Cities’ Solar Power Criticisms Expand To Countryside

This was probably predictable.

In recent months officials in Lake Alfred and Bartow put the skids on plans for solar energy farms within their jurisdictions.

In both cases the local officials—absence any evidence—said they were hesitant to allow solar farms where Tampa Electric proposed them because it could affect the value of nearby residential developments.

Now this solar-as-threat-to-home-values sentiment has crept into a rural area in southwest Polk.

Just before TECO was planning to hold a groundbreaking ceremony featuring local dignitaries for its planned Payne Creek solar farm near Streamsong Resort, area residents began receiving anti-solar farm literature and some “Stop The Solar” yard signs were popping up in the area.

In the meantime, the groundbreaking was put off until next fall. The official reason was scheduling conflicts.

TECO officials say they are still planning the project, which is under review by Polk’s planning staff.

In the meantime, county officials are working on a response to the anti-solar campaign.



Polk Recycling May Become More Customer Friendly

Polk commissioners have directed county staffers to come up with a new approach to selling the new curbside recycling system.

Last year Polk solid waste officials made major changes to the system—no glass, almost no plastic, fewer kinds of paper–and created a public backlash.

The main problem was that the changes were poorly communicated and even after it was clear there were problems, solid waste officials stubbornly refused to improve.

That problem was pointed out in this blog, and a separate column published in The Ledger.

That led to a work session earlier this month in which commissioners said this situation has to change.

That’s because some residents had become so confused or disgusted by the new recycling rules that they quit recycling even though they generate plenty of material to recycle.

Watch for a new recycling information campaign soon.

Orange Park Impact Fees Dwarf Polk Fees

The Orange County Commission voted this month to increase impact fees significantly to keep up with growth and land costs.

One significant increase was in park impact fees, which are now $1,544 per new home, compared to only $178 in Polk County. Orange County officials said the fee increase was justified because of rising land prices to purchase new parks to serve the county’s growing population.

Polk, by contrast, has purchased land for new parks, but one site in the Lakeland suburbs has remained undeveloped for several years because of lack of funds.

The Polk commission’s five-year moratorium on impact fees and the modest impact fee schedule that was adopted since the moratorium ended still leaves a deficit, it seems.


Women Plan Commemorative Walk Jan. 20 in Highlands County

Organizers of a Women’s Walk in Highlands County Jan. 20 are seeking participants from the region.

The event is planned on the anniversary of the women’s march in Washington D.C. last January.

It will occur around key intersections along U.S. 27 in Avon Park, Sebring and Lake Placid from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

The Avon Park event will be held at the Highway 64 intersection, which is the road leading to downtown Avon Park.

Participants are encouraged to bring signs. One of the issues organizers want to emphasize is environmental justice.

Following the walk, the group plans to hold a rally at the Women’s Club of Sebring, 4260 SW Lakeview Dr. at 12:30 p.m.

For more information, contact Barb Wells at .

Sierra Aids In Forest Plan Update

Marian Ryan of Ancient Islands Sierra Club will be representing environmental interests on an advisory committee helping to recommend language to be included in the 10-year update of the management plan for Lake Wales Ridge State Forest.

The forest, which consists of four units stretching from Lake Arbuckle to Lake Kisimmee, is open to public recreation and contains a diverse list of flora and fauna, including some rare and endangered species.

The plan will be the topic of a series of public meetings Wednesday, Jan. 16, including a public hearing at 11 a.m. at 7510 Red Grange Blvd., Indian Lake Estates. Indian Lake Estates is a subdivision east of Lake Wales on State Road 60.

The plan includes public recreation, land management, ecological restoration, rare species monitoring and forestry management.

The meeting will offer a chance to make suggestions and to educate yourself about the forest, which is little known to many residents in the region.

Public Meetings Planned For Upper Haven Chain Structure Operations

The issue of how much water to keep or release from lakes Fannie, Hamilton, Henry and Smart and upper portions of the Peace Creek Drainage Canal will be the topic of upcoming meetings conducted by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The meetings will be from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 8 and 6 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Chain of Lakes Complex Poolside Room.

The issue arose several years ago over disagreements among Lake Henry residents over those who wanted the lake level lower to drain a low-lying development on one side of the lake and those on higher ground who complained the lake level drop affected navigation.

More recently there has been a proposal to divert water from Lake Henry when its level rose high enough to supplement the level of Lake Eva in Haines City. The proposal was to move the water from farmland along U.S. 27 to an old drainage canal connected to Lake Eva.

Before the meetings, Swiftmud officials plan to meet with Polk County, Winter Haven and Haines City technical staff to get input on the presentation.

One of the interesting questions in this whole exercise is a review of what the rationale is for the entire network of structures in this part of the Peace River Basin and whether their operation and presence still make sense.

That is relevant because there have been times when the rationale for the existence of some Swiftmud structures were that they continued decisions for structure-driven water management by long-defunct drainage districts. That sounds a lot like “Because.”


Polk Struggles With Wind Power Regs

Polk County planners delayed consideration at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting on a proposal to establish rules for development of wind power facilities.

The delay came after planners learned that state law may not allow them to restrict where these facilities.

The original proposal restricted these structures as an accessory use in the least dense land-use categories in the county’s development code.

The case, which was brought to county officials at the request of a nursery owner east of Lake Wales, is now scheduled to be heard Feb. 7.

This case involves only structures that would supply electric power to individuals.

There are no plans at this time to propose regulations to authorize wind farms.