A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
DISTRICT MEETING - SOUTH CAMPUS OF
LAKE-SUMTER COMMUNITY COLLEGE
JULY 23, 2001
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Monday, July 23, 2001, at 6:30 p.m., at Lake-Sumter Community College, South Lake Campus, Community Room No. 205, Clermont, Florida. Commissioner present at the meeting was Robert A. Pool, Vice Chairman. Others present were: Sanford A. Minkoff, County Attorney/Interim County Manager; Linda Green, Executive Associate, Board of County Commissioner’s Office; Jim Stivender, Jr., Senior Director of Public Works; Fred Schneider, Director of Engineering, Public Works; Phil Maggio, Engineer, Public Works; and Kathryn A. Schwartz, Deputy Clerk.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE
Mr. Howard Stockton, Director of South Lake County Chamber, gave the Invocation.
Commr. Pool led the Pledge of Allegiance.
INTRODUCTION OF OFFICIALS
FIVE-CITY AREA - DISTRICT #2
Commr. Pool asked the elected officials to stand and be recognized. The following were introduced: Mr. Keith Mullins and Ms. Elaine Renick, Clermont Council Members; Mr. Hal Turville, Mayor of Clermont; Ms. Helen Pearce, Mayor of Minneola; Mr. Jon Vanderley, Mayor of Oakland; and Mr. Randall Story, Chief of Police, Clermont Police Department.
PURPOSE OF THE MEETING AND HISTORY OF THE AREA
Commr. Pool introduced himself and thanked everyone for coming out this evening, explaining that there was a lot of information to cover regarding transportation issues. He explained that the purpose of the meeting tonight was to address some of those key issues.
Commr. Pool recognized Mrs. Bonnie Finsley-Satterfield, College Administrator, Lake-Sumter Community College (LSCC), South Campus; and her husband, Mr. Dewey Satterfield , as being present, and thanked Mrs. Satterfield for the use of the facility.
Commr. Pool gave a brief history of the area, explaining how the 40 acres were donated on which the Clermont campus of LSCC currently is situated, with an additional 10 acres being donated for the local hospital site. He noted that the Clermont campus now has almost 600 students. Commr. Pool explained the new partnership LSCC has with the University of Central Florida . It was noted that, after the campus is completed, the college will have the capacity for over 2,000 students.
Commr. Pool also gave a brief history with regard to the Highway 50, east-west corridor, explaining that a task force has been put together to deal with issues concerning the transportation needs of the area, with $2.1 million having been secured for the Preliminary Design and Engineering (PD&E) study.
UPDATE BY THE WEST ORANGE/SOUTH LAKE
TRANSPORTATION TASK FORCE AND
PRESENTATION BY INWOOD CONSULTING ENGINEERS
Mr. Jon Vanderley, the Mayor of Oakland and head of the West Orange/South Lake Transportation Task Force (TTF), addressed those present, stating that, since the problem was collective, the TTF needed and has received the cooperation of both the West Orange and the South Lake communities. He explained that the PD&E is funded, with the necessary moneys to complete the design expected to be available by this time next year; therefore, they would be going from PD&E, to design, and into construction. It was noted that the expansions on Highway 50 will almost entirely be done within its existing rights-of-way. He stated that the TTF is working with the Expressway Authority on the possibility of an extension of the East-West Expressway out to Highway 27, with the key issue being that the terminus be far enough north to draw the people from Clermont onto the expressway. The final report from the Expressway Authority is expected within the next 30 to 45 days.
Mr. Alex Hull, Professional Engineer, Inwood Consulting Engineers (Inwood), gave an overview of the Highway 50 PD&E study being conducted by Inwood for the Department of Transportation (DOT). He discussed in detail the engineering and environmental analysis involved in deciding how a roadway will be improved along a corridor. He explained that issues addressed are why a study is being conducted, the data collection process; engineering and environmental analysis, and public involvement, with a report being forwarded to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) and the DOT.
Mr. Hull explained the four phases of public involvement as being the formation of a technical committee, a resulting task force, working with elected officials and holding public workshops, and ultimately working with the public at large. He stated that a public workshop is scheduled for the project on August 15 in Orange County and August 16 in Lake County; that newsletters will be forthcoming to residents in the immediate vicinity. He stated if anyone from the audience would like to be on the mailing list, to write their name and address on a piece of paper and return it to him this evening. Mr. Hull stated that they would be speaking to various homeowner associations in the area and explained that their Web site is linked to the DOT’s Web page.
Mr. Hull displayed an aerial photograph depicting, among other things, the alignment of the roadway, right-of-way issues, the Florida Turnpike (Turnpike) entrance, interchanges in the area, traffic signals, exit ramps, and the overall extent of the proposed modifications and alternatives. Mr. Hull also addressed the issue of traffic in the area and the resulting levels of service; that currently there are about 37,000 vehicles a day on the roadways in Lake County, with the projected amount, in the year 2026, of almost 70,000 vehicles per day. He discussed the need for more lanes of travel, access management, median openings, resurfacing, and landscaping in the area. He stated that a preliminary plan has been put together which is currently being looked at by the County’s engineering staff. He noted that the first public workshop would address the proposed access.
Mr. Hull discussed the issue of drainage and pond locations along the Highway 50 corridor, and environmental issues that would need to be addressed, such as wetlands and wildlife. He addressed the issue of groundwater contamination, air and noise studies, archeological/historical studies, parks and recreational lands. Mr. Hull explained that the engineering and environmental studies are being accelerated, with completion expected within a 12-month period, ending in March of 2002. He discussed the upcoming public meetings (to be advertised in the Lake Sentinel) to be held during the PD&E process, stating that they expected by the November meeting to inform everyone of their recommendations.
In closing, Mr. Hull discussed the available funding, both current and future, for the design and construction of the roadway and stated that he was available to answer any questions regarding the study. Commr. Pool opened the floor for discussion.
At this time, various residents from the area spoke in regard to the issues presented, and Mr. Hull and Commr. Pool answered their questions and addressed their concerns on topics such as: the timing of stop lights; projected population and traffic growth, based on, among other things, historical growth patterns; providing for and managing the influx of people coming into the state; corridor studies providing guidelines for development adjacent to the roadway; the 408 extension; the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and roadways; the decline of the adopted level of service along the roadway; other enhancements and improvements along other corridors, such as the Hartwood Marsh Road Corridor, to alleviate demands on Highway 50; and the agreement entered into by Lake County with the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority to conduct studies on projected roadways into Lake County.
Mr. Jay Evans, Manager of the Town of Oakland, and Chairman of the TTF, addressed the topic of the Highway 50 coordinated design standards. He described the TTF as a consortium of staff members and elected officials, from the counties and the cities, trying to improve Highway 50, and having no legislative or jurisdictional authority. He discussed in detail the 31 recommended design standards found in the TTF’s handout, which, in summary, sets forth uniform land use standards to improve the visual effects of Highway 50.
In conclusion, Mr. Evans discussed underground utilities and the use of signage, stating that these two issues would have the biggest potential impact on the highway. He discussed the cost of underground utilities, being anywhere from $300,000 to $3 million per mile. It was noted that many communities have worked for years to accomplish this. He explained that, due to the high cost of underground utilities, the TTF did not wish to address design standards; that it was the TTF’s suggestion that the County try to accomplish this over the years.
Commr. Pool noted the cooperative efforts of Clermont, Oakland, Ocoee, Winter Garden, and Lake and Orange counties and that he expected to see a big improvement along the Highway 50 corridor. With that, he opened the floor for questions or comments.
Mr. Hull and Commr. Pool answered questions from various residents in the area, addressing their questions and concerns, with regard to the Dark Skies legislation, which addresses the issue of light pollution; time frames for the replacement/conformity of signage; and the moratorium on billboards in Lake County, with no new billboards being built.
UPDATE REGARDING FLORIDA’S TURNPIKE
At this time, Mr. Kevin Thibault, Director of Production, Turnpike District, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), addressed those present and discussed the many improvement projects currently going on in the West Orange/South Lake County area. He discussed the following projects: widening the Turnpike from Exit 272 down to Orange Blossom Trail to six lanes; work being done on the Turnpike from I-4 up to the Clermont exit; auxiliary lanes being built between the Western Beltway and the East-West Interchange; ramps at the East-West Expressway, to and from the south on the Turnpike; an interchange at Hiawassee Road and the Turnpike; modifications to the interchange at SR 50 and Exit 272, having added a Sunpass-dedicated toll lane; an interchange, under design, at CR 470 and the Turnpike; future interchanges at CR 455, where it crosses the Turnpike and leads to Montverde, as well as at CR 561; areas of resurfacing on the Turnpike.
At this time, various residents from the area spoke in regard to the issues presented, and Mr. Thibault answered their questions and addressed their concerns on topics such as: future interchanges and related environmental concerns; plans to provide Sunpass-only ramps at all the Turnpike interchanges; the cost effectiveness of using local Sunpass distributors; improved external-mount Sunpass transponders which attach to the bumper; the use of development, population, and employment growth-trend studies, and traffic-count studies, to anticipate the needs of an area for future road improvements; the coordination of improvement plans with the local DOT district and the Expressway Authority; efforts to keep pace with the growth trends by providing improvements in a timely manner; and the Turnpike’s use of tolls to supplement the $20 billion-to-$30 billion deficit in transportation needs, as opposed to sales-tax increases.
UPDATE ON ROAD CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
Mr. Jim Stivender, Senior Director of Public Works, addressed those present. He explained his job responsibilities as not just the coordination of roadways with the area’s 14 municipalities, and the adjacent counties, but also with the DOT, the Expressway Authority, and the Florida Turnpike. He discussed issues such as traffic demands on the roadways; trends in the area; and the local gas tax, noting that for every gallon of gas purchased in the County, 10 cents goes to the local cities in the County to pay for roads, resulting in approximately $7 million to the County and approximately $3 million to all the cities combined. He explained that road projects are funded through the gas tax and the road impact fees. He described the six transportation districts in the County.
Mr. Stivender discussed in detail the many road projects for the district, and referred to the handout entitled “Road Construction Projects.” He discussed recently completed projects, projects under construction, near-future construction, and pending projects. He stated that they have received a $2 million safety grant from the State of Florida. He noted that one of their priorities was the Hartwood Marsh Road project. He stated that the estimated total cost of the project was $9 million to $10 million; that it was scheduled for completion in five to ten years; and that they have secured state grants for approximately $2.2 million to do the PD&E study and some design work on the alignment.
At this time, Mr. Stivender answered questions and addressed the concerns of various residents from the area regarding the need for traffic signals; traffic issues, such as speeding; studies done on the right-of-way alignment of Hartwood Marsh Road; the setting aside of gasoline-tax funds as additional security for bond issues; the future interchange at CR 455 and the Turnpike; financial contributions by developers; time frames for the completion of projects; road-widening projects; population-growth studies; and ways for citizens to have input in the decision-making process of road projects. Regarding the latter issue, Mr. Stivender suggested the County’s Web site at http://www.lakegovernment.com.
Commr. Pool discussed issues such as the Southern Connector, from Lakeshore Drive, stating that the County believes that they have the alignment, right-of-way, and the ability to build the roadway and was hoping for completion within one year. He explained that the Southern Connector will come out to Highway 27, connect to Citrus Tower Boulevard and eventually come back up to Highway 50, ultimately eliminating the need to travel along Lakeshore Drive. He discussed implementation of future enhancements, funding, and beautification of the Highway 50 corridor.
Mr. Minkoff addressed the issue of the legality of signs found within the County and in municipalities. He pointed out that the tall pole signs are no longer permitted within the County, as well as no new billboards. He explained the difference between the County and City regulations governing signage, noting that, in many cases, the City rules are less stringent.
Commr. Pool addressed concerns from the audience on the topics of signs found in state right-of-way; future plans to enhance and improve some of the County’s scenic roadways, providing for paved shoulders for bicyclists and addressing safety and eco-tourism issues; and the establishment of designated conservation easements required by future land uses. He asked Mr. Fred Schneider, Director of Engineering, Public Works, to address the topic of the West Orange Trail/South Lake Trail (Trail).
Mr. Schneider explained that there have been a number of public meetings regarding the Trail, noting that for many years it has been the County’s hope to extend the Rails to Trails from the Orange County Trailhead west over to the Lake Minneola Trail. He stated that they have acquired about 80% of the right-of-way on the original primary alignment, with a large amount of it having been donated. He stated that they are looking at some secondary alignments along old CR 50, with the possibility of some property owners donating right-of-way. He explained that the County is building the next phase of the extension of North Hancock Road, with a tunnel for the Trail, and extending the Trail into the Clermont Campus of LSCC, north to old CR 50, and connecting to the Lake Minneola Trail. It was explained that the County hoped to bring a spur off the Trail and down to the college and the National Training Center, with future plans of extending the Trail from the Clermont area over to Groveland, Mascotte, Stuckey, and Mabel, and connecting to the General VanFleet Trail. It was also hoped that among the south Lake trails would be the construction of a 57-mile loop around Lake Apopka. It was noted that Lake Apopka is 30% cleaner than it was five years ago due to the efforts to clean up the lake.
UPDATE ON THE POTENTIAL GENERAL AVIATION AIRPORT
IN THE WEST ORANGE/SOUTH LAKE COUNTY AREA
Commr. Pool addressed the issue of an airport possibly being built in the West Orange/South Lake County area. He explained that the Board of County Commissioners authorized the West Orange Airport Authority (WOAA) to take a look at Lake County as a possible alternate site. He emphasized that the WOAA has only been given permission to look in the area and to ultimately share the information gathered from their study. Commr. Pool stated that the County simply wants to know what opportunities and options are available. He clarified that no funds have been spent, nor will they be, by Lake County in the investigation of this matter. He confirmed that the information from the study will be made available to the public as soon as possible. He assured everyone that if public hearings on site selection were to take place that they would be well advertised and publicized.
Mr. Jon Vanderley, Mayor of Oakland and head of the West Orange/South Lake Transportation Task Force (TTF), gave a brief update on the possibility of an airport in the area. He explained that, due to the growth in the area, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is looking at two or three possible sites, with the possibility of one site being located in Lake County, and that since the study was being conducted by an Orange County body, Lake County’s approval was needed. He briefly discussed the possible sites, emphasizing that nothing has happened yet and that if the study should show the need for an airport, then the site-selection process would take place and the public-hearing process would begin.
Commr. Pool, returning to the issue of roads, discussed the extension of Hook Street to get to the new high school in the Clermont area; the importance of transportation updates for the South Lake County area, with public input; that the South Lake Connector, from the Lake Louisa area over to Highway 27, will be constructed within one year.
Commr. Pool reiterated that the County is not spending any time or money on an airport study at this point; that the authorization of County staff to work with the TTF was simply to offer information, such as maps; that no funding allocations have been authorized for any study or any in-depth issues on an airport; that public hearings would be necessary; that the funding of the West Orange Airport Authority (WOAA) came from the cities of Winter Garden, Ocoee, and Apopka; that no legislative money was involved with the WOAA.
A gentleman from the audience and who resides in the district addressed Commr. Pool regarding the importance of public awareness and public hearings, citing, as an example, his own situation; that a gas station was being built adjacent to his property. He stated his concerns; that there was no notification to himself or any of the other adjacent property owners; that he was not offered the opportunity for input; that property values would decline; and that there will be light pollution. Commr. Pool, for the record, stated that he did receive several calls and that the gas station was as big of a surprise to him as it was to the homeowner. He explained that the property was rezoned about eight or ten years ago; that he knew nothing about the issue. He explained that when it is a permitting issue, such as this, that they go to the County, walk in, pull a permit, and build. He stated that he has made many calls regarding the builder meeting all the setbacks with the tanks and the wells; that they are doing all the stormwater implementation, landscaping, and buffering. Commr. Pool stated that he is making sure that they are meeting all the stringent codes that the County has but that the subject land is properly zoned; that when the subdivision in question was put in, a Conditional Use Permit was issued for the gas station
Commr. Pool addressed the issue of advertising for the public hearings, noting that there were about 135 people present this evening.
In closing, Commr. Pool thanked everyone for coming and thanked the college for the use of their facility.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 9:10 p.m.
CATHERINE C. HANSON, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK