A regular MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
April 27, 2021
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in regular session on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 9:00 a.m., in the County Commission Chambers, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Sean Parks, Chairman; Kirby Smith, Vice Chairman; Douglas B. Shields; Leslie Campione; and Josh Blake. Others present were: Alan Rosen, County Manager; Melanie Marsh, County Attorney; Niki Booth, Executive Office Manager, County Manager’s Office; Gary J. Cooney, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller; Kristy Mullane, Chief Financial Officer; and Josh Pearson, Deputy Clerk.
INVOCATION and pledge
Commr. Parks welcomed everyone to the meeting, and noted that they were meeting in person and also virtually. He mentioned a tradition they had of having a veteran lead the Pledge of Allegiance, commenting that the veteran who would be leading the Pledge of Allegiance was Ms. Rolanda (Robbie) Pena. He explained that Ms. Pena was a Permitting Technician in the County’s Office of Building Services, and that she served as active duty in the United States (U.S.) Army from 1980 through 1984 as a Communications Specialist. He elaborated that in 1981, she was deployed to Germany for two years where she provided communication support during a special field operation. He said that a fond memory of her time in Germany was the opportunity to work in the field alongside military service men and women from different allied countries. He thanked Ms. Pena for her service and for what she did for the County.
Reverend Drew Marshall, with South Lake Presbyterian Church, gave the invocation and Ms. Pena led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mr. Alan Rosen, County Manager, said that Tab 12 would be removed and brought back at a later date, noting that it was still being evaluated. He added that Tab 31 was moved to the public hearings, and the attachment schedule two was updated as well. He relayed that Tabs 34 and 35 were both added after the agenda was first published.
Commr. Parks commented that the rezoning hearings would be at 1:00 p.m., and the Board would try to address a vacation of right of way public hearing as soon as they could.
virtual meeting instructions
Mr. Erikk Ross, Director for the Information Technology (IT) Department, explained that this meeting was being livestreamed on the County website and was also being made available through Zoom Webinar for members of the public who wished to provide comments during the Citizen Question and Comment Period later in the agenda. He elaborated that anyone watching though the livestream who wished to participate could follow the directions currently being broadcast through the stream; furthermore, he relayed that anyone who had joined the webinar via their phone could press *9 to virtually raise their hand, and anyone participating online could click the raise hand button to identify that they wished to speak. He said that when it was time for public comment, he would read the person’s name or phone number, unmute the appropriate line, and the speaker would be asked to provide comments. He added that everyone would have three minutes to speak, and after three minutes an alarm would sound to let them know that their time was up. He added that they previously notified the public that comments could be emailed through 5:00 p.m. on the previous day, and those comments were shared with the Board prior to the meeting. He stated that anyone wishing to provide written comments during the meeting could visit www.lakecountyfl.gov/commissionmeeting, noting that comments sent during this meeting would be shared with the Commission after the meeting was concluded.
Mr. Tommy Carpenter, Director for the Office of Emergency Management, provided a brief update on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination site at the former Sears location at Lake Square Mall. He reported that as of the previous day, they had 68 operational days with a total of 105,113 first and second dose shots given, noting that it averaged to be 1,546 shots per day and about 220 shots per hour. He commented that all eligible Floridians who could receive a vaccine could get it, and that their site used the Pfizer vaccine for individuals age 16 and older. He relayed that the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were for individuals 18 and older, and that there was a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine; however, they would hopefully see the pause end on the current or following day. He relayed the site’s upcoming hours of operation and said that based on current trends, they would be doing first doses through May 4, 2021; furthermore, May 5 through May 25, 2021 would be for second doses. He commented that there had been a sizable reduction in demand over the past several weeks and that everyone was seeing this. He relayed that they would monitor the trend and he anticipated that if trends continued, they would keep compressing, in addition to considering downsizing and demobilizing. He clarified that it would not end vaccine distribution but that it was a time for transition. He said that this would give them through May 2021 to get this transitioned, well publicized, and get it back to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) sites; additionally, June 1, 2021 would be the start of hurricane season. He relayed that currently, 85 percent of the county’s 65+ population had been vaccinated, and their current positivity rate was about nine percent daily; furthermore, between their three hospitals, they had 48 people hospitalized.
Commr. Shields asked how Mr. Carpenter envisioned the booster shot phase and if it would be with pharmacies.
Mr. Carpenter thought so, noting that it could be several months later, and he hoped that the vaccine saturation was at a point where booster shots could get to physicians and commercial outlets. He anticipated that it would work like a flu shot.
Commr. Parks thanked Mr. Carpenter and shared that he had received a vaccine at the Sears site.
Mr. Carpenter commented that their first response personnel had done a great job.
On a motion by Commr. Smith, seconded by Commr. Blake and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the minutes for the BCC meeting of February 9, 2021 (Regular Meeting) as presented.
Mr. Chris Carmody, with GrayRobinson, provided an update on the 2021 Florida Legislative Session. He commented that the impact fees bill had passed in the Florida Senate and would be sent to the Florida Governor, that the North Lake County Hospital District (NLCHD) local bill was voted down in the second committee, and that the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) expansion for flooding mitigation was temporarily postponed in the Florida Senate but had come back in the Florida House of Representatives tax package which passed the House and would at some point be picked up by the Florida Senate. He commented that the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) bill was in the House on the current day, noting that it could get bumped to the Senate; however, he thought that it could come back and be approved. He remarked that the online sales tax bill had been signed on the previous Tuesday and would go into effect on July 1, 2021. He added that the documentary stamp tax bill was signed, noting that the funding would be split between the Sadowski Trust Fund, resiliency, and wastewater treatment. He said that for appropriations, all four of the following projects were funded: a public use building at $1.5 million; Green Mountain Connector and Wekiva Trail at $2 million each; and public radios at $2 million. He recognized the county’s representatives and senators, and said that it was a team effort. He thanked County staff for helping, and he then remarked that the census data had come out. He said that this was the unofficial beginning of the redistricting process and that it looked like only one congressional seat would be added. He then thanked Mr. Rosen and staff.
Commr. Parks asked about when COVID-19 liability legislation would be effective.
Mr. Carmody clarified that the liability regarding businesses, governments and hospitals, was currently in effect. He added this was the top priority for the Florida Legislature and the Governor, and said that more bills were being sent to the Governor including House Bill (HB) 1 for anti-riot legislation. He remarked that this bill could create funding issues if a County or City reduced funding for their police force.
citizen question and comment period
Ms. Mae Hazelton, a resident of Lake County speaking on behalf of Lake County Voices of Reason, expressed concerns for a recent announcement by Honorable Carey Baker, Lake County Property Appraiser, about an opportunity that the Lake County Historical Society and Museum had been given by Ms. Nilda Comas, the sculptor of the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune statue that was going to be placed in the National Statuary Hall. She recalled that Mr. Baker had stated that Ms. Comas had offered a smaller version of the statue only to the museum, and she opined that Ms. Comas was not comfortable with this representation of her conversation with Mr. Baker and Mr. Ray Powers, President of the Lake County Historical Society. She stated that Mr. Baker made no mention of the direct connection to Lake County that was required by the County’s agreement and Article 2 of the Historical Society’s 2019 bylaws. She opined that Mr. Baker did not mention the impact on the community, and she relayed a concern that there was a plan to use community reconciliation as a diversion while the museum was creating a nexus to the General Edmund Kirby Smith statue.
Commr. Parks said that he had spoken to Mr. Baker and made it clear that there would never be an attempt to bring the General Edmund Kirby Smith statue back. He believed that they wanted to bring the Dr. Bethune statue for a good reason, relaying his understanding that they wanted the African-American community to be part of how it was displayed. He commented that he could reach out to Ms. Hazelton and that he wanted her to be part of the process.
Commr. Campione expressed an understanding that the historical society developed a relationship with the sculptor and became interested in Dr. Bethune’s history and her impacts to the state. She said that it was her impression that this was genuine and not to tie back into the General Smith statue.
Commr. Parks stated that the Board would make sure they were building trust and that those who were interested could be involved in the process.
CLERK OF the Circuit COURT and comptroller’s CONSENT AGENDA
On a motion by Commr. Blake, seconded by Commr. Campione and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller’s Consent Agenda, Items 1 through 5, as follows:
List of Warrants
Notice is hereby provided of warrants paid prior to this meeting, pursuant to Chapter 136.06 (1) of the Florida Statutes, which shall be incorporated into the Minutes and filed in the Board Support Division of the Clerk's Office.
City of Mascotte and Mascotte CRA Financial Reports
Notice is hereby provided of having received the Financial Reports, year ended September 30, 2020, from the City of Mascotte and the City of Mascotte Community Redevelopment Agency.
City of Umatilla CRA 2020 Annual Report
Notice is hereby provided of having received the fiscal year 2020 Annual Report from the City of Umatilla Community Redevelopment Agency.
City of Leesburg Annual Financial Report
Notice is hereby provided of having received the 2020 Annual Financial Report from the City of Leesburg.
Lands Available List
Notice is hereby provided of having received a list of property placed on the Lands Available List.
COUNTY MANAGER’S CONSENT AGENDA PROCLAMATIONS
Commr. Parks proposed addressing the proclamations first, Tabs 3 through 6, noting that they had a presentation by Commissioner Smith for Tab 6.
On a motion by Commr. Smith, seconded by Commr. Blake and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the Consent Agenda proclamations, Tabs 3 through 6, as follows:
Recommend adoption of Proclamation 2021-51 designating May 4, 2021, as International Firefighters' Day in Lake County. There is no fiscal impact.
Recommend adoption of Proclamation 2021-68 designating May 2021 as Building Safety Month in Lake County. There is no fiscal impact.
Recommend adoption of Proclamation 2021-49 designating May 2021 as Law Enforcement Month in Lake County. There is no fiscal impact.
Recommend adoption of Proclamation 2021-50 designating May 16-22, 2021, as National Emergency Medical Services Week in Lake County. There is no fiscal impact.
presentation of proclamation 2021-50
Commr. Parks said that the Board had passed a proclamation recognizing International Firefighters’ Day in Lake County, and that they were also recognizing that it was Building Safety Month in May 2021, in addition to Law Enforcement Month in May 2021. He added that the Law Enforcement Memorial would be on May 4, 2021 on the steps of the Lake County Historic Courthouse.
Commr. Smith recognized the representatives in attendance from the Offices of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Fire Rescue. He then read Proclamation 2021-50 and thanked staff for what they did.
Commr. Parks also thanked staff.
COUNTY MANAGER’S CONSENT AGENDA
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Smith and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the remaining Consent Agenda, Tabs 7 through 22, pulling Tab 12, and with the addition of Tab 35, as follows:
Recommend approval to declare items as surplus and grant authorization to remove them from the County’s official fixed asset inventory system records. The fiscal impact (revenue) cannot be determined at this time.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND DEVELOPMENT SERVICES
Public Safety Support
Recommend approval of Contract 21-0406 with Anixter, Inc. (Orlando, FL) utilizing the Volusia County contract 21-B-26JRD for various types of communication equipment needed for repairs and maintenance, and authorize the Office of Procurement Services to execute all supporting documentation. The fiscal impact is estimated at $29,000.00 (expenditure) and is within, and will not exceed, the 2021 Fiscal Year Budget.
Recommend approval of the Interlocal Agreement between Lake County Board of County Commissioners and City of Groveland for law enforcement radio console services. The fiscal impact is $1,296.00 (revenue) for additional radio consoles. Commission District 1.
PUBLIC SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Recommend approval of Contract 21-0446 with Asset Security Systems, Inc. (Brooksville, FL) for Property Records Storage Facility Camera System. The fiscal impact is $29,739.87 (expenditure) and is within, and will not exceed, Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. Commission District 3.
Recommend approval of Contract 21-0447 with Asset Security Systems, Inc. (Brooksville, FL) for Office of Fleet Management Camera System. The fiscal impact is $68,296.14 (expenditure) and is within, and will not exceed, Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. Commission District 1.
Housing and Human Services
1. Of a substantial amendment to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) 2020-2024 Consolidated Plan and 2020 Annual Action Plan, and associated Resolution 2021-69.
2. To authorize the Chairman to execute any related documents required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). There is no fiscal impact.
Recommend approval of Contract 20-0909F with GCIGCCMA, LLC (Mount Dora, FL) as an additional contractor for the Residential Rehabilitation for State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Program, and authorize the Office of Procurement Services to execute supporting documentation. There is no additional fiscal impact (expenditures are 100% grant funded).
Recommend approval of a State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) sub-recipient agreement with the United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties, to provide rental assistance to qualified applicants. The fiscal impact is $525,000.00 (expense) and is 100% grant funded.
Recommend adoption of Resolution 2021-70 to advertise a public hearing to vacate portions of platted rights of way on the plat of the Town of Hampton located south of County Road 450, and north of Lake Yale Road in the Umatilla area. The fiscal impact is $2,295.00 (revenue - vacation application fee). Commission District 5.
Recommend adoption and execution of Resolution 2021-71 and perpetual drainage easement to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for the installation of drainage structures under County Road 561A, in the Minneola area. There is no fiscal impact. Commission District 1.
Recommend approval of the Right of Way Dedication Agreement for a portion of Schofield Road. There is no fiscal impact. Commission District 2.
Recommend approval to execute Change Order #4 to the Citrus Grove Road Phase 3 construction contract. The fiscal impact is $194,225.63 (expenditure - federal/state grant funds) and is within, and will not exceed, the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. Commission District 2.
Recommend approval to:
1. Accept the final plat for Oak Pointe Preserve and all areas dedicated to the public as shown on the Oak Pointe Preserve final plat, located near Groveland; and
2. Adopt Resolution 2021-72 accepting Reynolds Road (County Road No. 1028) into the County's maintenance system.
The fiscal impact is $1,551.00 (revenue - final plat application fee). Commission District 1.
1. Of Contracts 21-0516A and 21-0516B for guardrail and handrail installation and repair service to Grading Bush Hog Services, Inc. (Keystone Heights, FL) and South East Highway Guardrail and Attenuators, LLC (Lakeland, FL); and
2. To authorize the Office of Procurement Services to execute all supporting documentation.
The annual fiscal impact for Public Works Department is estimated at $10,000.00 (expenditure) and is within, and will not exceed, the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. The annual fiscal impact for Risk Management is unknown as it is based on verified claims received.
Request approval of a Haul Permit application submitted by Jen Florida 39, LLC (Oviedo, FL) for hauling activity associated with the Hartwood Residential project located on Hartwood Marsh Road near the City of Clermont. The fiscal impact is $33,280.00 (revenue – permit application fees). Commission District 2.
Request approval of the renewal of a Haul Permit issued to Jen Florida 30, LLC (Oviedo, FL) for hauling activity associated with the Hills of Minneola Planned Unit Development located on North Hancock Road within the City of Minneola. There is no fiscal impact. Commission District 2.
2021 regional economic update
Mr. Tim Giuliani, President and CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership (OEP), provided an economic overview of what OEP was involved in and what they were seeing in the region. He explained that OEP had 70 percent private funding and 30 percent public funding, noting that the 30 percent came from Seminole County, Osceola County and the City of Orlando; additionally, the course of their work spread over the larger footprint in central Florida. He remarked that they did economic development and marketing work, and championed issues important to their region; furthermore, they also worked with leaders through leadership programming and analysis, and pushed the envelope on some emerging technologies. He stated that most of their funding for economic development went into five areas where they thought they had a competitive advantage, noting that they had recently also focused on some geographic areas of the county with talk of business migration consideration. He displayed an image of various logos that represented jobs being added to the region, remarking that it included professional services and technology. He thought that the entire region benefited from the talent pool they had and said that there were over 600,000 college students within a 100 mile radius of downtown City of Orlando. He mentioned that another advantage was the investments that local and state government had made in transportation, and he showed a slide pointing out some of these projects; additionally, his organization would be looking to Washington, D.C. over the following year as the infrastructure package took shape. He displayed a chart showing how consumer spending had changed, noting that retail and grocery had been above pre-pandemic levels for some time, though transportation and recreation were down 30 to 40 percent below pre-pandemic levels. He displayed another graph and explained that since January 2021 in Lake County, consumer spending had been consistently above pre-pandemic levels. He showed the change in employment from January 2021 to February 2021, noting that the recent increase in consumer spending had brought back jobs in leisure and hospitality; furthermore, one in three jobs lost in the pandemic had returned since May 2020. He showed a chart regarding the labor force in Lake County, commenting that the trend had been down, and then up since the beginning of December 2020. He also remarked that the county’s labor force was 8.8 percent smaller than it was when the pandemic began in February 2020, adding that it was down about 10 percent for the region. He showed initial data from the U.S. Postal Service change of address forms, noting that some people had moved out of the urban core of the region into surrounding counties such as Brevard, Volusia and Polk Counties; additionally, there were people coming in from other states. He mentioned that Lake County was picking up residents from Seminole, Orange and Osceola Counties, but was also losing some residents to Sumter and Marion Counties; however, this was somewhat consistent with trends. He summarized that from an economic perspective, it seemed that many trends accelerated, and they might need to keep investing in transportation. He mentioned that things had changed since before the pandemic, and that they needed to get to a better place and take advantage of the trends that fell in their favor. He commented that they had many companies and local governments involved in understanding trends, finding out how to react to it, market their region competitively, and bring more jobs and companies there. He thanked those that supported the work, and he opined that what was holding them back was the perception of their market from outside the market. He noted that the City of Orlando was their global brand and that when they talked to companies typically from out of state, they could discuss the specifics of the entire region and generate stories that went beyond their travel and tourism. He stated that to diversify the economy, they had to do more and focus on telling the other half of the story. He concluded by displaying headlines that they had helped to generate to make sure people knew there was more to central Florida than attractions.
Commr. Parks thanked Mr. Giuliani, noting that Lake County was part of the larger City of Orlando area. He commented that Lake County was unlike the City of Orlando and that some people did not want to live in an urban environment, and he thought that it was interesting that people were potentially moving out of the urban core and wanting to work more at home.
Commr. Smith asked when Mr. Giuliani would have the second set of data for populations and movements.
Mr. Giuliani said that it could possibly be later in the current year.
Commr. Campione asked about marketing the region and the types of things that OEP did to bring them attention.
Mr. Giuliani responded that they did this through public relations, including trying to make good local stories into good stories nationally, and tie national trends into what was happening in the City of Orlando. He added that they also took business leaders that were invested in the region and brought them to other markets. He said that they conducted hosting and tried to bring site selection consultants into the market, who helped companies with their evaluation of where to expand or relocate. He also stated that they focused on account based marketing, where they had an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that looked through all of the corporate data and news that tended to lead to an expansion or relocation, and they were able to identify those that matched up to their competitive advantage in Central Florida; furthermore, this was the group that they were constantly marketing to, knowing that they likely had a decision to make in the next six to twelve months.
Commr. Shields inquired about the one or two things Lake County could do to be more attractive to the targeted companies.
Mr. Giuliani replied that one would be making sure they were investing in changing the perception of what they already had, noting that there was a perception that much of their employment base worked in travel and hospitality. He added that transportation was probably the top item to keep momentum going. He also said that they needed to pay attention to what the entire region was doing as part of their strategy, how Lake County invested in transportation, and how it linked into the rest of the urban core.
Commr. Parks mentioned broadband and connectivity in conjunction with remote work.
Mr. Giuliani said that this could be done in Lake County, and that they also had a nearby international airport as a competitive advantage.
Commr. Blake asked that once a company decided on the Central Florida region, how much of a factor was the tax burden for what particular part of the region they ended up in.
Mr. Giuliani responded that tax was important as part of the overall cost structure and that companies had to realize the region had become more expensive for items such as construction and housing. He stated that it more depended on the size of the project for how important tax would be to them, noting that they had lost some recent deals because the price of land was not competitive with locations outside the metropolitan areas of places such as the States of Tennessee and Texas.
Commr. Parks thanked Mr. Giuliani again. He then proposed to address Tabs 30 and 31 at the current time.
public hearing: vacation petition in minneola area
Mr. Fred Schneider, Public Works Director, presented a public hearing for vacation petition #1253, noting the following applicants: Jen Florida 30, LLC; Meritage Homes of Florida, Inc.; Arroyo Cap II-1, LLC; and the Hills of Minneola Community Development District. He added that the applicants were represented by Ms. Melissa Martinez, with Poulos & Bennett, LLC. He explained that the vacation was in the City of Minneola area near the Florida’s Turnpike interchange on North Hancock Road, in Commission District 2. He showed an image of the area to be vacated, commenting that when the County first signed the agreement with the Hills of Minneola, the owner was not ready to design the project yet. He stated that the County always required grading easements because of the cross slopes; furthermore, they needed to harmonize an easement behind the sidewalk. He remarked that the County kept those until the property developed and then they could release that right of way.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
There being no one who wished to address the Board regarding this matter, the Chairman closed the public hearing.
Commr. Parks noted that this item was in his district, and he expressed support for it.
On a motion by Commr. Shields, seconded by Commr. Smith and carried by a 4-0 vote, the Board approved Resolution 2021-73 to vacate permanent grading and drainage easements lying on the east side of North Hancock Road between the Turnpike interchange and County Road 561 in the Minneola area.
Commr. Campione was not present for the vote.
public hearing: mid-year budget amendment
Mr. Rosen explained that this was something that the County did twice per year to adjust the budget, and that it was to make sure they had correct information after the audit was done and to adjust the fund balance; additionally, it was to recognize any revenue received in the middle of the year.
Ms. Allison Teslia, Director for the Office of Management and Budget, presented a public hearing on the mid-year budget amendment. She said that the mid-year budget amendment would make adjustments to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 revised budget including an adjustment to fund balances, and incorporation of unanticipated changes to revenues or expenditures. She commented that the current countywide budget, which included previously approved unanticipated revenue resolutions, was $586.63 million, and that the proposed changes were $71,000 which would bring the supplemental budget to $586.56 million. She remarked that the total mid-year adjustments for the General Fund revenues were approximately $144,000; furthermore, they included adjustments for the Lake County Sheriff’s contracted services of $126,000, and adjustments for changes to the beginning fund balance of $18,000. She said that the net effect of the mid-year adjustment to the General Fund was minimal and that after approval of the mid-year adjustment, the total General Fund reserves would still be $21.7 million which represented 13.8 percent of the operating budget; additionally, the current Board goal stated that reserves should be between seven and twelve percent of operating expenses. She stated that the long range target for the adopted reserves was 16.7 percent which was recommended as the best practice by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for Counties. She then explained that the total adjustments to the other funds were approximately $73,000 and included adjustments to the beginning fund balances mostly due to audit adjustments, along with adjustments resulting from grant reconciliations which included $1.8 million in the transit fund, and a reduction of $367,000 in the federal and state grant funds.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
There being no one who wished to address the Board regarding this matter, the Chairman closed the public hearing.
Commr. Smith said that it would be great if the County could get to 16.7 percent of the operating budget in reserves, and Commissioner Parks agreed.
Ms. Teslia stated that the requested action was for approval of an amended budget for FY 2021 to include a reconciliation of beginning fund balance and other adjustments, and approval of the resolution adopting a supplemental budget of $586,557,409 for FY 2021.
On a motion by Commr. Shields, seconded by Commr. Blake and carried by a 4-0 vote, the Board approved an amended budget for FY 2021 to include a reconciliation of beginning fund balance and other adjustments, and approval of Resolution 2021-65 adopting a supplemental budget of $586,557,409 for FY 2021.
Commr. Campione was not present for the vote.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman called a recess at 10:10 a.m. for 17 minutes.
presentation on the economic action plan
Mr. Brandon Matulka, Executive Director for the Agency for Economic Prosperity, said that the purpose of this presentation was to provide context and a review of the Lake County Economic Action Plan. He relayed the following background information: Lake County sourced an economic development strategic plan that was produced by a third party firm, TIP Strategies, in 2008; between 2011 and 2012, the Lake County Economic Action Plan was produced and implementation began; and the Economic Action Plan was a guiding document with overarching goals as well as corresponding actions. He added that the plan had not been updated with the Board since it was created, and that with having a new Board and County Manager, staff felt that it was the perfect time to start the process of potentially updating the document. He said that the vision of the plan was a prosperous local economy supported by a wide range of career opportunities, a diversified tax base, and exceptional quality of life; additionally, the mission of the plan was to aggressively retain, attract and grow jobs in Lake County, in partnership with others, while protecting and improving Lake County's quality of life and unique character. He then relayed the following goals in the plan: create a business friendly environment, simplify the governmental permitting process, and always be mindful of the impact of governmental regulation on the success of the private sector to retain and create jobs, noting that a concierge was created in the Office of Elevate Lake to assist projects and City staffs with the permitting and development processes; work directly with willing municipalities to assist with the implementation of each City’s economic initiatives and promote cooperation and coordination between the Cities and Lake County, noting that the County had previously included County Commissioners on projects and that the County had been meeting with the City economic development staff members regularly before the pandemic; and assure that the County had an available and well-prepared workforce for existing, emerging and prospective businesses, and collaborate with Lake County educators to meet workforce needs and achieve educational excellence, commenting that they had created the Lake County Workforce Task Force which included educational partners in the county to discuss updates, collaboration, issues and trends, along with being engaged with the school board. He also relayed the following additional goals: establish policies and programs that promote the retention, success, and expansion of existing businesses; and establish policies and programs to assist start-up and developing businesses and encourage entrepreneurship. He remarked that the Office of Elevate Lake continued to conduct site visits with local businesses each week, that they were working on being able to collect information for businesses’ needs and how staff could assist them, that staff was building out the tier one and tier two economic development incentives for new businesses and existing businesses looking to expand, that staff continued to maintain their relationship with the small business development center (SBDC) who provided free consulting services for new and existing businesses, and that staff continued to work with SCORE. He commented that an additional goal was to attract and recruit new businesses to Lake County by targeting specific industries, drawing upon regional partnerships and using proven business models, and work directly with the business community, cities, and other stakeholders to promote eco-tourism, recreation, sports and tourism, noting that OEP was one of their partners and had historically assisted with attraction and recruitment of new businesses. He remarked that Lake County did not have many competitive sites due to their cost of entry compared to their competitors; therefore; staff had been more focused on their strategic corridors to leverage partnerships with Cities and private industry to assist in place making and get infrastructure in place. He said that for recruitment, staff responded to requests for proposals (RFP) and requests for information (RFI) from Enterprise Florida, which was the State-designated economic development organization, along with communicating them to the Cities; additionally, the County was involved in regional groups. He indicated that for the promotion of Lake County and tourism, over the course of the Economic Action Plan, the County solicited for and hired their first general tourism marketing agency and were currently working on a contract for a new vendor to further their efforts and momentum. He mentioned that there had been several programs and opportunities created for grants for event organizers throughout the County and the tourism industry, and the County had been successful in funding some key infrastructure projects; furthermore, the County was looking to facilitate a strategic workshop between the BCC and the Tourist Development Council (TDC) to jointly discuss the direction of tourism in the county and to review their programs and goals. He noted that another goal of the plan was to protect and improve the county’s quality of life and maintain the proper balance between job creation and the protection of their natural resources and unique Lake County character, to establish specific targets and track progress of their economic development efforts and programs, and to maintain a sense of urgency as they sought to realize their economic goals, mentioning that maintaining quality of life was where the emphasis on strategic corridors came into play. He said that staff looked at areas that were strategic for potentially having good access to other areas, and where development was currently not. He elaborated that creating a denser employment in this type of area allowed the BCC to protect the natural charm and quality of life outside of those areas. He believed that the County had a chance to review the Economic Action Plan and make improvements due to the age of the plan, COVID-19, and changes seen nationally. He said that the Board could update the existing plan, or create a new plan by having a workshop or hiring a consultant, noting that the City partners expressed interest in being part of this. He said that another point of consideration was whether there was an opportunity to facilitate some of this through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. He then encouraged Board discussion.
Commr. Parks said that this item stemmed from discussion from the Board retreat in February 2021. He recalled that he and Commissioner Campione had helped write the plan eight or nine years prior, and he opined that it was time for an update.
Commr. Campione thought that the basic principles held true, particularly working with the Cities since they had infrastructure for water and sewer. She expressed support for helping facilitate the Cities’ goals and missions, and incorporating the County’s deficiencies. She remarked that it was not known at that time that the County was lacking in inventory, and she said that the focus had been how they would shift from being a bedroom community to a place where they had employment centers and career opportunities. She commented that Lake County had the ability to offer something other than the urban experience, noting that there could be some value in disassociating with the City of Orlando at this time but still being able to utilize what the city brought to the table. She said that goal H of the plan, regarding preserving quality of life, was making the county attractive; however, she questioned how to balance the deficiency in inventory. She noted that the County had been focused on strategic corridors and that they had to bring that to fruition.
Commr. Parks thought that this item was more laborious than only having one meeting devoted to it.
Commr. Campione opined that the Board needed a deeper dive for how to attract capital or facilitate the investment for the purpose of land and the construction of buildings, noting that it had been done well in Marion County. She clarified that she was not interested in hiring a consultant to reiterate what the County already knew, and opined that it needed to be focused on bringing the right components.
Commr. Parks thought that the school district could attend, and that the County could receive data from them and involve them in the plan.
Commr. Shields asked about the best practices that Counties did to figure this out.
Commr. Campione commented that each County had its own challenges, strengths and weaknesses. She said that most Counties would hire a consultant to develop an overall economic development plan and to identify targeted industries and locations where it made sense to have them. She remarked that someone who understood Lake County could serve them well, and that there were different models for how recruitment occurred. She supported making workshops centered on a specific theme, such as different ways that this had been done. She reiterated the issue of getting investment capital, and said she was unsure how they could bring this about.
Commr. Smith liked the approach of working with the Cities, and he thought that there could possibly be workshops once per month. He noted that the Cities wanted different things but that the County could assist in understanding what those identities were; additionally, the County could focus their efforts on some industries to fit the needs of those Cities. He stated that once it was known what the Cities wanted, they could possibly have a workshop, focus on one item at a time, and come up with a plan.
Commr. Campione said that there were a few different approaches that municipalities often took, and a City could possibly be protective of their area due to feeling like they were competing with other Cities. She recalled that they had broken the county into three regions and that this might be a way to do workshops. She asked Mr. Matulka if he worked with certain economic development directors in the Cities.
Mr. Matulka confirmed this and commented that having 14 unique municipalities, each with their own character, was good because there were great places to promote; however, it made the coordination effort a challenge. He mentioned that some Cities had dedicated economic development staff and that some Cities just had the city manager, and that the County had a good working relationship with all of them.
Commr. Shields inquired how Mr. Matulka would like to move forward.
Mr. Matulka mentioned having a workshop or having someone come in, and he thought that they had to have the stakeholders involved. He relayed that The Lake 100 was doing an economic development summit in September 2021, noting that this was an important group that was interested in economic development. He was unsure if the best scenario was a series of workshops or having a third party do this, and he reiterated having the buy in for it.
Commr. Campione said that The Lake 100 summit could be an opportunity, and that it could be worthwhile to reach out and see if that they could change it depending on the County’s needs. She explained that the Marion County model was a partnership between Marion County government and the chamber of commerce, and she thought there were some things that Lake County could benefit from. She said that a partnership with The Lake 100 could be where they could get some benefits of the Marion County model. She thought that the Agency for Economic Prosperity was doing a great job, and that the County’s focus should be how to address those deficiencies and help the Cities realize their goals. She mentioned that having a discussion with The Lake 100 about how they could work toward this together might be a good place to start.
Commr. Parks said that the next step could be Mr. Matulka coming back to the Board in a few weeks with a framework of how he thought this might play out with workshops and reaching out to The Lake 100.
Commr. Campione proposed possibly reaching out to the Cities with their plan and seeking input on how to improve it.
Mr. Matulka commented that reaching out to their City partners might be where they wanted to start, noting that they could also talk to The Lake 100. He believed that Marion County would be at The Lake 100 meeting discussing what they did, and he commented that staff could have those conversations and bring it back to the Board.
Commr. Campione also proposed to possibly ask the Cities about what the County was not currently doing that could help them, and how the County could improve upon its role in working together. She remarked that Marion County had large corporate interests that contributed significant amounts of funding, and that Lake County did not necessarily have this type of corporate opportunity.
Mr. Matulka recalled that some of those models were discussed three years prior, and he could go back and see why they did not come to fruition at that point.
Commr. Campione stated that she had attended some of these meetings with the private sector, and they had reviewed what the investment for a company might be to be part of this economic development organization. She elaborated that they were talking about contributions of $10,000 to $100,000, and no one was interested in making that kind of investment without knowing what their return would be.
Commr. Blake expressed interest in knowing how the Marion County model worked, noting that it was still largely a rural county.
Commr. Parks said that this was one item there could be a presentation for, and he mentioned other areas of focus such as availability of land, quality of life, education and broadband.
Commr. Campione asked if the County had a broadband map for what they were missing.
Commr. Parks said that they did not, and that they needed to know.
Commr. Campione recalled that the County had talked to the City of Minneola a few years prior about the interchange, noting that she did not know where the City was on economic development. She relayed her understanding that there was not a focus on creating an employment center there; however, this could be an opportunity.
Commr. Shields mentioned that the City of Groveland had noted that the County had approved houses where they were going to expand an industrial park across U.S. Highway 27, north of the Christopher C. Ford Commerce Park.
Mr. Rosen summarized that the following three issues were at play: what should the County focus on for the Cities and the unincorporated areas; how did the County get there; and how should the County model be structured. He thought that it could be interesting to have Marion County explain how they did their model and how it could work for Lake County. He said that there could be a portion of a strategic plan to determine what the County wanted to focus on, such as broadband, and also how they could get there in the future.
Commr. Campione thought that it was always understood that the County’s role was to facilitate or congeal the Cities’ economic plans, noting that everyone would win. She elaborated that if a City was successful in landing an employer, it benefitted people in the cities and unincorporated area, along with their tax base. She said that she did not see the County as an island for the unincorporated area, and she proposed possibly reaching out to Cities and asking if they wanted to be a partner.
Mr. Matulka stated that staff would start having these conversations and bring this information to the Board.
Commr. Campione reiterated that the Agency for Economic Prosperity was doing a great job, noting that there had been many positive comments. She added that they had developed relationships with the business community that had not been there before.
Mr. Matulka said that these were ongoing improvement pieces.
Commr. Parks then noted that a zoning hearing was scheduled at 1:00 p.m., and proposed possibly delaying Tabs 27 and 28, which regarded County office budget presentations, to another time.
Commr. Campione commented that school board officials were in attendance and that there was an item on the agenda regarding school impact fees.
Commr. Parks said that this was Tab 34 and that it could be moved to the current time.
discussion regarding educational impact fees
Commr. Blake commented that the BCC had discussed affordable and workforce housing inventory, and he said that the County had recently received numbers on occupancy and the pandemic’s effect on school attendance. He relayed his understanding that in-person attendance was about 21,000 students with roughly 40,000 enrolled in the Lake County school system. He stated that many people had opted to do virtual school from home, and he said that for affordable and workforce housing, along with general inventory, the largest amount that the County charged was the school impact fee at approximately $9,000. He said that the school impact fee existed to fund additional capacity in the school system, and if there was a temporarily reduced need for student stations, his thought was to possibly temporarily suspend the collection of that fee until September 2021. He commented that this was directly connected to what the data showed was a reduced need for capacity in the short term. He thought that this could be a way to incentivize workforce housing, affordable housing and general inventory construction.
Commr. Smith asked if he would target a certain type of industry for workforce housing.
Commr. Blake clarified that it could be across the board until September 2021 as a pilot program.
Commr. Smith said that he would need more data on this, such as what the school impact fee actually funded. He elaborated that he would have to talk to school board members to see what impact this could have on them.
Commr. Parks thought that they had to find a way to take this fee out for attainable housing projects because it could make them impossible; however, he was unsure if the schools would not be as filled up in the future. He relayed his understanding that some private schools would be coming back without a mask mandate, and there would only be recommendations to follow.
Commr. Blake hoped that many school districts would scale this back, noting that this was why his proposal was a temporary pilot.
Commr. Campione questioned if a reduction would be more appropriate.
Commr. Parks asked if it would be better to see how many people showed up in fall 2021.
Commr. Blake relayed that he saw a study that thought 10 percent of students would not come back. He said that it could be adjusted from there.
Commr. Campione noted that the population was increasing and that even if there was a reduction in the amount of people who wanted in-school learning, there would still be an increased need for student stations. She supported making sure that the school system agreed on the data.
Commr. Blake commented that the numbers he mentioned came from the school board.
Commr. Parks remarked that members of the school district were in attendance.
Mr. Scott Ward, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services for Lake County schools, was unsure where Commissioner Blake’s information came from. He believed that the school board was reporting some numbers from around October 2020 and were at less than 50 percent capacity at that time; however, they were over 75 percent capacity currently. He said that they recently did a survey of parents and students, and over 95 percent indicated that they were coming back. He relayed that they had struggled with capacity and that it was incorrect that they did not currently have a facility need.
Commr. Blake still thought that suspending the fee was the correct thing to do, recalling that the fee was completely suspended in 2008 to spur some economic activity. He reiterated that he limited it to until September 2021 due to there being a reduced need for capacity for a while.
Commr. Campione said that there may be an opportunity to target a reduction or suspension for certain projects for workforce housing and attainable projects the County did in conjunction with the school board. She remarked that similar to the infill waiver project, they could confirm with the school board that there was sufficient capacity based on current numbers if the County approved certain projects that could impact those zones. She opined that the County would need to do this in concert with the school district to ensure that they were targeting workforce housing strategically in the right locations.
Commr. Blake remarked that this sector of housing was the area where it would have the greatest impact, and he added that the County had an alternative impact fee study that they should be hearing back on shortly. He hoped that the study would show something that the County could justify with data that could be a long term incentive.
Commr. Shields wondered if the data showed if the price of a house would drop by $9,000 if the impact fee was reduced by $9,000.
Commr. Parks said that many times it did not.
Commr. Campione mentioned the magnet effect and that Lake County was trying to focus on being an employment center as opposed to a bedroom community. She noted that there could be an unintended consequence of creating the conditions they were trying to move away from by bringing more construction for just housing.
Commr. Smith liked the idea of targeting it to workforce housing, but thought that the Board needed to get more facts on it.
Commr. Parks agreed and said that it could be part of the economic action plan. He opined that they would possibly have to eliminate impact fees to make the pocket neighborhood projects previously mentioned by Commissioner Blake work.
Commr. Campione thought that this was why they had to be looked at on a site by site basis. She mentioned issues in the unincorporated area with proposed annexations and higher density projects, noting that they did not want to lower an impact fee only to create urban sprawl which then put burdens on other County services. She remarked that if they were targeting the more urbanized areas and looking at school capacities, then they would have to do it together.
Commr. Blake clarified that the data he cited was from the Lake County schools superintendent from an email dated March 10, 2021.
Mr. Bill Mathias, a Lake County School Board member, thought that the superintendent was probably addressing these four models that the school district had: brick and mortar; modified brick and mortar where kids could attend for core classes and then go home for electives; in-home; and virtual. He relayed that the school district had seen parents of kids doing virtual learning wanting to get them back in school due to them not keeping up with education. He said that there was additional growth that was putting this strain on the school district financially; furthermore, their only funding source for new growth was to either borrow funding and put the burden of growth on Lake County homeowners, or those coming to the county could help fund it. He stated that the partnership between the BCC and the school board was because they recognized that education was the key to bring businesses there. He stated that Lake County was 57th out of 67 counties in per-student funding from the State of Florida, yet they were 18th in population. He commented that the current school impact fee was $8,366, and he thought it was important to discuss workforce housing and where they fit in with that. He noted that they had carved out portions of infill for small builders and homeowners, and that this had been successful. He believed that they could get to $166,000 or $170,000 for a house so that it was workforce housing if it meant a concession on their part, and they were willing to play a part in that solution; however, they could not do it on the back of their kids and debt. He remarked that they recently lowered one of their bonds because of their pay-as-you-go strategy, commenting that they had come down from $438 million to $173 million in debt. He said that they had been able to pay for growth because of this fee. He also said that the Florida Commissioner of Education had recommended that masks be optional, and that they would embrace this.
Commr. Blake expressed appreciation for Mr. Mathias’ impact on debt in the school system.
Commr. Parks thought that the Board could have a future agenda item to address attainable housing and get a clear policy on that, and he noted that school attendance trends could possibly change.
Commr. Blake inquired when the Board would receive numbers on the alternative impact fee study as it related to workforce housing.
Ms. Jennifer Barker, Executive Director of Administrative Services, explained that they were still working with Tindale Oliver, who had delivered a draft report. She elaborated that the County had to analyze it and they were in a back and forth stage. She estimated that it should be complete in the next several months.
Commr. Parks thanked Commissioner Blake and the school board members.
office of library services budget presentation
Mr. George Taylor, Director for the Office of Library Services, mentioned that this presentation would include the organizational chart, an overview, accomplishments, efficiencies, grants, benchmarks, the State Aid for Libraries grant, online resources, and the proposed budget for the office. He displayed an organizational chart showing 40 full time employees (FTEs) for this office, noting that nine employees served the Lake County library system cooperative, and 31 employees were at the six County branches in full public service. He explained that the Lake County library system had interlocal agreements with the 10 municipal libraries and the County to provide free public library access to the residents of Lake County. He then listed the following accomplishments for the office: over 125,000 cardholder residents; over 700,000 physical items; 144 public computers with Microsoft Office and the internet; 126.4 FTE staff in the whole cooperative; 1.2 million items checked out in the previous year; transferred almost half a million items between their branches in the member libraries to serve patrons; and couriers travelled about 44,000 miles to deliver books and materials to their locations. He relayed the following COVID-19 related accomplishments: coordinated distribution of 100,000 masks and 3D- printed over 3,100 mask extenders; staffed over 837 hours at the vaccine site from January to March 2021; began offering virtual cards and curbside pickup for patrons; increased digital collections including eBooks for children and adults, genealogy and virtual learning; and began virtual programs such as story times, take home crafts and adult programs. He added that other accomplishments included the following: partnerships with the Lake County Animal Shelter and the Lake County Fair for library card and children reading promotions; the Astor County Library received the EBSCO Excellence in Rural Library Services Award; and the Howey-in-the-Hills Library Education Center grand opening. He shared that some of the office’s efficiencies included a Books-By-Mail program handled through the Lake County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller with savings of about $6,000, an improved intralibrary courier route, improved access for patrons searching the online catalog with book recommendations, and mobile printing through ePRINTit. He said that they received the Digitizing Lake County Cultural Resources grant, which allowed them to purchase equipment to help digitize Lake County cultural heritage, noting that they were working with 13 or 14 historical societies to come up with ideas for what they wanted to digitize first. He added that they also received a grant for the Lake County Employment Revitalization Project, which was a Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act grant from the State. He stated that they purchased access to the LinkedIn learning database which offered 16,000 courses that people could take from home using their library card. He then showed several benchmark graphs from FY 2019 comparing Lake County to surrounding counties in the areas of spending per capita, program advance as a percent of population, circulation per capita, and visits per capita. He reported that Lake County was in the center for spending per capita and that they provided $24 per capita for library services; additionally, 45.5 percent was provided by the County, and 54.5 percent was provided by the municipal libraries. He remarked that 51 percent of the population attended one of their programs during FY 19, and that they provided about 300 programs per month during a normal year. He said that they were in the middle for circulation per capita at roughly over four items checked out per resident, and that there were about four visits per capita. He explained that State Aid for Libraries was an annual grant program by the State to encourage all 67 Counties to provide free and open public access to libraries. He remarked that the grant went down in 2008 due to the recession, then it had some increases and was currently going down again with the economy. He added that they used the grant to purchase system-wide items. He explained that they used state aid for online resources for everyone in the system, such as eBooks, digital reading, lifelong learning and genealogy. He commented that they kept the state aid budget on a three year rotating cycle and that they tried to spend about 25 percent in the first year, approximately 50 percent in the second year, and roughly 25 percent in the third year. He remarked that state aid was used for system-wide services such as databases, new computers and replacements, youth programming and literacy. He concluded that the FY 2022 proposed budget for the Office of Library Services was $4,289,266, which was a 2.1 percent increase over the previous year. He reported that they saw an increase in personal services because of the timing of the adoption of the FY 2021 budget and the awarded merit increases, and for operating expenses, they saw a slight decrease due to a revenue from COVID-19; additionally, in FY 2019 they received about $84,000 from fines and fees, and in FY 2020 they only received about $54,000; furthermore, they were tracking about $32,000 in the current year. He mentioned that another change was in grants and aids, and the change of approximately $67,000 was to add the Eustis Memorial Library to the cooperative. He explained that this would be the library’s third year and they set aside $15,000 in the first year; furthermore, in the current year they had $15,000 plus an additional $15,000, and in the upcoming year the office was requesting $68,000 to make them whole without taking funds from the other member libraries that had been part of the system for longer. He also said that they were seeing a decrease in their reserves, mainly for forecasted retirements.
office of communications budget presentation
Mr. Levar Cooper, Director for the Office of Communications, mentioned that this presentation would include an overview, the organization chart, accomplishments, efficiencies, benchmarks, and the proposed budget for the office. He said that the mission of the Office of Communications was to effectively coordinate communication between the Lake County BCC and residents, business owners and visitors regarding County services, goals, objectives and accomplishments. He displayed an organizational chart showing 12 FTEs for this office, noting that their office was comprised of creative services, public information and web technology. He relayed the following COVID-19 response accomplishments: developed the Reopen Lake website which was designed to be a platform for information and guidance for businesses and individuals regarding the state’s phased reopening; the Keep Lake Safe campaign which highlighted local businesses throughout the pandemic to drive traffic there and show some things they were doing to keep their customers and employees safe; the Lake CARES business assistance program and the residential assistance program, noting that they conducted a survey early on to better understand the needs of the business community, along with putting materials together to go to the State such as the vacation rental program which allowed them to reopen sooner; and vaccine site support at Lake Square Mall, commenting that they provided printed materials, signage, and helped to improve the experience of residents with supplemental communications. He then remarked that an additional accomplishment included internal communications, noting that they supported internal goals in collaboration with the Office of Human Resources and Risk Management to promote health and the use of internal resources, as well as safety protocols for visitors at their different facilities and for the school board. He said that additional accomplishments included the following: census support; the 2020 election; a tourism campaign to remind people of the natural resources in the community and to give individuals a chance to experience Lake County virtually while they were homebound; mosquito awareness and Keep Lake Beautiful; fertilizing ordinances; supported the Offices of Library Services and Animal Services; and the new County website which they expected to launch in summer 2021, noting that it would be more user-centric and responsive. He listed the following efficiencies over the past year: incorporated user-generated content into their social media strategy to help increase publishing frequency and boost audience engagement; promoted across platforms to boost engagement and bring attention to their multiple channels; and reevaluated their vendor contracts to reduce costs and expand their capabilities. He then showed a benchmark graph comparing Lake County to surrounding counties for the number of communications staff, noting that each County was structured differently. He said that the Lake County Office of Communications was the only one that managed document services, and that some other Counties had separate public information teams for fire rescue, emergency management, etc.; however, the Lake County office was overseeing all of that. He commented that to maintain their level of service, they were looking at proposing two positions including a public information officer, noting the following information: provide dedicated support for public safety; provide onsite support, and sustain support amid competing county priorities; collaborate closely with personnel to form strategic communications; respond to media inquiries and interview requests; and increase awareness of public safety services and safe practices. He also proposed a digital photographer position, commenting that visual storytelling had been an integral part of their communications strategy; additionally, they currently only had one person who did this. He said that this position would help facilitate the growing demand for photographic content in communications, and that they could manage digital assets for timely access, internal and interorganizational collaboration, and archival. He then displayed what would be their new organizational chart of 14 FTEs. He stated that the FY 2022 proposed budget for the Office of Communications was $812,486, noting they were looking at a 26 percent increase in personal services and a 29 percent increase in operating expenses to facilitate the new positions. He recalled that communications was described as a priority during the Board retreat in February 2021, noting that he had been evaluating different options to expand that effort. He said that the primary focus was on engagement and active transparency, along with getting into the community, educating, and encouraging people to participate with their government. He also remarked that the FY 2022 proposed budget for document services, which was part of the Office of Communications, was $353,502. He explained that they were looking at a three percent change in personal services which reflected the approved merit-based increases after the adoption of the FY 2021 budget. He added that the capital outlay increase was due to some equipment that had exceeded its useful life including a paper cutter and booklet maker; furthermore, this was not expected to be a recurring charge.
Commr. Parks expressed appreciation for the presentation, and he thought that communications was an area that the County had to look at; however, he did not think this required spending more money on it. He expressed concerns for social media and thought that the County had to be more aggressive in telling people about the good things that were going on there. He thought that it was important to support communications and outreach, including different avenues that the County could take advantage of. He proposed possibly getting Commissioners and staff involved to provide updates.
Mr. Cooper said that part of his research entailed getting staff involved, and that he was working with other Counties to evaluate trends and best practices in government to ensure that their activities would give them the most return.
Commr. Campione opined that the office had been spread thin and that the County was asking them to do more; therefore, she thought that the request was reasonable to hopefully get them to the next level.
Commr. Blake mentioned that the pandemic added stress to all County departments and that the Office of Communications had to be on top of things; furthermore, he thought they did an excellent job.
Mr. Rosen expressed appreciation for what the office did, and said that they had many conversations about how to fulfill the BCC’s vision, along with digital photography and creating video content. He thought that there was a great opportunity to provide ongoing content on various platforms for the services they provided.
Commr. Smith knew that communications was important, but expressed concerns for the proposed 26 percent increase. He thought that the County needed to take a deep look into this and make sure they were spending their funding wisely and the most efficiently because he did not really want to grow government.
Commr. Campione stated that they were only looking at two positions, commenting that they were probably short more than two positions. She said that it was found that the majority of the population they were trying to reach did not use social media and new technology, and that it was a challenge to get communication to their senior population. She said that the County had attempted to go through television and that this was challenging, and she proposed possibly using written forms of communications such as mailers. She also commented that many people had signed up for text message alerts and that this helped. She added that some of this could be about going to communities and having community-based meetings.
appointment to the board of adjustments
On a motion by Commr. Shields, seconded by Commr. Smith and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved to appoint Ms. Maritza Parrilla to the Board of Adjustments to fill a current vacancy for an At-Large member.
discussion regarding city of winter garden lawsuit
Ms. Melanie Marsh, County Attorney, recalled that the County had received a request from Titan America to join their potential lawsuit against the City of Winter Garden regarding the closure of Marsh Road. She did not recommend joining this lawsuit, noting that they had been working with the City and it seemed like those conversations were going well. She mentioned that this was the opportunity for the Board to give her direction to join this lawsuit if they wished to do so.
Commr. Parks said that he did not want to join the lawsuit at this time, but he wanted to keep this item as a place marker on the agenda. He agreed that it sounded like there was good progress made with limiting certain times of the morning for a trucking issue, and that this could keep the residents happy. He mentioned that they could see how this went in the next two weeks with the City of Winter Garden.
AGREEMENT WITH LAKE COUNTY WATER AUTHORITY AND POLK COUNTY
Mr. Rosen said that there was an agreement between the Lake County Water Authority (LCWA), Lake County, and Polk County based on a settlement agreement from 2001; furthermore, Polk County had a request based on that agreement, and he thought it could possibly be a good idea if Lake County wanted to have a joint meeting with LCWA so that Polk County could make their request to both of them at the same time.
Commr. Parks said that it was an important agreement that could require amending. He stated that there were some flooding issues on Lake Lowry that their fellow county could be struggling with, but they needed to make sure that nothing long-term would be detrimental to the Clermont Chain of Lakes. He supported having the meeting.
OFFICE OF HOUSING AND HUMAN SERVICES EXPANSION
Mr. Rosen relayed that the Office of Housing and Human Services was currently in a rental space on Classique Lane. He mentioned that there was an opportunity to expand into the location next to them, and that they were considering doing this short term and working with the landlord to reduce the amount of time to give notice. He stated that he would eventually like to bring the office into a building that the County owned so they would not be paying rent, and that this item would be coming forward soon for consideration.
FUTURE BCC MEETINGS
Mr. Rosen commented that he had discussions with some Commissioners about the BCC meetings, and one idea was to possibly remove the remaining budget workshops from the BCC meetings and have them on their own day. He proposed possibly pulling the budget workshops from the regular BCC meetings and finishing the presentations on May 24 or 26, 2021 as a workshop.
Commr. Blake said that he was fine with this and that he would be available on May 26, 2021.
Commr. Parks stated that he liked the concept to finish the budget workshops in one day, noting that it would be before June 1, 2021 when they would start receiving the Constitutional Officers’ budgets.
Commr. Smith also said that he liked this.
RECOGNIZING MS. JO-ANNE DRURY
Mr. Rosen recognized Ms. Jo-Anne Drury, Deputy County Manager, noting that she had been with the County for about a year and that her last day would be Friday, April 30, 2021.
Ms. Drury thanked the Board for their support.
Commr. Parks thanked Ms. Drury and said that the City of Groveland was getting someone great.
Commr. Campione said that they would miss her and hoped everything would go well.
commissioner shields – district 1
VISITING the TOWN OF HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS
Commr. Shields mentioned that he and Mr. Rosen had visited the Town of Howey in the Hills and had an introductory meeting there.
LEESBURG TEEN CENTER GROUNDBREAKING
Commr. Shields said that he had also attended the Leesburg Teen Center groundbreaking, noting that the Office of Communications had helped him.
commissioner smith – vice chairman and district 3
future bcc meetings
Commr. Smith indicated that the Board knew that this was going to be a long meeting, and he thought that they needed to be smarter about this. He mentioned possibly having two meetings a week, and he expressed a concern for the Board making the best decisions.
Commr. Parks said that he had been talking to Mr. Rosen and Ms. Marsh about this to look at different structures for meetings, noting that some of this would take effect in August 2021 with a different day for zoning. He also reiterated that there would be a different day for budget workshops.
COMMISSIONER BLAKE – DISTRICT 5
UMATILLA CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Commr. Blake relayed that Mr. Rosen had met him at the Umatilla City Council meeting in the previous week and that the council was happy to meet Mr. Rosen. He added that he would possibly schedule for Mr. Rosen and himself to visit the Blackwater Inn and meet some of the individuals with the Astor Area Chamber of Commerce.
commissioner parks – Chairman and district 2
lake edwards property
Commr. Parks stated that he had an enjoyable day at the Lake Edwards property with several individuals, and that he was supportive of the vision to open it. He also proposed possibly changing the “no trespassing” signs.
Ms. Marsh explained that the property was not officially open and that the County was aware that people were giving tours there. She added that the “no trespassing” sign language was by State statute, and that the signage could be changed when the Board decided to open the property publically or when improvements for parking, etc. were made.
Commr. Campione opined that it could not happen soon enough, and she thought that Mr. Bobby Bonilla, Director for the Office of Parks and Trails, had some modest proposals that would make it accessible, protect them from a liability standpoint, and make it so there would not be a way for other vehicles to come in. She added that legal would have to work with them with regards to the backyards that had encroached onto the publically owned land. She thought that the property needed to be preserved and enjoyed by the public.
trail summit with the lake 100
Commr. Parks said that he would be speaking at a trail summit on the following Thursday with The Lake 100.
meetings with the city of eustis
Commr. Parks remarked that there had been two meetings with the City of Eustis on April 19 and 26, 2021. He relayed that Mr. Tim Maslow, with the City of Groveland, had come in as a third party from a planning perspective and was able to provide a suggestion that the Mayor of Eustis was receptive to. He explained that the plan so far was to pursue an area plan for the Thrill Hill area together between the County and the City, and to change the joint planning area.
Ms. Marsh asked if the Board was interested in continuing to have more working group sessions, or if they were ready for a joint meeting.
Commr. Parks thought they needed to have one or two more working group meetings, commenting that many people attended the meeting on the previous day.
Commr. Campione thought some of the suggestions from Mr. Maslow were insightful for understanding what the issue was, noting that transportation and utilities would be significant issues. She noted that there was a substantial amount of impact fee credits per unit, and she questioned if the growth should be encouraged more in the infill areas as opposed to areas where it was not necessarily desirable. She commented that the credits could make more sense to be put into the cost of the utility itself so that they would be relying on the density increase to offset the cost of putting utilities there.
Commr. Parks agreed that the desired density should not be based off utility costs.
Commr. Campione mentioned the question of whether the City could require concept plans, recalling that the City Attorney had indicated that this could be done but it was not the way the code was currently set up. She supported making sure that this was part of the overall discussion. She also mentioned the question of whether these changes could be instituted before pending applications went forward. She thought the concept of a hamlet designation that the City of Groveland had been doing had potential.
Commr. Parks relayed that he would have another meeting with them in the City of Eustis on May 6, 2021, and he would keep reporting back to the Board.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman called a recess at 12:35 p.m. until 1:10 p.m.
public hearings: REZONING
rezoning consent agenda
Mr. Tim McClendon, Director for the Office of Planning and Zoning, displayed the advertisements for that day’s rezoning cases on the overhead monitor in accordance with the Florida Statutes. He commented that the applicant for Tab 4 had requested a continuance until May 25, 2021, noting that they met the 10 day deadline in the Land Development Regulations (LDR); furthermore, staff had administratively approved that request, and had re-noticed the advertisements with the postponement and revised date. He said that the consent agenda consisted of three items; however, he relayed his understanding that there was a comment card for Tab 3. He said that Tabs 1 and 2 were unanimously approved on the consent agenda by the Planning and Zoning Board on April 5, 2021, and the requested action from that board was to accept the consent agenda as presented, minus Tab 3.
Commr. Parks explained that they would move Tab 3 to the regular agenda due to a comment card.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
There being no one who wished to address the Board regarding any cases on the Rezoning Consent Agenda, the Chairman closed the public hearing.
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Smith and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the Rezoning Consent Agenda, Tabs 1 and 2, as follows:
Tab 1. Ordinance No. 2021-10
Rezoning Case # RZ-21-03-5
Bowling Property Rezoning
Rezone approximately 0.46 +/- acres from Neighborhood Commercial (C-1) to Urban Residential (R-6) for residential development.
Tab 2. Ordinance No. 2021-11
Rezoning Case # RZ-21-07-5
LCBCC – Lake Co. Fire Station #15 Property Rezoning
Rezone one (1) acre from Community Facility District (CFD) and Agriculture (A) to Community Facility District (CFD) to correct the non-conforming zoning of the property and replace CFD Ordinance #1986-08, to accommodate expansion of an existing Fire Station.
rezoning regular agenda
Tab 3. Ordinance No. 2021-12
Rezoning Case # RZ-21-04-4
SECO – Rioradan Property Rezoning
Amend Community Facility District (CFD) Ordinance #2006-76 to increase the maximum allowable height of the communications tower from 199-feet to 300-feet. Includes a waiver request to Land Development Regulations (LDR) Section 3.13.09.B(1) to allow the tower to not be centered within the boundaries of the property.
