october 29, 2014

The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special session with the South Lake Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee for the Annual Trustee Legislative Luncheon on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 11:30 a.m., at the Clermont City Center, 620 W. Montrose Street, Clermont, Florida.  Commissioners present at the meeting were:  Sean Parks, Vice Chairman; Timothy I. Sullivan; Leslie Campione; and Welton G. Cadwell.  Others present were:  David Heath, County Manager; Barbara F. Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk.


Mr. Dick Scott, Vice Chair of the South-Lake Chamber of Commerce, welcomed everyone to the luncheon and explained that the committee chairmen would give an update on the initiatives they have addressed this past year and the initiatives they would be taking on for this coming year.  He commented that it was their intention to keep this session interactive, and they were hoping that all those in attendance would have some thoughts and comments to contribute to the discussion.  He acknowledged their generous trustees, noting that this luncheon program would not be possible without them, including representatives from the BCN law firm, Bright House Networks, Century Link, Computer Business Consultants, Hunt Industrial Park, Montverde Academy, Seacoast National Bank, SECO Energy, South Lake Hospital and the National Training Center (NTC), and Walt Disney World Resort.  He mentioned that there were trustees from some companies who could not be present, such as Ameriprise Financial, Becker Funeral Home, Duke Energy, and Lakeridge Winery.  He then introduced their elected officials who were present, including Congressman Daniel Webster, Senator Alan Hays, State House Representative Larry Metz, School Board Member Bill Mathias, Commr. Tim Sullivan, Commr. Sean Parks, and Commr. Welton Cadwell.  He noted that he believed that Commr. Campione would be arriving later.

Mr. Scott related that there were handouts at the tables which summarized some of the key initiatives that they have addressed this past year in their public policy committees, broken down by state and local initiatives, with letters of support also included in the handout.  He pointed out that a logo near some of the initiatives denoted those that were supported by the Chamber Alliance of Lake County and taken to Tallahassee either this past year for Lake Legislative Days 2014 or the 2015 initiatives which would be taken to Tallahassee for this year.  He commented that they were very successful last year receiving funding both for the science lab as well as for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing, although they did not get all of their funding, which is why they are asking for more funding this year for both of those projects.  He reported that Lake Legislative Days is being held this year on February 17 and 18, and he encouraged everyone to go, noting that it was a great time to meet with their legislators.

public policy chair presentations

Mr. Curt Binney, Economic Development Chair and a CPA at Sines Blakeslee Madyda, explained that the Economic Development Committee had two major goals, one of which was to work with the County, municipalities, and special districts in the state to promote economic growth in their area.  He related that the second goal was to provide a forum for the cities and the County to get together on a monthly basis to talk about issues, noting that one of their crowning achievements was to provide a forum for all of the cities, County, and the Water Authority to meet with the water district to discuss alternative water sources, out of which came the South Lake Regional Water Initiative that Commr. Parks and Groveland Mayor Tim Loukes helped form.  He reported that one of the initiatives they had looked at in 2014 was to lobby the state for money for an alternative water study as the area grows, and they were able to get $500,000 for a water study due to the efforts of their legislative delegation, the Chamber, and Mr. Bob Levy.  He stated that another major initiative was to start a magnet school program for the health sciences, and they were able to secure $3 million due to a partnership with the state college, UCF, their school district, and South Lake Hospital for an increase of the Lake-Sumter State college science lab.  He related that they are working with their partners in the County on the South Lake Sector Plan, which was approved unanimously by the Planning & Zoning Board that day and then would go to the Board and the state if approved by the Board, and he elaborated that this plan is a conceptual framework of how they believe the area east of SR 27 and south of SR 50 grows in correlation with their partners in the city, the County, landowners, and various economic engines.  He mentioned that they wrote advocacy letters for the water study and letters to support their cities regarding the gas tax.  He added that some of the initiatives they were looking at in 2014 and 2015 were an additional $6 million for the actual build-out of the science lab mentioned previously, an additional $3 million for the Lake Tech Center for Advanced Manufacturing, additional assistance from the state for the Hills of Minneola for right of way acquisition in addition to the $1 million it has recently received for the expansion of Citrus Grove Blvd as part of the Turnpike Interchange, $500,000 for the hydrologic study for the Water Initiative, and assistance for land owners who are looking to get an SIB (state infrastructure bank) loan to assist in the construction of an east-west connector road.  He added that the Facility Advisory Committee reported that impact fees had increased by 75 percent, and next they would be looking at a renewal of the penny sales tax next September, which he commented was very important to their cities, to their School District, and for road construction in their area.  He stated that they were looking at various aspects within the Wellness Way Master Plan, including assistance with negotiation between land owners, the City of Clermont, and CEMEX property owners, and they were also focusing on the Groveland corridor in the area of US 27 and SR 19 regarding a Villa City project at that location and some growth in the commerce park.

Mr. Bucher elaborated that although those were the key initiatives they were addressing this coming year, there were many others they would be looking at through the Economic Development Committee, which was a volunteer group of business people, and he expressed appreciation for involvement of the County and the cities in their committee meetings to help them form the policies and make the best decision they can for the betterment of the business community and their community at large in South Lake County.

Ms. Shannon Hidalgo from Green Light Fire Bag, Sports & Tourism Chair, noted that the packet contained information about many of the past year’s initiatives that they have worked on as well as advocacy letters.  She explained that their committee has actively pursued runner-friendly and bicycle friendly designations, and she mentioned that they would pursue the walker-friendly designations next year.  She commented that they lived in a highly-competitive globalized society where competition for awareness is really narrowly defined for the essence and value of their community, and their organization is highly effective in enhancing their brand equity in South Lake among organizations and businesses.  She mentioned that South Lake Hospital had provided two of their employees to dedicate their time working on those designations.  She related that another initiative they had worked on is the Coast to Coast trail, which was a 275-mile trail across Florida, and she mentioned that Mr. T. J. Fish, Executive Director of the Lake-Sumter MPO (Metropolitan Planning Agency) represented their community at the Coast to Coast summit in Winter Garden to help South Lake fill their gap.  She elaborated that their goal for 2015 is engaging the community to identify sources for funds for maintaining and marketing this trail rather than lobbying and legislation for funding, and she pointed out that it has been important in some communities and will be a destination for many bicyclists.  She added that they have been working in tandem with the County’s Economic Development & Tourism Department to develop an asset inventory data base to identify people, organizations, and facilities for their athletes in order to demonstrate with confidence what is taking shape in their community.  She mentioned that Lake Louisa State Park is developing their ten-year service management agreement in 2015, which is a ten-year business plan for development of their key initiatives and a source of funding those initiatives, and they request community input for that.  She concluded that their key initiative for 2015 is collaboration, noting that there is strength in numbers.

Mr. Clinton Pownall, Owner and Trustee of Computer Business Consultants and Education Chair, related that the mission and objective of the Education Committee is to provide the vision and influence on issues which relates to educational programs and institutions within the local community; increase awareness among the business community; and foster relationships among the educators, the local businesses, and their community leaders.  He noted that their committee members are comprised of representatives from educational institutions in and around South Lake County, including Montverde Academy, ten Lake County schools, Lake Tech, Lake Sumter State College, UCF, three members from the Lake County School’s district office, seven business members, South Lake Hospital, Sylvan Learning Center, one Chamber staff employee, one School Board member, one past School Board member, one School Board candidate, a representative from the County’s Economic Development staff, and their Chief Information Officer (CIO) Ann Dupee.  He specified that their 2013-2014 key state initiatives were dual enrollment for public schools and state colleges, funding of $3 million for the Health Sciences Collegiate Academy, and $2.8 million in funding for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing for Lake Tech to meet the growing needs for skilled technicians in machining and other manufacturing careers.  He related that their local initiatives for the past school year were job readiness, AMA (Ask Me Anything) for juniors, Culinary Arts catering for the Chamber Breakfasts, and the AVID Program which allowed their committee to have a direct relationship with Lake County Schools and the business community primarily targeting those students who would be the first college attendees in their family.  He added that they also had Chamber members serving on the committee that was responsible for $840,000 in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Engage LCS Grant for Spending Money Smartly, noting that Lake County Schools was one of only four districts across the nation to win this grant in 2013, and they also partnered with Sylvan Learning Center and Lake County Schools for ACT prep for students who were failing or having a hard time passing the SAT’s.  He reported that their key initiatives for 2014-2015 at the state level was the standardization of Career Technical Education (CTE) and elective End-of-Course (EOC) exams, since the state is only standardizing the core academics, but all non-core classes including elective math and English are using EOC tests which are standard only in each district but not statewide.  He elaborated that their focus regarding these EOC exams is having the state approve a three-year delay to allow districts to develop valid norm tests and ensure that all teacher lesson plans align with development of the test questions.  He reported that their second initiative is for additional funding for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing for Lake Tech and for the Health Sciences Collegiate Academy, which is a combined effort through South Lake Hospital, Montverde Academy, Lake County District Schools, LSSC, and UCF for a program leading toward medical careers and geared for AP level and higher-achieving students, and he mentioned that they would have support from local doctors and health professionals for that.

Mr. Pownall reported that their local 2014-2015 initiatives include a standardized dress code in Lake County District Schools, Lake Tech course offerings at the Mascotte campus, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Next Gen Grant for $500,000 for the first two phases of the Next Generations System Initiative (NGSI) to design full-scale implementation plans for personalized learning for students, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Innovative Professional Development grant to pay for personalized learning for teachers and leaders over a three-year period and establish systems and processes that focus on embedding the new Florida standards into daily classroom work, the Library Foundation, and use of the State of Education in their programs for the Chamber breakfast annually.  He stated that the sixth initiative is the continued outreach and partnerships with businesses and organizations that are focusing on or offer programs related to education, such as Revolution Off Road STEM curriculum development, Back to School is Cool, Take Stock in Children, and Oakland Nature Preserve; and another initiative is their Key Performance Indicators for Lake County Schools, which they will work with the school system to make available business resources to improve math and reading skills for K-5 using personalized learning through technology, specifically utilizing the i-station software.  He mentioned that the South Lake Chamber of Commerce Education Committee sent an advocacy letter supporting a districtwide standardized dress code policy for the schools, and he concluded that over $15 million in grants have been awarded to the county’s schools in the last six years.

Mr. Bucher related that the Technology Committee was being chaired by Mr. Daniel Whitehouse, a local attorney who specializes in technology law, and he mentioned that in an effort to become more competitive in the technology industry, they brought some of their technology companies together to collaborate and to work with the County on ways to become a more technology-friendly community.

Mr. Paul Simmons, the Lake County Economic Development & Tourism Coordinator for South Lake County, related that he started working with Mr. Whitehouse on this program about six months ago, and they decided to form this committee to provide a forum to discuss how to attract and retain technology-related businesses and individuals, collaborate with the private sector on the infrastructure needed to bring those companies to the area, and to address any workforce needs and educate residents with the skills needed for job requirements.  He also noted that they wanted to capitalize on the new interchanges that would be coming into the county and other nearby facilities that are being built.

audience questions and comments

Mr. Scott announced that there would be a question-and-answer session in which the audience could ask questions or give their comments about the presentations they had just heard and whether they were on the right track and addressing the issues at the local and state level that they should be.

Dr. Kasey Kesselring, Headmaster at Montverde Academy, commented that one thing that would impact the economy in Lake County moving forward is a large tract of land consisting of over 2,000 acres in the South Lake County areas which is now owned by Orange County, and he expressed concern that it is coming off the County’s tax rolls and that they have no idea what the future economic impact of that might be.  He asked if there was something available through the state legislature that might minimize the impact to their county and community of that many acres being taken off the tax rolls.

Mr. Scott mentioned that they had addressed it last year at the trustee luncheons, and he called on Representative Larry Metz to address that issue.

Representative Metz commented that it was an interesting legal issue, and the premise usually behind taking publically-owned lands off the tax rolls is that the governmental entity that has jurisdiction over that area operates that land for its own use or benefit; however, he does not think there is any real benefit to Lake County to having property owned by Orange County but located within Lake County.  He added that he did not know whether a legal remedy would be a constitutional amendment or whether that could be addressed statutorily.  He cautioned that either of those remedies would present political implications due to resistance from the Orange County delegation, and he suggested that they do an analysis of that, whether there were similar situations around the state, and what would be achievable.  He offered to research that and work with others to find out if there was a solution that was achievable.

Mr. Scott replied that they would add that to their list of initiatives this year.

Commr. Campione commented that it sounds like the largest concern is the unknown future use of the property, and she explained that the property is currently being used for recharge purposes as well as open space, which both have real benefits for Lake County.  She concluded that the land use itself is a critical part of that issue.

Senator Alan Hays remarked that this was reminiscent to him of the water wars of Hernando and Pasco Counties with the Tampa Bay area, and the solution to that was arrived at through negotiations.  He added that he believes the time is here to begin discussions before they had a crisis situation such as unwanted development in that area.

Mr. Binney elaborated that an Orange County Commissioner went on the record as saying that their intent was to buy land in Lake County that had no taxable value so that they could develop their land in Orange County in order to make tax revenue on it.  He suggested that they make governmental agencies go through the same type of CFD process that everyone else would have to under the existing regulations rather than just automatically making that property exempt.

Dr. Kesselring noted that this property consists of 2,500 acres of Conserv II property, and he expressed concern that since Orange County has more of a demand for reuse water, the amount of recharge going on could be limited.  He added that there were a couple of active wells on the property, and he was concerned that the water could be used in Orange County.

Commr. Parks opined that the biggest problem he saw was getting past some of the bureaucracy, since it involved several large utilities, and he related that his discussions with the elected officials there indicated that they could come up with an agreement for something that will benefit both Lake County and Orange County on that land, which is within the Sector Plan, such as recreational opportunities, right of way for the roads, and north-south connections that would connect to Wellness Way.  He suggested that their legislators could help them with having those discussions.

Mr. Bucher replied that one of the biggest transactions they are looking at right now is the Orange-Lake Expressway, which is about a $37 million project, and he opined that there is no doubt that that road would help Orange County service some of the businesses over there.

Commr. Cadwell pointed out that they had willing property owners in Lake County that wanted that reuse for agriculture and were willing participants, and he related that the County has made overtures to Orange County and those utilities over the years in trying to buy some of it back, but they have not been able to do that.

Mr. Kesselring clarified that there was a period of time that Lake County was actually getting some annual remuneration of about $100,000 per year to offset any services that might be provided down there, but that has since expired.

Mr. Bucher commented that that issue would be a great economic development discussion, but he suggested that they move on to a sports and tourism initiative.

Ms. Hidalgo mentioned that there was a clay trail loop right near the Conserv II property which is home to hundreds of thousands of both well-known and unknown international athletes that come to the community for the sole purpose of running that ten-mile clay surface route, and these athletes provide a lot of economic benefit to their community.  She related that there was a coalition of endurance athletes which includes professional athletes, triathletes, and Olympians who have assembled to be proactive in identifying a location for their training, and they have developed a network with Lake County Economic Development and Tourism to help with that effort.  She commented that although some of these athletes could go anywhere in the world, they chose that clay trail, because of the climate, the environment, and the fact that it abates the wear-and-tear on joints; and the runner network was looking into whether Conserv II could be an area where they could remake the clay trail.

Mr. Bucher suggested that their legislators should also work on the funding of the coast-to-coast trail.

Mr. Fish added that the legislature has directed $55 million to the coast-to-coast trail project and commented that everything pragmatic that could be done right now is being done.  He reported that a piece of the trail is currently under construction from Clermont to South Lake High School, and DOT will manage the right of way in building it from South Lake High School to downtown Groveland.  He elaborated that the trail will then be built as part of the SR 50 realignment project, and he opined that he believes they could build the connection of the trail from Mascotte to Van Fleet within five years, which is an important part.  He commented that the excitement about this trail is massive across the state, and it receives a lot of support from various MPO’s.  He also commented about the ecotourism benefits of the trail, stating that all businesses in South Lake could capitalize on that and that it could relate directly to the branding that Clermont has done.

Mr. Bucher summarized that both the coast-to-coast and the clay trail are initiatives that they continue to look at, and he asked for an educational question or comment.  He mentioned that the Board recently approved the advertisement of 75 percent of the recommended impact fee and opined that although those funds will provide some capital for schools, they will need to also look at other sources of funding, including at the state level.

Mr. Mathias related that the School Board sent a resolution last year regarding transactional fees on real estate, which he opined is a more sustainable funding model.

Senator Hays elaborated that he advocated a bill which gave the counties the option to use a transaction fee versus an impact fee, which was written to allow the counties to choose a mix of fees, and the intent of the bill was to bring control back to the local level.  He expressed opposition to the impact fees, and he opined that it puts an undue burden on the new construction industry instead of spread throughout the entire county.  He explained that the bill was for a cap of one percent on a transaction fee that could be applied to all real estate transactions, and he commented that he intends to be an advocate for that concept again this year.

Dr. Susan Moxley, Superintendent of Lake County Schools, opined that the Health Sciences Collegiate Academy initiative would serve as a model to show how partnerships can come together with the public school system, the college system, the university system, Montverde Academy, and the hospital to truly provide seamless education from Kindergarten through adulthood and meet the workforce demands of the health industry in the community.  She added that she believed it would be a model that could be replicated throughout their county and in other types of career industry content areas.  She stated that they appreciate the work that has been done thus far with the state college system’s lab facilities, and she commented that they need to keep the momentum going and that it has been a phenomenal partnership.  She also commented that they need to take a very careful look at the requirements for the end-of-course exams to make sure that their students are prepared for the university and state college system or the workforce, and she added that the exams are having to be written, defined, and developed in a very quick turnaround manner to address the statute on teacher evaluations and assessments being tied to those exams, which results in having end-of-course exams as early as Kindergarten, which she did not believe was developmentally appropriate.

Senator Hays commented that there was a lot of work that absolutely must be done regarding the exams mentioned by Dr. Moxley, noting that when he had voted for one of those bills he did not realize that they made some grievous errors.  He elaborated that although he was for accountability and high standards, he believed that their committees in the legislature this year have a tremendous task before them to remodel the testing, look at the standards, and overhaul the curriculum methodologies that are being used in the classrooms.  He opined that unfortunately, many of the teachers have been intimidated by the administrators to not speak up for fear of their own job security, which he believed they needed to remedy, and their teachers and students deserve a far better role than they have been given as “guinea pigs” for this system.

Representative Metz related that he had received a resolution from the Sumter County School Board asking for a one-year delay in the use of current standard testing results in school grades and one from the Lake County School Board requesting a three-year moratorium for end-of-course exams to give more time for norm testing and teacher evaluations.  He asked how to reconcile the requests from both of those counties, and he stated that they needed to find the right solution for Florida and support the educators’ implementation of it rather than having the legislature keep layering education bills on top of the prior year’s legislation.

Congressman Webster explained that the federal government provides a lot of funding for transportation, and they hope to be doing another reauthorization bill for the long-term to provide more federal funding.  He emphasized that they do not have any control over the growth and densities in any of the communities which create more traffic on the roads, which makes keeping up with road capacity difficult.  He opined that they should reward the states and counties who plan before they build as they do this reauthorization to make sure the infrastructure is in place before the construction is done rather than after it happens.  He commented that they have some unbelievable infrastructure needs in Florida, and they need people to continue coming to the area in order to sustain economic development.

Mr. Fish reported that the Minneola Interchange would be opening in 2017, and they had just gotten a grant because of the efforts of their delegation from DOT.  He also announced that he had just learned that DOT was funding construction on US 27 from Lake Louisa Road to Boggy Marsh Road.

Mr. Darren Gray, Clermont City Manager, related that the 20-year master planning they were doing was very important, as well as what they would do in the shorter five, ten, and 15-year plan, and he offered to help with the initiatives.  He mentioned that they were a training ground for the region, and people are drawn to their community for their lakes and hills.

Ms. Ann Dupee asked if there were any things such as the one percent transaction fee that they could be discussing among themselves, such as doc stamps rather than impact fees, although she believes the doc stamps were tied to Amendment 1.

Mr. Bucher replied that he believed that the doc stamp proposal by Senator Hays was for an additional doc stamp as opposed to the one that is connected to Amendment 1 which is actually taking the existing tax rate and allocating it towards environmental causes.

Senator Hays responded that it was not considered a new tax, though, because it would be replacing the impact fee, which would be over and above the documentary stamp with a cap of an increase of one percent.  He thanked everyone for their cooperation and teamwork between businesses, the educational community, and municipalities, which he remarked was far greater than they see in most other communities, and he urged everyone not to take that cooperative spirit for granted.  He also opined that he was extremely proud to call Congressman Webster his congressman and thanked him for the way he represents them and for all he does for the state and the United States.

Commr. Sullivan mentioned that the one penny sales tax will be put on the ballot for renewal next year, which is a very important funding source to build roads, schools, and other kinds of buildings, and it would be a cooperative effort between the school system, the municipalities, and the County to come up with that formula.

Mr. Scott thanked all of their staff who helped put on those events, their trustees, and their guests.


There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 1:08 p.m.



jimmy conner, chairman