If you thought plans for ramming new highways through preservation lands in southern Osceola County near the edge of Polk County were dead, think again.
The Central Florida Expressway Authority recently circulated a notice to local elected officials about plans to reopen the conceptual study of four projects that together would create an outer beltway miles south of State Road 417, the so-called Green Way (well, it was still green out there when the road was built).
The studies will be ongoing and will wrap up sometime next year.
The four proposed toll roads are:
Poinciana Parkway extension to I-4.
Northeast Osceola Connection.
Osceola Expressway Extension.
Altogether, the network would run for 52 miles through some still largely undeveloped sections of lands near existing conservation lands. The main concerns are that the roads would cut through prime habitat for listed species and would make prescribed fire more difficult because of smoke management issues.
In addition, as we have seen from the changes along SR 417 over the years, these roads become development magnets that will attract more urban sprawl into the Everglades headwaters.
Polk County officials have filed an appeal of the May 10 ruling that rejected most of the county’s code enforcement efforts to shut down BS Ranch & Farm over odor problems and for operating without proper county zoning permits.
The appeal filed last week contends the special magistrate erred in claiming county officials should have known there would be odor problems, in requiring the county to prove beyond a reasonable doubt rather than based on the preponderance of evidence that BS Ranch was the source of the odor complaints and failing to enforce Polk’s development regulations.
Polk officials are seeking to impose thousands of dollars in fines for the violations.
No date for the appeal hearing has been set.
Meanwhile, efforts are under way to restart an unrelated soil manufacturing plant in Haines City that was built adjacent to the city’s sewer plant, The Ledger reports.. The soil plant has been the subject of numerous odor complaints from surrounding property owners. I have smelled objectionable odors while driving near the plant.
Finally, St Lucie County officials are poised to approve a comprehensive ordinance governing composing operations as the end of a temporary moratorium on such plants ends soon.
That ordinance requires plants to be located indoors with adequate odor control equipment and requires plant owners to poste adequate bonds to cover the cost of any cleanups if the operation goes south. It is a good example of what Polk County could have done and may still do.
The scrub ecosystems of the Lake Wales Ridge and other prehistoric desert island chains in Central Florida are truly unique and still offer the potential for new discoveries.
Saturday Dr. Jim Carrell, who has been visiting Archbold Biological Station to conduct research for the past half century, will present his reflections on the area in general and some of his specific work studying spiders and insects at 3 p.m. in the East Meeting Room at Archbold . The lecture is free and open to the public.
Dr. Carrel began his research at Archbold in 1967. He has made more than 70 visits to Archbold. He, studied more than 26 animal species in a variety of research projects and published 30 scientific papers based on that work.
Dr. Carrel will give his talk in two parts. The first part will focus on his many interactions with station founder Richard Archbold, and Thomas Eisner, a former research associate at Archbold from Cornell University. The second part will focus on some of his research focused on spiders and insects..
Archbold Biological Station is an independent, not-for-profit research facility and lies within the Northern Everglades, the lands that drain south into Lake Okeechobee. Archbold’s mission is to build and share the scientific knowledge needed to protect the life, lands, and waters of the heart of Florida and beyond.
Archbold Biological Station is 8 miles south of Lake Placid. The entrance is 1.8 miles south of SR 70 on Old SR 8.
The Florida Legislature’s inaction on implementing the voter approved Land and Water Legacy constitutional amendment and what citizens can do in response will be the topic of a free webinar June 21 organized by 1000 Friends of Florida.
This is the latest in a series of excellent online webinars the organization has put together to educate the public about this and other important issues relating to conservation, growth management and other important topics.
To sign up, go to this link.
Amendment 1, as the measure is often referred to, passed with an overwhelming majority in the 2014 general election.
Its purpose was to restart the stalled Florida Forever program to finish the job of preserving what’s left of Florida’s natural areas with an emphasis on completing the protection of key wildlife corridors that stretch from the Everglades to the Panhandle.
The money to do this would come from the allocation of a portion of state documentary tax revenue from real estate transactions for the next 20 years.
Since the amendment’s approval Florida legislators have refused to fund the program as voters directed them. Instead, the money has been diverted to pay for routine agency operating expenses or siphoned off for pork barrel public works projects to develop water projects to advance development.
Some legislators have also tried to take advantage of the ballot amendment’s broad language to argue this spending is justified even though it is clear that was not the voter intent.
Meanwhile, the development machine is cranking up again and it’s only a matter of time before some of the land needed for conservation will no longer be available.
Just for the record, the approval percentage for that constitutional referendum in our area was:
Polk: 69.3 percent
Highlands: 69.5 percent
Hardee: 59.9 percent
DeSoto: 63.9 percent
Sumter: 69.6 percent
Lake: 70.3 percent
Our so-called represntatives should be reminded often of this.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District has ordered lawn irrigation restricted to one day a week because of the ongoing drought.
The scattered showers this week were welcome, but the current conditions will continue until there is adequate sustained rainfall.
This typically occurs from late June to late September.
This underscores the wisdom of landscaping with native plants that can generally cope with weather extremes, provided they are planted in the right location.
Meanwhile, there is still a countytwide burn ban, which includes campfire.
In addition, Swiftmud has restricted vehicle access to many of its recreational lands because of the danger hot vehicle parts could inadvertently spark a wildfire.
I watched the first public hearing in St. Lucie County to consider the county’s first-ever ordinance regulating commercial composting plants.
The crowd there and planning commissioners didn’t share the optimistic assertion contained in the Polk County staff report accompanying December’s permit hearing for BS Ranch & Farm.
“There is no data to suggest that the soil manufacturing facility will be detrimental to the surrounding environment if developed according to the County’s standards,” the Polk staff report read.
One topic that generated a lot discussion at the St. Lucie hearing was how high a bond any applicant should post to guarantee enough money to clean up the site if the owners abandon it.
Polk’s ordinance doesn’t include such a requirement. That allowed BS Ranch’s reps to argue against a shutdown for serial code violations at the code enforcement hearing, raising the specter about the undesirable impact of their shutdown while tons of material remained unprocessed .
If there were financial responsibility provisions in Polk’s ordinance, that argument would be less persuasive.
Although it doesn’t apply to the Eaton Park plant site, a Florida Farm Bureau represented raised an issue that should be considered in an agricultural county such as Polk—food safety—if anyone proposes to build one of these plants .
It seems that there’s a consensus that crops being grown around these plants might be hard to sell because of the contamination threat.
There was another bear sighting in an urban area of Polk County Monday in a neighborhood in northeast Winter Haven between Lake Martha and Lake Elbert.
This is the latest in a series of recent bear sightings in Polk County that have occurred in the Winter Haven area since 2004, when a bear was treed in Inwood. There have also been reports in the past couple of years from the Dave nport and Poinciana areas as bear populations recover and young bears head out looking for unoccupied territories.
Many of the bear sightings in eastern Polk County involve bears dispersing along the Lake Wales Ridge from a population in southern Highlands and northern Glades counties.
Sightings in northwest Polk County, such as the ones at Colt Creek State Park, probably involve bears from Withlacoochee State Forest.
So what do you do if you see a bear in your yard or anywhere else?
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission offers advice on human-bear encounters.
It also provides information for living in areas where bears are more likely to be present.
Generally, FWC officials advise not deliberately (that’s a crime) or inadvertently providing food sources for bears, which have a strong sense of smell.
Also, as with any wildlife, give them space so they can move away from where you are.
FWC staffers set up a baited cage in the yard near the tree where the bear was seeking refuge in hopes of luring it down whenever it became hungry and moving it to a safer, less stressful location.
If you would like to learn more about bears in Florida, FWC has a lot of information on its website.