significance of the trail coming across Lake County is tremendous, because the State wants to connect all the trails, to create a network.
Mr. Willis, Alternate Transportation Specialist, stated that, when the County hosted the Florida Recreational Trails Bicycle Committee meeting in Lake County, in December of 1993, they indicated that they had recommended to the State that the trail be funded with P-2000 funds. He stated that they are committed to funding the entire 16 mile trail, from the Orange County line to the Sumter County line.
Commr. Bailey stated that it seemed to him that Lake County is the most important link in the trail from Orange County to Sumter County, therefore, feels that there should more of a commitment from the State, for the trail, and questioned whether that could not be used to the County's advantage.
Mr. Pula, Parks and Recreation Coordinator, stated that the State realizes the situation and wants it to work. He stated that they have the funding, but, they are still unsure about the matter, because there are so many parcels involved in the project. He stated that there are 77 different property owners that are going to have to be dealt with, many of which are not going to want the trail on their property, therefore, the Board is going to have to decide whether to condemn the property or go around it. If the Board decides to go around any property, additional property will have to be purchased.
Commr. Bailey stated that he felt the State was taking a weak position. He stated that they want the County to do everything, while they sit back and watch, and, when the County has proven that they can do it and has done everything that needs to be done, then the State will step in and help.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he felt the State feels the County is taking a weak position and they want the County to commit.
Commr. Bailey stated that the risk is what worries him and questioned why the State could not help alleviate some of that risk.
Mr. Steve Richey, a local attorney, appeared before the Board stating that he had been reviewing the list of possible funding sources and noted that, approximately two years ago, he requested the Board to look at adopting a policy, either through the transportation impact fee, the proposed recreational impact fee, or some other kind of user fee, that would deal with the issue of funding. He stated that he felt, if the trail was going to be an element of the County's future recreation system and its future transportation avoidance on roads system, there should be an element in the formula that would cover a dedication of some current impact fees and the establishment of a recreational impact fee.
Mr. Richey stated that it would not deal with the future problem of continued maintenance and operational costs, however, it would deal with some substantial land acquisition and capital improvements. He requested the Board to look at the matter, as part of the overall formula.
Commr. Swartz stated that he agreed with Mr. Richey, however, felt that it would not help the County with up front costs. He stated that the County needed to identify whether it wanted to take any risks, for the benefits that it would receive. He stated that there is the benefit that comes from some transportation related avoidance of the highways, but there is also an economic benefit that can be significant. He stated that it can be economic development of the cleanest, purest, best kind.
Commr. Swartz stated that one of the things Lake County needs to do is emphasize the types of things that it has that are economic development. He stated that lakes used to be and the County has got to help bring them back, so that they can be a part of it. He stated that he feels the rail trail concept can be a very positive economic development, however, the County needs to understand that they probably will not get any of the expenses involved to develop the trail back and they should go into it with that understanding.
Commr. Swartz stated that, in terms of the land acquisition in Phase I, if the Trust for Public Lands wants a 50% premium, he feels it is reasonable to assume that, aside from their wanting to have monies that generate their operating costs, they realize that there is a portion of that money that they will not get back.
Commr. Swartz stated that he would guess the County has expended $750,000.00, thus far, with the Industrial Development Authority, for economic development, and has expended several hundred thousand dollars, borrowed through the Tourist Development Council, to have infrastructure put in at the industrial park (Lake County Central Park), located at Hwys. 19/27 and the turnpike, so, the County has put forward, in both ad valorem tax dollars and dollars that have come partially from monies which the County has borrowed from Public Services, etc., to make it happen at the industrial park, well over $1 million. He stated that there is no facility at the park, yet, but feels that the IDA has probably steered some people to the County.
Commr. Swartz stated that he was not going to look at money expended for the rail trail as a risk, but as a commitment of money toward economic development. He stated that he felt the County should use a combination of the funding sources that were listed on the handout from Mr. Pula, which he elaborated on.
Commr. Swartz stated that he felt it was appropriate to use not only up front monies from the gas tax, but to also have a future commitment for a portion of it, because he feels that there is a transportation issue involved. He stated that the County has already expended some General Fund money and he feels that, as the County moves into the future, some of that money may be expended for maintenance and upkeep of the trail.
Commr. Swartz stated that Ms. Fisher's group has done so much, as well as the cities of Clermont, Minneola, Groveland, and Mascotte, to make the trail go forward, that now it is time for the Board to say that they are going to invest in what is economic and tourist development, that is recreational based, in Lake County. He stated that he feels, if the Board does not do so, the State will pull the money that they have allotted for the trail and put it somewhere else and, to say that the State will be skeptical of the County, in the future, would be an understatement. He stated that this is economic and tourist development and it can have a greater impact, for dollars spent, than all the dollars that have already been invested in the industrial park.
Commr. Hanson interjected that the money that has been invested in the industrial park is money that will come back to the County, if that land is sold, so it is not money that was put in and left there. She stated that the theory behind using TDC funds is that it has to generate additional bed tax, so, if it can be proven that the amount of funds that would be generated can be tied back to the bed tax, then those funds can be used, but, to her knowledge, the County has not had a study on how much bed tax would be generated from the trail.
Mr. Pula, Parks and Recreation Coordinator, stated that the State has said that Phase I is the phase that they are willing to fund, because they feel that it is the most important. He stated that it has been through the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Rails to Trails Task Force and they feel that it is where the County needs to focus its efforts, the reason being that Phases II and III are in another part of the County and they do not feel that they will be used as much, due to the population centers of Clermont and Minneola and a lot of riders going from there to Orange County and back. He stated that, once Phase I is completed and in place, the State and the County will be very receptive, if they see the numbers, to go ahead and continue with Phases II and III, which are not expected to have as much traffic.
Mr. Willis, Alternate Transportation Specialist, indicated on the map on display where Phase I starts and stops, noting that it starts at the Lake County/Orange County line and proceeds to the Hwy. 561 bridge, on the west side of Clermont. He noted that the cities of Clermont and Minneola are developing the last three miles of the trail, from the Minneola city limits to the Clermont city limits, due to the fact that they already owned the property and they received ISTEA funds ($1.2 million) to build it.
It was noted that the entire trail consists of 21 miles, with the County's portion being 6.2 miles.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, stated that staff could approach the State and discuss the viability of the County going from Clermont to Groveland, however, he feels that the concern from the State will be that it is not contiguous. He noted that they like to start from a point where somebody else has already started.
Commr. Bailey stated that, if the people of the County want it, then it will be done countywide, thus, giving a dedicated revenue source.
Commr. Swartz stated that he feels there are some places where the County may want to look at alternate routing, which he elaborated on. He stated that the trail is not cast in stone, therefore, if someone who owns a large parcel of property sees the value of having the trail connect along the back of their property and is willing to do so, that is the approach that the County needs to take.
Commr. Swartz stated that the County should take the path of least resistance and deal with the property owner that wants the trail to go by his property, rather than fight the property owner that does not want the trail near his property. He stated that the County should also stay away from environmental problems and from deeds that may be a questionable reimbursement from the State. He stated that, if the State is in the process of trying to revamp their agreements and approaches, this may be the opportunity for the County to go forward and say that it is willing to make a commitment. He stated that maybe the County could become the model for a new agreement and a new approach on how to do it.
Commr. Hanson questioned whether, through the feasibility study of the trail, a study had been done to determine the economic benefits of it.
It was noted that such a study had not been done for this trail.
Commr. Bailey questioned whether staff had met with property owners along the proposed trail to see if they would be willing to donate property to the County, for the trail, from what they would derive from it, noting that they may feel that the trail will be such a benefit to them that they will not charge the County for the land. He stated that they may want to set up a small station or restaurant, pavilion, country store, etc., on their property, to be utilized by users of the trail. He further stated that he felt the County needed to bring some common sense free enterprise into the picture, otherwise, questioned how much use the trail would get.
Mr. Richey reappeared before the Board stating that all he keeps hearing is ill will and distrust, with respect to staff dealing with property owners that will be affected by the trail. He stated that there needs to be some sensitivity and some positive statements, on the part of the County, as staff deals with property owners north and south of the trail. He stated that, in addition to looking at all the impact fees and ways of funding the trail, he did not know of a developer that would not work with the County, which substantially diminishes the County's risks, therefore, suggested that the County start a positive approach toward developers.
Commr. Swartz stated that staff needed direction from the Board to go forth and begin more specific discussions with DEP, with regard to putting together a revamped agreement, to bring back to the Board, with a recommendation for a combination of a variety of funding sources listed in the handout distributed by Mr. Pula.
