Cutting Through The Power Line Road Pettifoggery

I read with great interest an article today in The Ledger that trumpeted a seemingly historic partnership between the Polk County and a Winter Haven developer to extend Power Line Road from its terminus at South Boulevard to U.S. 17-92 on Davenport’s north side somewhere around Bargain Barn Road.
As a former radio commentator used to put it, here’s the rest of the story.
The deal was approved last year to reimburse a trio of corporations to extend the road. What was not mentioned at the meeting was that these three corporations were creatures of the Cassidy Group. which owns some landlocked property along the route that the construction of the road extension would make more developable.
In addition to getting paid to build a road to access its property, the Cassidy folks also got road impact fee credits for building a road even though they were being repaid for making the improvement. That’s how things are done in Polk County.
The road extension is going to wipe out the Lewis Matthews ballfields, but officials said there was money coming to relocate the ballfield complex somewhere or other.
Local officials asked the Florida Legislature for $4 million to do that, which legislators approved and Florida Tax Watch put on its recently issued “turkey” list.
The future funding and timing of the relocation project will depend on whether Gov. Ron DeSantis approves or vetoes the expenditure.
Davenport officials hailed the project as a way to reduce through traffic on U.S. 17-92, which has no doubt increased significantly because of population increase, which is ballyhooed in other venues.

It is really unclear how much of that traffic is coming from Power Line Road or Poinciana, which already has an outlet north of Davenport.
The oddest claim by the geography-impaired is that this road, coupled with an unfunded nine-figure plan to extend Power Line southwesterly toward Scenic Highway, will magically reduce traffic congestion on U.S. 27.
Traffic on U.S. 27 has become increasingly congested because of the same growth that congests every other road in the region.
But it is congested because of through traffic and local traffic traveling to destinations along U.’S. 27 or Interstate 4 or beyond.

But what people need to understand is that 50 years ago, when I first arrived to work here, there were only two traffic lights along the entire length of U.S. 27 in Polk County. That’s because there was little development and the dominant land uses along the highway were ranches and citrus groves. Today subdivisions and strip malls predominate.

The idea that there is some magical way to ease the congestion in one place by building another road elsewhere is delusional.

I mean, the claim that some motorists will leave U.S. 27 on a long detour route along the eastern outskirts of Haines City and Davenport to reach U.S. 17-92 and then head north to Ernie Caldwell Boulevard or Ronald Reagan Parkway to make their way back to U.S. 27 strains credibility.

Instead, what this road project is about and what projects such as this have always been about, which is to open more land to development. Additionally, the scenario appears to be an alternative what is an increasingly diminished chance that the eastern leg of the Central Polk Parkway, which was put on the shelf several years ago after the numbers didn’t justify a toll road, will ever be built.

The problem is that a route was once comprised mostly of farmland and forests is now comprised of a sea of rooftops as a result of annexations by Haines City, Davenport and Lake Hamilton.

Turnpike Enterprise officials have tentatively scheduled some public meetings later this year to discuss the project, but it looks more and more that whatever road system is built may be subsidized and maintained by taxpayers rather than tolls.


Another Rural Icon Disappears In Polk

There was once something in Polk County that was an essential part of its rural ambience.
That was the one-lane wooden bridges that greeted motorists who visited the backroads in search of a different experience than they would encounter in the more developed areas of this county.
That era is pretty much over.
This week the Polk County Commission is scheduled to quietly approve an agreement with an Orlando-based developer to replace the second-to-the-last one-lane wooden bridge on a public road in Polk County with a two-lane structure.
This involves the bridge over Horsehoe Creek east of Davenport, which was originally built in 1956.

The developer will pay to reconstruct the bridge and will receive impact fee credits for a project that benefits his development in the first place, but that is how Polk County development regulations work.
That will leave a bridge on the Avon Park Air Force Range as the last of its kind in Polk.
Others, such as the Marion Creek Bridge east of Haines City and the Pony Creek bridge in the Green Swamp were “improved” a decade or so ago.
The new bridge will accommodate traffic from a planned 1,311-unit development proposed by Reedy Creek Isle LLC that will wrap around existing rural homesteads on Horseshoe Creek Road and abut Horse Creek Scrub. the first site purchased by the Polk County Enviornmental Lands Program in the 1990s, and some of the Lake Marion Creek conservation land purchased by the South Florida Water Management District.
The development site will have to deal with endangered species, such as sand skinks and gopher tortoises. Highlands tiger beetles, a species unknown until the 1980s, prowls the open sand adjacent to the site and probably the site itself.
Although Polk County is dealing with the bridge project, the development itself is part of an aggressive expansion of Davenport’s city limits along with the taxpayer- subsidized extension of Power Line Road to the west of this sprawl.


Horse Creek Scrub lies in the lower right portion of this image.

In case you are concerned about this, just relax. The fix is already in. on this project
But it is a cautionary tale that land people once never dreamed would become urbanized will fall to the bulldozer.
That is why the Polk County Environmental Lands Program was and will continue to be important to protect the county’s remaining green spaces.


Davenport Park Relocation To Aid Developer Makes Florida Tax Watch Turkey List

Florida Tax Watch has released its annual list of turkeys–questionable expenditures contained in the state budget–and wouldn’t you know it, a project related to another project mentioned in this space last year made the list.
That would be the $4 million proposed to relocate Lewis Matthews Park on the city’s east side. The park is named in honored of a former elected known for his support of youth sports facilities.
The reason city officials want to relocate the park is because the present location is in the way of a plan by The Cassidy Group, a Winter Haven development company. to extend Powerline Road northwesterly from its current terminus at South Boulevard to U.S. 17-92 near Bargain Barn Road.
That would allow for the development of some landlocked property Cassidy owns.
The road project which the Polk County Commission agreed last year to assist in funding in cooperation with three front corporations related to Cassidy, is already under construction.
The $4 million relocation project was discussed with Davenport officials in 2022. If the money in the budget remains, it would seemingly relieve Cassidy of having to front $2 million for the project costs and would be yet another subsidy for this whole development enterprise at taxpayer expense.
And some political leaders wonder why the public is skeptical of their performance.

Heat And Energy Topics At LULAC Meeting

Last weekend Latino residents from around Central Florida heard about environmental issues related to heat exposure and proposed utility rate increases,
The information came during an all-day conference in Haines City organized by the League of United Latin American Citizens that dealt with a number of issues ranging from voter registration to women entrepreneurs.
The audience heard that the major for-profit electric utilities that serve the area are poised to see a major rate increase in coming months.
The requests will be the topic of in-person and virtual public hearings before the Florida Public Service Commission.
Members representatives from the Alianza Center in Orlando discussed the impact of higher temperatures brought by climate change on communities.
They said the problem will worsen in coming decades and speculated at some point the heat will become so extreme it could deter tourists from visiting Florida.
The heat could also be devastating to people with health problems and people living from paycheck to paycheck that could face challenges from higher utility bills/
It is important, they said, for people in the various communities together and discuss how to become more resilient.
For more information on the Alianza Center, go to https://alianzacenter.org/ . To learn more about LULAC, go to https://lulac.org/ .

FDOT Plans Collier-Polk Trail Meetings

The Florida Department of Transportation is planning a series of open houses to provide information and get public feedback on a proposed 210-mile multi-use trail between Lakeland and Naples.

This is one of a number of regional trails that are in the planning stage around the state to promote ecotourism, connect towns and offer opportunities to visit heritage sites and sections of the Florida wildlife corridor.

The schedule for the meetings, which will run from 5 to 7 p.m. is:

–May 29: Hardee County Agri-Civic Center, 515 Civic Center Drive, Wauchula.

–May 30: Highlands Hammock State Park Recreation Hall, 5931 Hammock Road, Sebring.

–June 4: Florida Department of Transporation Conference Room, 801 N. Broadway Avenue. Bartow.

Hype Collides With Reality On Climate Stats

Once again some of the national media have trumpeted the claim that last month was the hottest ever,but local statistics belie that claim.

Accordiing to the National Weather Service,  April in Lakeland was either the 51st coolest or the 57th warmest  April on record.

Records dating to 1915 show there were warmer Aprils in 1922 and 1929.

In Bartow, whose weather records date to  1892, the hottest April so far occurred in 1908. This year ranked 82nd on the warming scale.

It may have been warmer somewhere, but local data do not indicate cause for alarm.

Frankly the data may lead people to wonder whether someone is cooking the books to promote their personal agenda.

Soon The Pretense Of Recycling Will End In Polk, But Costs Will Go Up Anyway  

Polk County has never been particularly enthusiastic about promoting recycling.

It was viewed primarily as an inconvenience  tied to state recycling goals that seemed to have gone by the wayside after Chinese officials decided a few years ago that they would no longer be the world’s garbage can.

On Oct 1, the end of curbside recycling in unincorporated Polk County  will become official. Some cities are expected to continue their service.

The word “Recycling” will no longer be part of the logo on county-funded  garbage trucks.

It is nice to see truth in advertising.

If you have cardboard boxes and steel and aluminum cans you want to get rid of, you will be on your own.

Glass, which has its uses where markets exist, has not been in the mix lately.

Ditto for plastic, which is pretty much unrecyclable, despite propaganda from the bottlers and the chemical industry you may see on television and other media.  

At a recent work session, county staffers discussed how they were going to try to inform the public about the end of recycling.

Probably what they ought to spend more time on is explaining why although the money-losing recycling program is going away, garbage rates that will appear on you tax bill will increase 63 percent and will increase annually from now on to keep up with inflation.  

The public is already starting to notice, according to posts on social media.

The budget hearings later this year could be interesting.