Rezoning Case # FLU-21-02-4
Mt. Ines Subdivision FLU (Transmittal)
Amend the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) to change the Future Land Use
Category on approximately 20.13 acres from Regional Office to Urban Low Density to facilitate the development of a sixty-nine (69) lot residential subdivision.
Tab 6. Ordinance No. 2021-13
Rezoning Case # FLU-20-01-1
Rubin Groves FLU Amendment (Adoption)
Amend the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) to change the Future Land Use Category on approximately 208 acres from Green Swamp Ridge to Green Swamp Rubin Groves Future Land Use Category (FLUC), a newly proposed FLUC, and amend associated Comprehensive Plan Policies to incorporate the Green Swamp Rubin Groves FLUC.
Tab 7. Ordinance No. 2021-14
Rezoning Case # RZ-20-02-1
Rubin Groves PUD Amendment
Rezone approximately 247.41 acres from Planned Unit Development (PUD) and Agriculture (A) to Planned Unit Development to accommodate a 1,200 dwelling unit development with associated commercial and recreational uses.
Tab 8. Ordinance No. 2021-15
Rezoning Case # RZ-20-38-3
Gaston Tree Debris Facility
Amend Planned Unit Development Ordinance #2018-53 to allow an organic processing and tree recycling facility on 10.128 +/- acres.
Rezoning Case # MCUP-20-01-4
White Water Farms MCUP
Dry borrow pit for the extraction of clean fill to support the operation of agriculture uses on approximately 40 +/- acres of Agriculture (A) zoned property.
seco – rioradan property rezoning
Mr. McClendon presented Tab 3, Rezoning Case # RZ-21-04-4, SECO – Rioradan Property Rezoning. He explained that the case was located at 34420 Riordan Road, in the City of Eustis area, within Commission District 4; additionally, the tract size was approximately 20 acres. He said that the request was to amend the existing Community Facility District (CFD) approved in 2006 to increase the maximum allowable height of the communications tower from 199 feet to 300 feet, along with a waiver request to the LDR section that required the tower to be centered within the property boundary. He stated that the existing zoning was CFD, and the land use was identified as Rural Transition. He showed the proposed concept plan, noting that the new tower would be adjacent to the existing tower; furthermore, the new tower would be constructed and then the existing tower would be removed. He relayed the following staff analysis findings: the request was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan) and LDR; and the tower had been designed to internally collapse within the property bounded and would not affect a public works access easement. He mentioned that the recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Board was to find the application consistent with the Comp Plan and LDR, and approve the requested rezoning.
Commr. Parks noted that this was a quasi-judicial case, and he said that the Board could disclose any ex parte communications at this time.
The Board indicated that they had no ex parte communications.
Ms. Tracy de Lemos, an attorney representing the applicant, said that she would wait until after public comments to speak.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
Ms. Susan Ray, a neighbor of the subject property, expressed concerns for property values and how the extra 100 feet could affect her property. She questioned if the new tower would be closer to her property, and she showed a map which included her property. She was unsure where the new tower would be constructed.
Ms. Katherine de Jongh, a neighbor of the subject property, displayed a map of the area and pointed out the cell tower. She said that she was speaking on Ms. Ray’s side because she opined that the homeowner had been left out. She opined that one had to be proactive to find out what was in the works for their community, and she expressed interest in residents being brought into the communication when these decisions were made. She also questioned why the tower would be an additional 100 feet.
Commr. Parks stated that the County was trying to improve how zoning cases were communicated.
Ms. de Lemos explained that this project was a communications systems upgrade for Sumter Electric Cooperative (SECO) which was an essential business in the community, and had an obligation to its members to keep their facilities working and to be able to communicate in an emergency management situation. She recalled that this site was originally rezoned in 2006 when the 199 foot tower was added, opining that there was some necessity for upgrading the systems and having a higher tower for a line of sight between two towers. She mentioned that they had a working communication system but that it was necessary to have some upgrades. She believed that they were in compliance with everything except for LDR Section 3.13.09.B(1) which related to the location of the tower; additionally, they were doing this to keep it close to their current communications shelter.
Mr. Chris Monzingo, an individual assisting SECO and representing the applicant, commented that the new tower would be within about 10 feet from the existing tower because they wanted to reuse the existing communication shelter there. He pointed out the shelter and the existing tower on a map, adding that they would only be increasing the size of the existing fence compound by about 10 feet. He stated that the old tower would be coming down as soon as the new tower was constructed, and it would be completely removed from the site. He said that the tower had been constructed to fall within 150 feet, though he opined that it was highly unlikely that it would ever fail, due to the engineering. He added that the new road nearby had already been considered by the County, noting that they would not have to move the tower. He clarified that it was not a cell tower and that the purpose was for SECO’s communications systems such as land mobile radio and microwave communications to facilitate day to day management of systems, disaster recovery and restoration efforts; however, it had been built to allow tenants to lease space on the tower. He said that the additional 100 feet was needed to increase the coverage from the radio system and the microwave system.
Commr. Campione asked about the alternative to going up 100 feet.
Mr. Monzingo replied that they would continue to use the current tower with reduced coverage, and to make the microwave work there would have to be an intermediary tower.
Commr. Parks asked if it was not just needed for communications between person to person, and if it was also because of the equipment and sub-grid systems.
Mr. Monzingo responded that the system that controlled substation switches went over the microwave of point to point communications, and the land mobile radio was for police, fire and EMS communications.
Commr. Campione inquired where the other tower was that this one would communicate with, and Mr. Monzingo said that it was to the north in Marion County.
Mr. David Serdar, a concerned citizen, made comments about communication and local government.
There being no one else who wished to address the Board regarding this matter, the Chairman closed the public hearing.
Commr. Campione opined that tower sitings were difficult cases because the people immediately around them did not want the tower next to them. She recalled that she had been in opposition to this tower to begin with, and that there had been an issue with the attractiveness of a substation across the street; however, SECO had installed board fencing and vegetation, and it had grown in and was more attractive than it used to be. She said that she understood the desire not to have it go higher.
Ms. Ray said that she had 600 feet of frontage, and she inquired if the applicant had 600 feet.
Mr. Monzingo commented that the tower was almost as centered as it could get from east to west; additionally, they had to ask for the waiver for north-south. He noted that the current tower was not exactly centered in the parcel, and he reiterated that the new tower would be as a feasibly close as they could build it within 10 feet.
Commr. Campione thought that the width of the SECO was likely an identical width as Ms. Ray’s property; furthermore, the tower was centered and would be approximately 300 feet from the property line.
Ms. de Lemos opined that there would be plenty of space on all sides of the tower.
Commr. Campione said that she had concerns for what Ms. Ray had been through with a fish farm near her property, and she hoped that reclamation would be completed in the near future. She expressed support for the request to address the essential service side of this, and opined that what they were doing served the community at large. She added that if the Board did not allow the increase, then they could be looking at approving another tower somewhere else.
Commr. Parks said that he recognized concerns about communication with residents, and that this process was changing for the County to find new and better ways to communicate when these cases were occurring.
Mr. McClendon mentioned that there was a mapping tool on the Lake County Office of Planning and Zoning website called Development Near Me to see every application for a public hearing or site plan approval from 300 feet to 10 miles of one’s property
Commr. Parks noted that this mapping tool had been written internally.
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Smith and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved Tab 3, Rezoning Case # RZ-21-04-4, SECO – Rioradan Property Rezoning.
mt. ines subdivision flu (transmittal)
Mr. McClendon presented Tab 5, Rezoning Case # FLU-21-02-4, Mt. Ines Subdivision FLU (Transmittal). He said that the case was located on the north side of Robie Ave, east of U.S. Highway 441, in Commission District 4; additionally, the tract size was about 20 acres. He stated that the request was to amend the FLU map designation from Regional Office to Urban Low to accommodate a residential subdivision. He showed that current zoning was Light Industrial (LM), and noted that Urban Low allowed up to four dwelling units per acre; furthermore, this property was in the joint planning area (JPA) with the City of Mount Dora, along with being in the Wolf Branch Innovation District (WBID). He mentioned that the WBID implementation plan had identified this area for Urban Low uses. He added that central utilities including water and wastewater would come from the City of Mount Dora, and that this case was the transmittal phase of a Comp Plan amendment. He elaborated that should it be approved for transmittal to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO), the County would receive an objections, recommendations and comment (ORC) report from the State, at which point it would be brought back to the Board for adoption. He also noted that there would also be a rezoning tied to this where staff would discuss conditions of approval for the planned unit development (PUD). He displayed the proposed concept plan, noting that it was a traditional layout with multiple avenues including a piece to the north should development ever occur to the north side. He relayed that the request from the Planning and Zoning Board was to find the application consistent with the Comp Plan and transmit the amendment to FDEO.
Commr. Campione recalled that when the City of Mount Dora had hired a consultant for the WBID and the County was partnering with them on this, they had determined that manufacturing and employment center land uses had been over designated; additionally, this was an area that the consultant felt would be a good place to move back to the Urban Low density that had been there before it was designated as LM.
Mr. McClendon confirmed this.
Commr. Campione also expressed concerns about the concept plan, but noted that this was not what the Board was looking at today. She clarified that this would just put the land use there, and any conditions in the PUD would have to come back to the Board and be consistent with their planning principles.
Mr. McClendon confirmed that should it come back for adoption, they could discuss design at that point.
Commr. Parks opined that the straight lines for neighborhood design were not good, adding that he would have questions about the layout, buffering and transportation.
Commr. Campione said she imagined that the City of Mount Dora could also have input.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
Mr. Leo Smith, a neighbor of the subject property, said that he was not opposed to the property being zoned residential, but opposed the number of units. He relayed his understanding that this meeting was not to determine the number of units proposed, and that it was just to change the FLU to low density.
Commr. Campione explained that it was moving it from LM to Urban Low density, which was just the land use designation. She added that the zoning would have to come back to the BCC after the State signed off on the land use.
Mr. Smith asked if they could be notified when this occurred.
Commr. Campione said that he would receive notice in the mail if he was across the street from the property.
Mr. Serdar provided comments about zoning property from industrial to residential. He also expressed support for this request.
There being no one else who wished to address the Board regarding this matter, the Chairman closed the public hearing.
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Blake and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved Tab 5, Rezoning Case # FLU-21-02-4, Mt. Ines Subdivision FLU (Transmittal).
rubin groves flu amendment (adoption) & pud amendment
Mr. McClendon said that these items were the same project, that Tab 6 reflected the FLU amendment adoption, and that Tab 7 reflected the zoning. He then presented Tab 6, Rezoning Case # FLU-20-01-1, Rubin Groves FLU Amendment (Adoption), explaining that the case was in Commission District 1 with a tract size of 208 acres, on the west side of U.S. Highway 27, south of County Road (CR) 474. He said that the request was to amend the FLU map designation from Green Swamp Ridge to a site specific Green Swamp Rubin Groves FLU. He commented that the current zoning was PUD, and that the current Green Swamp Ridge FLU allowed up to four dwelling units per acre. He said that along with the map amendment would be a text specific policy identified as I-4.2.7 locking in the proposed development programs which included the following: six dwelling units per acre; single family residential units and multi-family up to resort residential uses; accessory uses such as a clubhouse; water and sewer facilities; and commercial uses. He mentioned that the impervious surface ratio (ISR) would remain consistent with Green Swamp Ridge, and wetlands would remain untouched. He displayed the proposed conceptual plan and relayed the following staff analysis findings: the applicant was seeking to develop the property with a mixed use project; the subject property abutted vacant land but was consistent with the development program in the South Lake area; and the Comp Plan amendment was transmitted to FDEO. He noted that the ORC report had no objections, though two comments were identified including that open space should be consistent with the Green Swamp Ridge FLU designation, and asking for clarification for which alternate keys the amendment proposed to change. He added that the County had phone calls with the State and had cleared those issues up. He then presented Tab 7, Rezoning Case # RZ-20-02-1, Rubin Groves PUD Amendment, noting that the requested action was to rezone nearly 250 acres from PUD and Agriculture to PUD to accommodate this mixed use project. He said that the PUD zoning would include some acreage to the west that was not included in the Comp Plan amendment, and he displayed the revised concept plan. He noted that since the FLU transmittal, several changes to the proposed ordinance had been prepared by the applicant, mentioning that he had provided those. He showed the changes and said that they included the following: enhanced landscape buffers; the possible addition of workforce housing uses; architectural standards; and the potential location for a Lake County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) substation location on this site. He stated that the application was consistent with the current regulations and, should the Comp Plan amendment be adopted, it would be consistent with that policy. He relayed that the Planning and Zoning Board had recommended approval of both the Comp Plan amendment and rezoning; additionally, should the BCC accept this recommendation, staff would request two separate motions for the record.
Commr. Campione asked to confirm that the rezoning application would only be consistent with the Comp Plan if the BCC amended the Comp Plan and created this new land use designation, and Mr. McClendon said this was correct.
Mr. Jimmy Crawford, an attorney representing the applicant, displayed an aerial photograph of the property and explained that the western part of the PUD zoning was included to be able to only use the upland space for open space and passive recreation; furthermore, it was not included in the density calculations. He elaborated that it was Green Swamp Rural Conservation, and he believed that three or four units they could develop there were going away because it could only be used as open space by ordinance. He stated that they requested up to six units per acre and that they were surrounded by intense development. He opined that Green Swamp Ridge was different from the Green Swamp, and that it was recognized by the State, Polk County and Lake County as such by allowing up to four units per acre and more intense commercial development. He mentioned that within one mile of the subject property in the Green Swamp, there were 33 businesses and nine restaurants, along with other businesses. He commented that most of the area was limited to four units per acre; however, the subject property abutted Cagan Crossings which was allowed 8,000 residential units on 728 acres, which was 11 units per acre, noting that the Green Swamp portion was limited to 3,892. He added that it also was allowed 700,000 square feet of commercial, noting that the Green Swamp portion was limited to 131,000 square feet. He said that within one mile of the subject property north and south in Green Swamp Ridge, the average allowed density by the Comp Plan was seven units per acre; therefore, they were asking for less density than the average within a mile. He stated that the resort residential use was new for Lake County, though there were similar uses from a zoning perspective. He mentioned that these communities existed in Orange, Osceola and Polk Counties in the attractions area, noting that they prohibited permanent occupancy which the proposed ordinance also did, were larger multi-bedroom and bathroom homes, were for the short term rental market in the attractions area, and had enhanced amenities. He noted that there was no school impact and that it was prohibited, and less traffic impact. He elaborated that their traffic study, which recommended some offsite improvements that they had agreed to make, used single family residential for 9.52 trips per day per unit, adding that resort residential was 3.16 trips per day. He commented that they were looking at about a 50/50 mix, and opined that their traffic impact would be less than what the study showed. He commented that these houses appraised for about $100,000 more than a single family residential house of the same size; therefore, they generated more property taxes than straight residential. He mentioned a possible precedent issue for six units per acre, but said that Rubin Groves, along with Cagan Crossings, were the most environmentally planned, studied and restricted properties in the Green Swamp. He said that for Rubin Groves, they spent over two years and $300,000 doing groundwater and surface water studies to implement the Lake County and FDEO settlement agreement. He recalled that they had passed a PUD which allowed them to remove some dirt from the property, and that FDEO appealed it. He added that they came to a settlement agreement under which the applicant had to do a groundwater contour map, and all development was required to stay at least 14 feet above it. He elaborated that they were also required to utilize low impact development criteria and enhanced stormwater treatment; additionally, the homeowners association (HOA) would administer all pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers in the property, and were required to follow best management practices. He said that when the Ruby Red housing project was recently denied, he had discussions with Commissioner Parks regarding finding four acres on the subject property for the workforce housing project. He elaborated that one week later, they had an agreement between Mr. Steve Smith, Turnstone Development, and Mr. Sheldon Rubin, and that they currently had a signed contract to sell them four acres and give them up to 90 units of the applicant’s development allocation. He clarified that they were not asking for 18 units per acre on any portion of this property, commenting that they had enough units with the required open space to include the density allocation in the sale. He stated that their contract required enhanced landscaping and architectural requirements for the workforce housing project that would come to the County through the site plan approval process. He recalled that the BCC thought that the workforce housing project was worthy but that it needed a better location, mentioning that they currently did not have any close neighbors currently, nor was there a need for additional density.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
Mr. Jeff Cagan, with Cagan Crossings, expressed concerns for the density and for short-term rentals.
Mr. Mike Levine, an individual who owned some mineral reservations and easements on two of the alternate key numbers included in this PUD, opined that the applicant could not deliver marketable title to a prospective buyer. He questioned how the applicant planned to address the title defect, and he expressed concerns for builders withholding mineral reservations and easements from some residential developments that they had developed; furthermore, when a buyer purchased those properties, they did not receive the entire bundle of rights.
Commr. Campione asked how he purchased the mineral rights.
Mr. Levine explained that in 2004, there was a party interested in purchasing the property from the grove farmer, noting that this was 140 acres of the 248 acres which the applicant was currently applying for. He elaborated that he was a real estate broker and that the prospective buyer brought to his attention that the property did not contain the entire bundle of rights. He said that the buyer had then purchased the rights to the north of the two alternate key numbers of which he owned the mineral reservations and easements, noting that the owner of those mineral reservations and easements had sold him the rights on the south two parcels. He opined that it was clear in the legal description of the property that it would be less mineral reservations and easements, and he questioned when it would be dealt with.
Commr. Campione inquired if he filed a claim when the applicant started removing dirt from the property.
Mr. Levine confirmed this and stated that his attorney sent a cease and desist order to the applicant’s attorney, and that the original owner of his mineral reservations and easements conveyed a deed to him that protected him.
Ms. Lavon Silvernell, a concerned citizen, relayed her understanding that the water from Green Swamp Ridge would ultimately be moving to Little Creek, Big Creek, and the Clermont Chain of Lakes. She said that she did not have objections to the changes in density as long as they were met with increases or at least maintaining the current requirement for open space in Green Swamp Ridge. She indicated concerns for lawn chemicals and fertilizers having a cumulative effect over time on the chain of lakes.
Commr. Parks asked about the mineral rights.
Mr. Crawford replied that the mineral rights showed up in the title and that they were without right of entry, noting that it was destroyed by the Marketable Record Title Act before Mr. Levine had purchased them. He explained that one could not enter the property to prospect, mine or remove minerals; however, one could directionally drill under the property if there was oil or gas that they knew about, and Mr. Levine still owned the mineral rights. He added that mining, other than for sand, was prohibited in the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern, and that sand mining was prohibited in Green Swamp Ridge. He elaborated that there was a Fifth District Court of Appeals case that declared that sand was not a mineral pursuant to mineral rights; furthermore, they would sell the entire bundle of their mineral rights to every individual lot owner who purchased there. He addressed Mr. Cagan’s comments and noted that Cagan Crossings had 11 units per acre, in addition to 10,000 square feet of commercial per acre, and that there were around 2,000 apartments there. He did not believe that the applicant’s six units per acre was too dense given the surrounding area’s average of about seven units per acre.
Ms. Marsh commented that mineral rights did not impact the Board’s decision at the current meeting, and that it was a civil issue between those parties.
Commr. Shields asked if a LCSO substation would be included.
Mr. Crawford responded that they had not reached an agreement yet but were talking to the LCSO, noting that they were interested in placing a substation there, possibly in cooperation with the adjoining Counties. He added that the Lake County Tax Collector was also interested in an office, and that the applicant had committed to working with him.
Commr. Parks said that he had discussions with the Lake County Sheriff and the Honorable David Jordan, Lake County Tax Collector, about this, noting that they were both optimistic and that this was where they wanted to be.
Mr. Crawford opined that Four Corners needed services and that the applicant could support providing those services.
Commr. Campione asked Ms. Marsh that when the property was platted and the title opinion came in, could there be an issue at that point if there was a claim.
Ms. Marsh did not believe so, because the applicant owned the surface rights; additionally, this was what would be platted. She said that there was case law regarding mineral rights versus surface rights, but that it would not be an issue for platting.
Commr. Campione then inquired why there was a settlement agreement.
Mr. Crawford replied that FDEO challenged the development order that allowed the removal of the soil material due to a concern that the applicant would get too close to the aquifer and cause harm to surface water or groundwater. He commented that the settlement agreement remained in place and that this PUD would require compliance with it. He agreed with Ms. Silvernell about protecting Big Creek and Little Creek, explaining that the groundwater contour map for this property showed that the groundwater moved northeast; therefore, the groundwater would not get into Big Creek and Little Creek. He remarked that surface water from a wetland on the property eventually got to Big Creek and Little Creek, noting that this was why they maintained their setbacks and were not asking for any encroachment into wetland or upland buffers; additionally, they had enhanced stormwater treatment.
Commr. Campione recalled that Mr. Crawford had mentioned the need for services in the Four Corners area, and asked if he was proposing to meet those needs by dedicating the land to the Lake County Property Appraiser and the LCSO.
Mr. Crawford clarified that they were going to sell it at the appraised value for those purposes. He mentioned that they would also be performing about $250,000 worth of improvements to Woodcrest Way, commenting that two additional turn lanes were needed and that the applicant had agreed to do this.
Commr. Campione asked to confirm if the decision of whether to add a new land use that increased the density in this area was a legislative question as opposed to a quasi-judicial question, and Ms. Marsh said this was correct.
Mr. Crawford commented that the applicant had met with FDEO three or four times for this, and had complied with FDEO’s comments. He also noted that other properties had site specific land uses.
Commr. Campione inquired why the applicant did not ask for all of this previously as opposed to the current time, noting that they had a previous request that had been approved with certain conditions that did not seem to have all been adhered to.
Mr. Crawford disagreed that they did not adhere to all of the conditions in their development orders; however, FDEO challenged them and they had to have a settlement agreement. He commented that the first rezoning in 2007 likely would have been built if not for the Great Recession. He said that a piece of property was purchased by the applicant and that the PUD had to be amended to add it; additionally, they were approached by resort residential developers and thought that they had the opportunity to do something different than a mixed subdivision.
There being no one else who wished to address the Board regarding this matter, the Chairman closed the public hearing.
Commr. Parks asked the Board to disclose their ex parte discussions.
Commr. Shields said that he had met with Mr. Crawford.
Commr. Smith relayed that he had also met with Mr. Crawford.
Commr. Parks mentioned that he had met with Mr. Crawford and Mr. Rubin, along with a phone call with Mr. Cagan.
Commr. Campione remarked that she had spoken to Mr. Cagan.
Commr. Blake stated that he had phone calls with Mr. Cagan and Mr. Crawford.
Commr. Campione said that there had been a number of issues in the Four Corners area for a number of years with residents requesting more services, noting that there were issues with regards to law enforcement resources. She said that she was opposed to increasing the density in this area, and that they needed to be looking at how to address the needs of the community there. She commented that four units per acre was the land use designation, and she did not think that they should be increasing the density in the Green Swamp and this particular area, in light of already dealing with needs that they could not meet. She mentioned additional impacts on transportation, the need for parks, and impacts on the need for law enforcement and public safety. She said that she could not support the request as a matter of principle.
Commr. Smith asked if the workforce housing project increased the density.
Mr. Crawford explained that they would be supplying up to 90 units to the workforce housing project out of their density; therefore, their true density would be significantly less than six units per acre on their portion of the property.
Commr. Campione inquired if this land use change would not have been needed if not for the four acres that was requested for the workforce housing project.
Mr. Crawford clarified that the application had been in for 11 months and that they were requesting six units per acre previously; however, they agreed to compromise and donate units for workforce housing. He added that they would be selling the land at market rate and that the workforce housing project would not need to get a density allocation.
Commr. Parks commented that this was a high growth area and that the question was how best to make use of the land that was still there. He noted that the property was along U.S. Highway 27, which was the busiest roadway in Lake County, and the Cagan Crossings development was nearby. He recalled this case previously coming up and that there was going to be some land grading because it would be an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant community.
Commr. Campione added that this then resulted in what was apparently mining which went on for a while, and there was no development.
Mr. Crawford clarified that the grading was done, that the property was almost flat, and that it was ADA compliant.
Commr. Parks mentioned being able to work with the applicant over the past few months to address an issue like attainable housing, recalling that the Ruby Red case was contentious and was not the right place for an attainable housing project. He clarified that that these were planned attainable housing projects where people who were employed could afford to rent their home near where they worked; furthermore, this was an economic issue countywide. He said that he felt this was a great opportunity if the applicant and Mr. Smith were able to facilitate this and move that project from the controversial site further south to the subject property. He explained that this site was more central to the Four Corners area, was closer to the schools, and was closer to commerce. He relayed that he started opening up more to this application in talking to the applicant, adding his understanding that the applicant would be exceeding the requirement for landscape buffering and that it would be 100 percent Florida native buffering. He added that the open space would be maintained as passive open space, and that there would be no reduction in recharge; furthermore, the applicant would build an eight foot wide sidewalk along the portion of U.S. Highway 27. He also relayed his understanding that the applicant had included residential design criteria, and that there would be a municipal service benefit unit (MSBU) or similar concept established so that the people living there would be paying for operation and maintenance of those roads. He thought that this request was probably a better use of the land from an economic standpoint, noting that the Lake County Agency for Economic Prosperity had conducted an economic analysis to help him decide the highest value of that land. He said that for 500 vacation rental units, they would not be homestead exempted; therefore, the County could be collecting twice the amount of property taxes, along with about $600,000 more of tourist development taxes (TDT) per year at about four percent per night. He also mentioned the additional ad valorem revenue, and stated that he was looking at a higher value of land versus a typical four units per acre development. He then relayed his understanding that the cost to provide service to a traditional subdivision would be higher than this development. He said that he supported both requests for this item.
Commr. Campione asked if there was anything that prevented them from making these houses permanent, and if there was a number they could go up to in multifamily rentals.
Mr. McClendon clarified that proposed language handed out on the current morning indicated the language “shall not exceed.”
Mr. Crawford said that those two were interchangeable and that the only required item was the workforce housing. He stated that it was possible to make them permanent; however, the applicant was under contract with a developer who wanted to do it about 50/50. He believed that it was highly likely that they would have a percentage of the resort residential homes.
Commr. Campione relayed her understanding that if they did not change the land use, then there was nothing stopping them for using it for rental purposes.
Mr. Crawford agreed with this.
Commr. Campione noted that the thought that it would demand less services may not hold true if they made it permanent housing, and then there would be a high density area with the same issues that they tended to have in the Four Corners area.
Mr. Crawford commented that if it all became traditional, this PUD required and envisioned a mixed use project with four different types of housing including regular single family, townhomes, duplexes, and multifamily rental units, along with 60,000 square feet of mixed use light commercial and neighborhood commercial. He thought that it would be a better community even if it were to develop all as normal single family.
Commr. Shields mentioned how many permanent residents were moving into vacation rental neighborhoods along U.S. Highway 192; therefore, he would imagine that there was a good demand for vacation homes. He said that he liked some of the issues being solved such as affordable housing; however, he ran for election on protecting the Green Swamp and would have to vote no on this item.
Commr. Parks opined that the vacation rentals and everything else that was being proposed was better than a typical four unit per acre project. He commented that he saw a perceived benefit.
Commr. Blake expressed support for the request.
Commr. Smith expressed support for the request and said that if not for the affordable housing, he would be voting the other way.
Commr. Campione commented that her voting no was not against Mr. Smith or the affordable housing aspect, and she expressed concerns that what was being voted for was not what the development was going to be. She thought that they would end up with a situation that exacerbated the issues in Four Corners as opposed to addressing them.
Commr. Parks expressed support for the request and reiterated his opinion that with what had been submitted and the additional requirements, they would be getting something better than what was typical. He also expressed appreciation for the applicant working with the County.
On a motion by Commr. Blake, seconded by Commr. Smith and carried by a vote of 3-2, the Board approved Tab 6, Rezoning Case # FLU-20-01-1, Rubin Groves FLU Amendment (Adoption).
Commr. Shields and Commr. Campione voted no.
On a motion by Commr. Blake, seconded by Commr. Smith and carried by a vote of 3-2, the Board approved Tab 7, Rezoning Case # RZ-20-02-1, Rubin Groves PUD Amendment.
Commr. Shields and Commr. Campione voted no.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman called a recess at 2:52 p.m. for eight minutes.
gaston tree debris facility
Mr. McClendon presented Tab 8, Rezoning Case # RZ-20-38-3, Gaston Tree Debris Facility. He explained that the case was located on the east side of CR 448A and south of CR 48, in Commission District 3, with a tract size of 10 acres, and the request was to amend the existing PUD ordinance approved in 2018 to allow an organic processing and tree recycling facility on those 10 acres. He said that the existing zoning was PUD, and the FLU was Rural. He showed the concept plan and noted that the tree debris facility would be located on the western portion of the 10 acres. He relayed the following staff analysis findings: the application sought to amend the existing PUD zoning ordinance to add agricultural uses including the tree debris and tree recycling facility; the proposed use was temporary in nature; and the tree debris and recycling facility was identified in the LDR as a mill, noting that the proposed ordinance was limiting the use to the tree recycling facility. He added that the Rural FLU allowed agriculture uses and that given the temporary nature of the proposed use, staff had no objection to this request. He mentioned that this was initially part of code enforcement action, and that the amended ordinance would bring the currently onsite tree recycling facility into compliance. He said that the Planning and Zoning Board found the application consistent with the Comp Plan and recommended approval of the rezoning request; furthermore, this was a unanimous decision.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
Dr. Laura Michael, a pathologist who owned property adjacent to the subject property, said that she could see tree debris from her yard. She expressed concerns for the health hazards of industrial mulching, including the potential of cancer and the particles traveling three miles. She stated that there were currently at least 25 homes on this street, and added that there was a nearby park and that people passed by this facility when it was in operation.
Mr. James Prescott, a concerned citizen, relayed that he did not have any direct objections to a mulching facility; however, he indicated concerns that the mulching operation could become more of a composting operation in the future. He did not think that the community would tolerate much more development at the risk of property values there.
Mr. William Holt, a concerned citizen, said that he had sent an email to the Board with comments. He expressed opposition to this facility, noting that he had land opposite of where it was located. He opined that the facility was not something that maintained or enhanced the quality of the area, and he opined that the area was increasingly residential. He expressed concerns for land values, truck traffic, noise and odors. He opined that a complete vegetative barrier should be constructed, and he relayed a neighbor’s concerns that the temporary facility could become permanent. He questioned what other truck entrance options had been explored, and he opined that it should not be located in the current location. He also agreed with Dr. Michael about the health hazards, and he questioned the fire risk of the material piles.
Mr. Levin Gaston, the applicant, described Gaston Tree Debris Recycling and that they had been through certifications and courses with organizations including the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), and that this was the first he heard that the mulching operation was cancerous or that the dust could travel two miles. He explained that they recycled every part of the urban forest, and commented that they now managed just under 750,000 tons of fiber; furthermore, their products had been used for erosion sedimentation control, slope stabilization, stormwater inlet filtration, nutrient capture, improvements to stormwater and groundwater, topsoil enhancement, and certified playground surfaces. He mentioned that Counties often tried to put them in an industrial area, commenting that industrial properties were often smaller and more expensive and that this could make the products unavailable. He explained that they were already operating because the State had considered this to be a normal farming practice, and commented that this was an agricultural property with plenty of buffering; however, there had been a zoning change that they did not know about. He said that there was a dense vegetative buffer by the road, and that there was a location on the east side of the property where some vegetation might need to be planted. He stated that as more people moved there, the property would not be as suitable and it would be time for them to find another location to do the same kinds of things. He remarked that they could send their trucks out, bring material in, recycle it, and send it out to help the local community and the farm where they were operating.
Commr. Shields asked about the decibel level of the machines. He also mentioned a chipper that had been used on his property.
Mr. Gaston was unsure, but relayed his understanding that Lake County had a noise ordinance; additionally, they had never had a County indicate that they had violated a noise ordinance. He added that a chipper was not a grinder and was much louder, and he relayed that they had begun to do their primary processing with a slow speed shredder, which was significantly lower in volume than the grinder.
Commr. Campione inquired if there were buffers designated in the ordinance or site plan.
Mr. McClendon said that page three of the ordinance indicated that a landscape type B buffer would be required, adding that there would be a six foot fence along the perimeter wall as well. He also commented that hours of operation were proposed in the ordinance from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. He then explained that a type B landscape buffer included two options for 20 feet or 15 feet, with the 20 foot buffer requiring two canopy trees, three ornamental trees, and one single row of shrubs; additionally, the 15 foot buffer would require three canopy trees, two ornamental trees, and one single row of shrubs.
Commr. Campione asked if the machinery was permanent. She also asked how frequently trucks would come and go on a site this size.
Mr. Gaston replied that they were a temporary business and that their equipment could be moved around. He also thought that they would receive 16 loads per day in; therefore, there would be 32 trips. He added that there would be many weeks where nothing would go out and then when they processed that material, there may be five or six loads a day going out.
Commr. Parks inquired if 50 trips per day could be a worst case scenario, and Mr. Gaston confirmed this.
Commr. Campione recalled that for some conditional use permits (CUPs), the Board had previously done a trial period such as for 12 months, and they would not renew it if concerns were realized. She said that the Board could consider this, noting concerns for noise, impacts, dust, etc.
Mr. Gaston commented that they would not be opposed to this. He said that the County and FDEP had visited the site, noting that they were pleased with what was being done.
Commr. Campione asked about the combustion issue with the piles.
Mr. Gaston stated that fire was a legitimate question and that there were things they had to do about it, such as managing pile size. He commented that generally, the likelihood of this went down in a pile that had already been ground. He said that they had learned how to prevent the issue and how to manage the piles.
Commr. Smith made a motion to approve this item, and Commissioner Blake seconded the motion.
Commr. Parks expressed support for the motion and indicated appreciation for the farm. He mentioned wanting to support local agriculture and that this was another way of doing this. He opined that the health concerns were legitimate questions, but he had researched the applicant and did not see this as doing something to ignore health or safety concerns. He then asked if there were any disclosures that the Board wanted to make.
Commr. Smith commented that he had received a card from an individual who wanted to talk to him after the vote.
Commr. Campione asked if there was any consideration for having a period of time for the applicant to come back, noting that it was a six year window for completion before moving forward with the recreational vehicle (RV) park that had been previously approved on the property.
Commr. Smith stated that he saw this as less trips per day than RVs coming in.
Commr. Shields expressed that he liked the idea of putting a time limit on it in case there were issues, and to revisit it.
Commr. Parks recalled that in some particular cases, the Board had an understanding with the motion that in one year, staff could come onsite at any point and if there was anything that was not within the code or was a health concern, the item could come back for another hearing.
Commr. Campione said that it could also come back on an annual basis if there were conditions that needed to be added, if buffers needed to be moved back, if the hours of operation needed to be lessened, etc. She asked Ms. Marsh how this had been worded in the past.
Ms. Marsh explained that the Board had previously done this with the Hanson Ski School which was a one year term, noting that they had to come back through the process; however, the Board could waive application fees. She added that the Board could have the applicant come back at the one year mark and then decide how long they wanted to extend it.
Commr. Smith asked Mr. Gaston if he was amicable with coming back in a year.
Mr. Gaston confirmed this, and proposed possibly only coming back if the County or FDEP decided that there was an issue.
Commr. Smith amended his motion to state that the applicant must come back within one year; additionally, application fees would be waived.
Commr. Blake seconded the amended motion.
Commr. Parks expressed support for the amended motion and noted that it would be simplified for the applicant and the fee would be waived.
Ms. Marsh asked to clarify if it would be coming back to just this Board, or would they want to go through the Planning and Zoning Board.
Commr. Parks clarified that it would just be this Board.
Mr. McClendon inquired if they would come back one year from site plan approval or the approval at the current meeting.
Commr. Parks said that it would be from the site plan approval.
Commr. Campione stated that when it came back after one year from the site plan approval, everything could be running smoothly, or the Board could modify something, and the applicant would not necessarily have to come back annually after that.
On a motion by Commr. Smith, seconded by Commr. Blake and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved Tab 8, Rezoning Case # RZ-20-38-3, Gaston Tree Debris Facility, with the condition that the applicant must come back before the BCC one year from site plan approval; additionally, application fees would be waived.
white water farms mcup
Mr. McClendon presented Tab 9, Rezoning Case # MCUP-20-01-4, White Water Farms MCUP. He explained that the case was on the south side of State Road (SR) 44, west of CR 46A, in the City of Eustis area, within Commission District 4. He added that the affected tract size was 40 acres with the overall acreage being 80. He mentioned that the request was to allow a dry borrow pit for the extraction of clean fill to support the operation of agriculture uses on those 40 acres. He said that the FLU was identified as the Wekiva River Protection Area A-1-20 Receiving Area, and that the property was zoned Agriculture. He showed the concept plan and noted that it was currently an ongoing mine. He then relayed the following staff analysis findings: the mining conditional use permit (MCUP) application sought approval to allow a dry borrow pit on the eastern half of the 40 acres; the project was not considered a true mining operation because no processing of the extracted material was conducted onsite; the application had indicated that upon completion of the borrow pit use, reclamation would consist of the existing blueberry farm, noting that part of it had been reclaimed already; the LDR and Comp Plan stated that borrow pit activities were allowed within the Wekiva River Protection Area, and they may be permitted subject to approval by the BCC, though these policies sought to limit borrow pit activities to those necessary for the construction or improvement to highways or other public works projects within the Wekiva River Protection Area; LDR Table 3.01.03 allowed mining in Agriculture zoning with a CUP, noting that this MCUP application was the regulatory instrument that would satisfy this requirement; the request was consistent with LDR Section 3.01.02 which defined mining as the extraction of natural resources, together with structures, machinery, equipment, and facilities incidental to the development thereof; the concept plan demonstrated consistency with Comp Plan Policy I-3.2.3; the concept plan illustrated development of the subject parcel that met the ISR and minimum open space requirements; and the proposed request was consistent with the Comp Plan and LDR, indicating that the same language in both stated that any new borrow pit within the Wekiva River Protection Area and environmentally sensitive areas should be limited to those necessary for the construction of, or the improvement to highways or other public works projects within the Wekiva River Protection Area, or those near environmentally sensitive areas in the County. He said that the applicant had provided a statement to demonstrate that they were meeting the intent of the LDR, which indicated that the east parcel would be mass graded with excavation of overburdened and clean soil, and transport of the ongoing construction and public works project within the Wekiva Basin, largely the Wekiva Parkway and SR 429 projects; however the applicant did not include any documentation or specificity regarding any issued or received contractual obligations to those public improvement efforts. He commented that Central Testing Laboratory was the County’s consultant who provided services to Lake County and reviewed the application for consistency with the mining ordinance, LDR Section 6.06.00. He elaborated that Central Testing Laboratory mainly reviewed the hydrogeological conditions of the site, and had stated that they were within the parameters of the mining ordinance. He mentioned that the concept plan was inconsistent with LDR Section 6.06.02(C)(1)(a), noting that it did not meet the setbacks established within that area; therefore, staff found this application inconsistent with the LDRs and Comp Plan. He recalled that the recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Board was to find the application inconsistent with the LDR and deny the requested MCUP, which was a unanimous vote.
Mr. Crawford, representing the applicant, relayed the history of the property, noting that C & K Family Trust had purchased the property in January 2019 to establish a U-pick blueberry farm, and they had prepared a farm plan. He displayed an item marked as Exhibit 1, which was the narrative portion of the farm plan prepared by Mr. Bill Ray, commenting that there were also aerial photographs. He added that the farm plan consisted of a narrative portion and a grading plan that established six cells on the 40 acres of about five or six acres each, noting that they were 15 and 30 feet below the existing grade. He relayed that there were farming advantages to this and that the blueberry farm operation was their restoration plan. He said that the farming advantages included creating a closed basin for the stormwater, and that it would not have any offsite stormwater discharge at below grade. He stated that they had a reused tailwater pond where their rainwater and irrigation water returned to the pond and they then used it for irrigation on the hayfield, which was the western 40 acres of the subject property, noting that the blueberry portion was on the approximate eastern 40 acres. He commented that this reduced groundwater irrigation and a nutrient rich recharge to the groundwater. He said that there was less drift of herbicides and pesticides that were aerially sprayed on the property because they were between 15 and 30 feet below grade, and he remarked that there was less noise from the farm machinery; additionally, during ripening season they used air cannons on blueberry farms to keep birds away, noting that being below grade directed the sound upward instead of outward. He added that below grade farming was better for freeze protection, wind damage protection, and there was less irrigation loss by wind, and he relayed his understanding that it was better for the Wekiva River Protection Area and the environment than a grade level farming operation would be; however, at times, the County and the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) did not believe that they were agriculture. He also said that there were complaints from neighbors to the County, and he commented that residents there lived close to two other agricultural excavations in the area. He relayed information about legal action taken against the other two farms, and said that the County had sued the subject farm in April 2020 with an injunction issued for them to stop. He elaborated that they stopped and had a hearing about a week later, with the injunction being dissolved and the litigation continuing currently. He stated that SJRWMD had sued the subject farm and they were found not to be exempt as an agricultural closed system, which had been appealed with an ongoing suit. He explained that to settle their differences, they had applied for a County MCUP in May 2020 and that while they wanted the MCUP, they could not agree to the conditions currently being requested by County staff because they believed some of them were either not supported by the County code or were not lawful otherwise. He said that they had only been able to finish one five acre cell and that the mining operation was not currently active. He then showed a recent image of the five acre cell and pointed out the blueberry beds. He commented that the staff report and the ordinance said that their side slopes must be 4:1; however, he opined that this was not what the code stated. He showed LDR Section 6.06.00 and indicated that during excavation, a slope with a maximum ratio of two feet to one foot, to the point of natural ground cover, shall be maintained at all times. He added that upon completion, no slope beyond the uppermost perimeter of any excavated area shall be steeper than 4:1; additionally, anything above grade had to be 4:1 and for anything below grade, no slope of an excavated area may be steeper than 3:1. He said that they agreed to 4:1 for outside the excavation area and above ground, 2:1 while they were digging, and 3:1 below grade after that. He commented that the staff report indicated that they were inconsistent with LDR Section 6.06.02(C)(1) regarding setbacks, because they did not have a 100 foot setback everywhere and because they were not set back 200 feet from residentially zoned property; however, this could be increased or decreased in special situations addressed in the MCUP at the time of BCC consideration. He showed an image of the property and noted the excavation, stating that all mining operations had to be a certain distance away regarding setbacks. He clarified that they were just over 1,300 feet from residential property to the first part of their mining operation; additionally, they showed a 50 foot setback along the south line. He commented that there was no excavation with 100 feet and that there was only a mining haul road up to 50 feet from the line. He said that they would agree to a condition that they shall have a 100 foot setback upon completion. He remarked that the ordinance contained a two year sunset, opining that this was impossible for them. He opined that they needed five years and said that they did not have a contract destination at the current time. He opined that there was an inconsistency in the ordinance, pointing out that if the sand mind commenced within three years from when the Board granted the MCUP, the permit shall remain valid and enforced as long as the operator shall abide by the operating plan and the LDR requirements. He commented that this would be in perpetuity and would conflict with the two year clause, and he said that they needed five years. He stated that the tipping fee for the impact to county roads was labeled as 20 cents per cubic yard of material, though he showed a document from the current County adopted fee resolution which indicated that if they were over 100,000 cubic yards for a haul permit, they would pay 30 cents per cubic yard, plus $500. He noted that they had to have a haul permit, and he believed that these tipping fees were unsupported by the evidence of their impact upon county roads. He displayed a letter he had written to Commissioner Campione in August 2020 when the County was considering adoption of a tipping fee ordinance for the haul permit, noting that the letter detailed the reasons why a 20 and 30 cent blanket tipping fee was not legal. He opined that it was discriminatory because it singled out a portion of an industry, noting that material haulers paid it but concrete trucks were specifically exempted, along with other trucks that he presumed were exempted. He also opined that there was no reasonable relationship to the impact. He recalled that in 2019, the BCC had considered a haul permit for a property on Hart Ranch Road. He elaborated that Mr. Fred Schneider, Public Works Director, had stated at that BCC meeting that the impact for around two million cubic yards of material, which was about the same as in the current case, and for a slightly further distance on a county road, was calculated to be 3.47 cents per cubic yard for the $67,000 impact. He expressed doubt that in 18 months the impact on county roads had increased by eight times over what was calculated by Mr. Schneider at that point. He also opined that the fee was one size fits all, or two size fits all if they did the 20 and 30 cent fees, and he believed that the County would have to have an individualized determination of the impact of each particular job. He commented that the proposed ordinance attempted to limit their destination to the SR 429 project, noting that the Comp Plan and LDR indicated that they must haul to a public works project within or near the Wekiva River Protection Area; furthermore, the SR 429 contract had been given to someone else. He mentioned that they agreed not to haul on CR 437 but otherwise, they thought they should be able to haul anywhere, noting that the haul permit would dictate the haul route; therefore, if they received a different job and changed from CR 46A to another county road, he opined that they should only amend their operating permit and/or their haul permit at a staff level. He said that the staff report indicated that Comp Plan Policy I-3.3.20 stated that excavation performed in the construction of an agriculture water management system, subject to a water management district permit, was not considered to be borrow activity; additionally, the staff report indicated that the application appeared to meet the intent of the Comp Plan policy regarding the construction of an agriculture water management system, though the applicant had not provided a copy of a water management district permit or anticipated planting crop schedule to coincide with the blueberry and hay farm production plan. He relayed his understanding that the water management district permit was all that the policy required, and commented that they had an application in for over a year with the SJRWMD. He remarked that they did not have a permit because the County issued a local government notification to SJRWMD which indicated that the project was preempted from adhering to the Comp Plan and local development regulations due to its agricultural classification. He elaborated that about three months later, the County had revoked the local government notification because they found it to be a borrow pit and inconsistent with bona fide agricultural activities. He commented that the County currently indicated in the staff report that they were a water management district system and that they would not be a borrow pit if they could receive a SJRWMD permit; however, they could not receive their SJRWMD permit because the County would not give them a letter saying that they were an agricultural activity. He showed a map of the property and noted that it was on CR 44, adding that they hauled past no homes before they got on a state road. He showed a summary of conditions in the ordinance that they opined were illegal or unconstitutional and said that they agreed to a 3:1 slope below grade, 4:1 above grade when finished, and 2:1 when ongoing. He stated that they needed the borrow activity to cease by July 2026, and that they agreed to a 100 foot setback when it was completed and 50 feet during construction with the caveat that there was no excavation within 100 feet. He opined that they needed to allow hauling on other county roads except for CR 437, that the destination limit language should come straight from the Comp Plan or LDR, and that they believed that there should be no tipping fees as the County had not shown a reasonable relationship or rational nexus between the impact of the hauling and the fee.
Commr. Campione referenced the standards for mining, LDR Section 6.06.02 which indicated that at a minimum, all mining activities shall be conducted with the following standards, noting that additional standards deemed necessary by the County may be required in the approved MCUP or operating plan. She asked Mr. Crawford if he agreed that the County could impose additional standards.
Mr. Crawford agreed with this and said that they would need to be warranted by the particular conditions and situations that the County had. He opined that the County was trying to say that the applicant was consistent with the Comp Plan and the LDR, except the setback provision; additionally, the provision indicated that it was 100 feet or as set by the BCC. He added that if driving a truck was considered mining operations, then they were asking for 50 feet for that section.
Commr. Campione said that the LDR chapter referenced setbacks as an undisturbed area except for approved access points, vegetative buffers or fencing.
Mr. Crawford remarked that they were showing the 50 foot portion on the south side as an access road.
Commr. Campione stated that section C of LDR Section 6.06.02, Mining Operation Standards, indicated that setbacks established by the approved MCUP shall be marked in a manner acceptable to the County prior to the initiation of any active phase of mining. She added that in a typical situation, there would not be a disturbance of setbacks prior to approval.
Mr. Crawford commented that they began this in good faith that they were agriculturally exempt; therefore, no one intentionally violated a setback in a code.
Ms. Marsh asked the Board to announce any ex parte communications.
Commr. Shields relayed that he had met with Mr. Crawford.
Commr. Smith said that he had received emails.
Commr. Parks stated that he had received emails and talked with Mr. Crawford.
Commr. Campione remarked that she had received emails.
Commr. Blake had stepped out of the room at the current time; therefore, Commissioner Parks said that they would ask him about ex parte communications when he returned.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
Ms. Christine Raley, President of the Lakewood Ranches HOA, expressed concerns for dump trucks on the road, the aesthetics of the area being worsened, safety, roads, noise and dust.
Mr. Frank Filippelli, a real estate broker, opined that mining affected property values of nearby residential areas. He noted that there was land surrounding the subject property that could eventually be developed, and he expressed concerns that the mining could stall this development. He questioned the amount of business on the property from a blueberry farm, and he supported the farm use as the original intent of the property.
Mr. Craig Patrick, a resident of Cross Tie Ranch, reiterated concerns for dust, noise and trucks. He opined that the subject property had been a mining and dirt sale operation since the beginning, and that they had encroached on the western 40 acres by mining on the other side of the line. He also opined that blueberries did not need a 40 foot hole to be grown in, and he expressed concerns for drinking water and wells. He questioned why they should trust an applicant when they had done what they wanted to do from the start.
Ms. Sandra Stura, a concerned citizen, said that the Board had received an email from her asking them to visit the site. She opined that the applicant had a disregard for the environment, noting that the land was in the Wekiva River Basin. She stated that the Lake County Office of Planning and Zoning staff found that the permit was inconsistent with the Comp Plan and LDR; additionally, the Planning and Zoning Board had denied this application. She relayed that the Wekiva River Basin Chairman had opined that this was environmentally detrimental. She opined that this was the wrong place to dig, noting that it was in an area surrounded by homes, businesses and schools. She relayed her understanding that mining could result in water pollution, destruction of ecosystems, danger to human health, decline of property values, noise and fumes. She expressed concerns for trucks, and she opined that it was not compatible growth.
Mr. Richard Gay, a concerned citizen, recalled that he had called the Lake County Office of Planning and Zoning when this operation first began. He relayed that he had informed the office about trucks and trees being removed but that he had not heard back. He was unsure why the County did not understand what was happening originally, and he questioned who would pay to address CR 44 and when it would be complete. He opined that the County should start looking at these types of projects beforehand.
Mr. George Kontsakis, a neighbor of the subject property, opined that there was no agriculture on the subject property, and he asked why they did not apply for an MCUP in the beginning.
Mr. Dan Roberts, a resident of RedTail, opined that this was not a legitimate business, and he expressed concerns for sinkholes when digging 30 feet deep. He also indicated concerns for complicating the ecosystem there and for the amount of dirt being moved, along with oil that may have saturated the groundwater.
Ms. Kim Williams, a resident on Walkabout Ranch Road, commented that she had sent the BCC emails with reasons not to approve mining in the Wekiva River Basin. She displayed an image looking south, noting that White Water Farms was behind her property and that there was also another borrow pit nearby. She also displayed an image showing which springs were in the area, commenting that there was a spring near the two borrow pits; additionally, Seminole Springs was less than one mile away. She opined that the area was fragile and that this was why the area was protected. She displayed a picture with another view of the basin which also showed the springs and borrow pits. She pointed out section eight of the Wekiva Parkway which needed fill, and she relayed her understanding that it required 500-600 cubic yards of material and that it was already under Lane Construction and the fish farm. She showed an image looking west and pointed out White Water Farms, the Seminole Springs golf course, Sorrento Pines, a spring, and a sinkhole. She said that the borrow pit was 0.7 miles from Seminole Springs, and she showed a video of the blueberry farm that had excavated down to that level; furthermore, she said that it was holding water and opined that there was not much that could be done with it.
Commr. Campione asked for slide six to be shown.
Ms. Williams explained that this was Seminole Springs, and she described the spring. She opined that it needed to be protected.
Commr. Campione said that it was just east of CR 46A and south of CR 44; furthermore, it was about 0.7 miles from the subject property.
Ms. Cheryl Hanna, a resident of Sorrento, opined that the applicant did not know if they were a blueberry farm or a mining operation. She noted that the Wekiva River Protection Act was put in place to protect the area, and that the mine was within this area. She expressed concerns for wells, the environment, trucks, noise, safety and wildlife. She also opined that the road was not safe, and that there should not be mining.
Ms. Katherine de Jongh, a resident who had also spoken earlier in the meeting, displayed a map of the haul route, pointing out several locations and a school bus stop by the route. She said that in 1968, the U.S. Congress created the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to protect the nation’s rivers, noting that the Wekiva River was one of two Florida rivers to receive this designation. She commented that Florida Statutes, Chapter 369.322 detailed land use and water supply within the Wekiva Study Area and recognized the need the balance resource protection, existing infrastructure, and improvements as part of approved development; furthermore, it called for ecologically sustainable growth. She opined that mines and borrow pits did not fall in this category, and she added that Florida Statutes, Chapter 369.321 directed local governments to amend their Comp Plan to establish land use strategies to protect the most effective aquifer recharge areas, karst features, and sensitive natural habitats. She commented that White Water Farms was located within the Wekiva River Protection Area and in a recharge area for the Floridan Aquifer. She relayed her understanding that removing acres of land in elevation removed a barrier to the aquifer, and she opined that the excavation went against the land use strategies that the State statute directed the County to protect. She indicated an understanding that this overlay district was where White Water Farms existed, and that the stated purpose and intent of the district was to provide an area where low density rural development could occur, while preserving environmentally sensitive areas; furthermore, the continued use of the land for traditional agricultural purposes was maintained where consistent with best management practices and policies of the Comp Plan. She relayed her understanding that the applicant admitted that their farm plan method was not a traditional method, noting that borrow pits were not in compliance with low density rural development, that this area had been designated as environmentally sensitive, and opining that borrow pits did not belong there. She remarked that the LDR allowed borrow pits in the basin subject to approval by the BCC, but only for public works within the basin. She relayed her understanding that expressway construction within the basin was completed; therefore, there was no need for mining to occur at this site. She expressed a concern for future mines in the Wekiva River Basin if this request was approved, and she urged the Board not to approve this application.
Ms. Melissa Vu, a neighbor of the subject property, showed a map and pointed out her property, West Blueberry Farm, and White Water Farms. She stated that her property’s previous owners had deed restrictions drafted and opined that White Water Farms had not paid attention to them. She displayed an image with the four parcels included in the deed restrictions, and she showed a paragraph, opining that everything that White Water Farms had done in the past year had violated it. She remarked that a mining operation was not in the neighborhood’s plan, and she relayed that the subject property owner had indicated an intent to dig on the 80 acres. She showed another image of her property and pointed out a spring there, and she opined that the pond was now dry because they were situated between two sand mines. She commented that the subject property had been digging for one year and that they were now trying to get approval after the fact. She expressed concerns that giving permission currently could set a precedent for others to do the same thing, and for the applicant not staying on the one side of the property.
Ms. Judith Hamlett, a resident adjacent to the subject property, expressed concerns for effects of dirt and dust, including health and visibility. She opined that the request was inconsistent with the character of the neighborhood, and she showed pictures of the subject property.
Ms. Joyce Regep, a concerned citizen, did not speak but was noted to be opposed to the request.
Mr. Bobby Croft, a neighbor of the subject property, opined that this was an industrial project in Agriculture zoning, and he expressed concerns for seeing it dug out below grade.
Dr. Christine Harris, a concerned citizen, opposed changing the Comp Plan. She commented that the property was currently zoned for rural development to encourage agricultural business; furthermore, she said that mining was not agriculture. She mentioned protecting resources, and she expressed concerns for sinkholes, a current drought, and an issue with gas excavation.
Mr. Crawford opined that the County had been diligent on this issue.
Commr. Campione said that farming was an important part of Lake County’s history and economy, and she expressed concerns for one using farming as a ruse for something they needed a permit for. She noted how close springs were to this property, and that the area was environmentally sensitive. She stated that the code indicated that there could be borrow pits under certain circumstances and limited conditions, and that they needed to be approved in advance so that conditions could be put in place. She mentioned that the BCC did not have the opportunity to put conditions in place on the frontend, and she recalled a statement in LDR Section 6.06.01 indicating that mining environmentally sensitive areas which could not be reclaimed shall be prohibited. She questioned if one could reclaim an area like this within the Wekiva River Protection Area that was close to many springs, and she opined that they could not; therefore, this was an inappropriate location for mining. She said that if the BCC was looking at it on the frontend, they would probably be thinking in terms of substantial setbacks that would leave vegetation intact, and limiting how deep a mine could go. She noted that there was a school bus stop across the street and that there were trucks coming out there, and she said that these were also considerations to protect kids and the surrounding residential areas. She stated that she would also look at adjoining Agriculture zoned property that was occupied for residential purposes, opining that it was a residential purpose and that this was another place where they would want to have maximum setbacks. She did not think that they could sufficiently protect the hydrological features and environmentally sensitive nature of the area with additional conditions, and she recalled that Mr. Crawford had stated that the applicant started doing this in good faith because they believed that they were exempt. She added that Mr. Crawford had then said that they still believed that they did not need a permit, and she questioned if they would adhere to rules put in place. She commented that if this item was coming to the BCC fresh, she would still not be in favor of the sand mine because it was too environmentally sensitive, too close to existing springs, and was not consistent with the area. She mentioned that while there were provisions in the code that allowed borrow pits for Wekiva River Protection Area projects, she opined that they should only be approved if it could be done in a way that would not hurt the environment and would be consistent with the area. She opined that on this site, one could not say that a mining operation could meet that criteria. She supported denying the request.
Commr. Shields also expressed support for denying the request.
Commr. Parks indicated support for denial, and he disagreed with Mr. Crawford’s analysis of the hauling fees. He opined that while the hauling fees were imperfect, it was the County’s best system to assess an impact on a road. He relayed that he had not seen enough evidence to believe that the water resource would be protected, and he agreed that the burden of proof in an area like the Wekiva River Protection Area or the Green Swamp was very high in protecting the water resources.
Commr. Smith thanked everyone for their emails.
Commr. Shields expressed concerns for the environment, and he thanked the residents for attending.
Commr. Parks asked Commr. Blake about ex-parte communications.
Commr. Blake said that he had toured the property in December 2020 and that he had conversations with some neighbors.
Commr. Campione thanked everyone for their emails and said that because it was a quasi-judicial proceeding, she did not answer emails; however, she read all of them.
Commr. Parks said that the emails had been received, and he thanked residents for being part of the process.
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Shields and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board denied Tab 9, Rezoning Case # MCUP-20-01-4, White Water Farms MCUP.
comment on budget presentations
Commr. Parks said that Tabs 27 and 28, which regarded County office budget presentations, would be postponed.
Mr. Rosen requested to move them to the BCC workshop on May 26, 2021, and Commissioner Parks was amicable with this.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 5:21 p.m.
SEAN PARKS, chairman
GARY J COONEY, CLERK