Commr. Hanson stated that she would like to see the referendum countywide, because the Board is asking taxpayers whether they are willing for the County to take their money to put into the Rails to Trails Project. She stated that a lot of money is at risk and she did not feel that the Board should make that commitment, without knowing if the County, in general, is behind the project. She further stated that she feels the County should be looking at the trail as a long-term project and a countywide project, and that she feels it is recreational and that impact fees should be a part of it.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he did not want to see the referendum bog this project down. He stated that he would like to see staff use funds from the Capital Infrastructure Tax, the General Fund, and the Tourist Development Tax, as some type of formula for the project.
Commr. Hanson reiterated the fact that, before the Board locks into the TDC tax, she would like to see some figures regarding the bed tax. She stated that she realized the bikers and the Minneola Inn contribute to the bed tax, but questioned how much they contribute. She stated that she also believes the County needs to become much more aggressive with their bed and breakfast inns, as she feels that it would make a difference.
Commr. Bailey stated that he felt the Board should be very careful with the General Fund part of the funding. He stated that, unless it is done by a referendum, or the outpouring of support is so great that he has no doubt in his mind that it is something the taxpayers want, he would not vote for a tax increase this year and, if this project is going to create a tax increase, he wanted to know about it now.
A motion was made by Commr. Swartz and seconded by Commr. Cadwell that staff be instructed to go to the necessary agencies, begin developing and preparing new and revamped agreements, and begin putting together a funding set of proposals, which may use a combination of the possible funding sources that have been indicated, and bring it back to the Board, as soon as possible.
Under discussion, Commr. Swartz stated that, while sometime in the future the County may want to consider a public referendum on some type of permanent funding source, it may be that the County can find the necessary funding, without having to go to the taxpayers and ask them to spend more. He stated that, while the money has to come from somewhere, the infrastructure sales tax still has a significant balance that can provide some of the funding. He stated that he is not of the opinion that the Board has to ask the taxpayers to pay more taxes, they just need to allocate existing funds a little differently than they currently are.
Commr. Hanson stated that she feels the Board needs to look at long-term financing, rather than short-term financing.
Commr. Bailey commended Ms. Fisher for her hard work on this project.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which was carried unanimously.
PUBLIC SERVICES/ROADS-COUNTY & STATE
ROAD PROJECTS/STATE AGENCIES
Mr. Jim Stivender, Jr., Director of Public Services, appeared before the Board and updated them on the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) Functional Classification Study, at which time he reviewed a map (on display) indicating roads that are going to be turned over to the County from the State. He stated that, in 1991, the Fair Highway System was adopted and the State developed their own system, as part of the Federal Highway System, and the roads being turned over to the County, at this time, were not included in that system, because they did not fit the State's criteria. He stated that it has been a two year process and there has been a lot of inconsistencies in the CUTR Study. He stated that he had discussed with the Board the 1977, the 1982, and the 1987 study and noted that the study before them is supposed to be the 1992 study, yet, it is 1994 and the study still has not been adopted.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, stated that the Florida Transportation Commission was supposed to have had a hearing in November of 1993, however, staff was told that they were not needed at said meeting. He stated that he had copied the Board on a letter that he had sent the State, concerning the issue, however, the State has not yet sent it to the Legislature. He stated that they sent it back to FDOT and FDOT is required to have a hearing on February 2, 1994, for the Lake County district, in Orlando. He stated that staff will be speaking to them, however, they want written comments by February 17, 1994. He stated that, when this issue was previously scheduled on the Board agenda, he did not have said dates, thus, the reason for his bringing the matter up at this time.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, stated that he was using the Functional Classification Study as a State guideline, incorporating the County's issues into it. He stated that he would be using the State's own words and requirements against them, so to speak, to justify the roads listed in the study as being State roads. He stated that they are using all trucking centers, all main ports, and all main railheads as being things that State roads are to access, and he is expanding on that, which he elaborated on.
Mr. Stivender, Director of Public Services, stated that Clermont and Eustis are very interested and will be attending the meetings with staff. He stated that they will be putting it in writing and will probably be dealing with issues that will be signed by the Chairman and the County Manager and sent to the legislative delegation.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 12:40 p.m.
CATHERINE C. HANSON, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK