Wildwood Sprawl Taking Over Proposed Conservation Lands

Wildwood officials are poised June 8 to consider adoption of a growth plan amendment that will turn most of a 12,512-acre ranch that was once proposed for conservation purchase into the newest section of The Villages. A large group of residents oppose the plan change and opposed the annexation that led to it.

The Villages, in case you are unfamiliar with the area, is an upscale retirement community that occupies parts of Lake, Sumter and Marion counties.

The new development is the result of the latest southward annexation by the city, which has been converted from what was once a small community at the crossroads of highways and railroads into a city that sprawls past communities such as Coleman and Sumtervillle deep into rural areas of central Sumter County a few miles east of Bushnell.

This provides an example of the lower oversight of growth decisions by the state in recent years.

The annexation and subsequent development has been opposed by a group called Save Rural Sumter, which has raised concerns about how the amount of development proposed for the site—14,455 homes, 1.8 million square feet of commercial development and 110,000 square feet of government building space—will stress the water supply, which is stressed in many other parts of central Florida.

In addition, opponents argued the property lies in an area critical for wildlife movement and provides important habitat.

Preservation of the land was proposed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, but land-acquisition funds were cut over the past decade. Additionally, Sumter County officials opposed the purchase, according to correspondence on file at the district.



Polk Proposes Its Own Mt. Trashmore

Mt. Trashmore was a well-publicized high-rise landfill that loomed over what was once a rural area of Broward County that rose from 10 feet to 225 feet above ground level.

Polk County solid waste and planning staffers are proposing a plan that would eventually dwarf that trash pile.

The proposal is to allow landfills in Polk County to be as tall as 480 feet above ground level. The Polk County Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the proposal on Monday.

The elevation puts it slightly below an elevation that would require approval by the Federal Aviation Administration as a potential hazard to aircraft.

The change will go before the County Commission next month.

The idea is to allow for future expansion of the landfill on the outskirts of the Winter Haven-Lakeland area near Kossuthville well into the future.

It would also apply to private landfills, such as the Innovation Industrial Park south of Mulberry, according to the staff report, which has a county land-use permit and a pending state environmental permit.

The idea behind the proposal, according to the county staff report, is to eliminate the need for future landfills in Polk County. Some were proposed several years ago, but were not approved.

Takeaways From Latest MCORES Webinar Technology Panel: It Won’t Be Cheap Or Ready Anytime Soon

More widespread application of emerging technologies to promote connected and autonomous vehicles are still far in the future is t he reality despite some of the hype that was used to argue for the construction of new toll roads through rural Florida corridors.

That was one of the important takeaways from the latest webinar designed to advance the discussion of plans to build a network of toll roads from the edge of the Everglades to the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Another takeaway was implementing this technology, which is the focus of a lot of public and privately funded research, will be expensive.

That’s because the infrastructure along with the support system—maintenance, power supplies, staffing, technology upgrades—all carry high capital and operating costs.

Additionally, the technology is still perhaps 15 years away from being fully developed, a webinar expert explained.

The big picture idea behind this effort is to create a system that helps traffic to move more smoothly and safely, though there was an admission that all of the technology being considered cannot totally overcome the variability of human behavior.

Meanwhile, a report in today’s New York Times reveals that research on this technology is facing additional delays because of the coronavirus epidemic because it prevents two people from occupying a vehicle to conduct some of the testing. There is no word on when conditions will allow that kind of hands-on research to resume.

Finally, though the discussion of this new technology, similar to an earlier technical presentation of expanding fiber networks for broadband, did a good job of explaining the benefits of the new technology, it never really presented a convincing argument about why spending $10 billion for this new road network is vital for advancing either technology.

Following the formal presentations, critics once again criticized the use of the webinar format because it is less transparent and has created a situation where some staff discussions are occurring out of public view without providing an opportunity to comment.



TECO Plans More Solar In Polk

Tampa Electric continues is plans to expand its solar power infrastructure in Polk County.

The latest proposal involves another 74.9-megawatt facility on a site south of State Road 60 near the intersection of Coronet Road west of Mulberry. The property appears to be former cropland.

Relatively undeveloped areas in southwest Polk have been the site of several other TECO solar facilities. An attempt to build a solar farm in Lake Alfred was rebuffed by officials there who opted for rooftops, not solar panels in former citrus groves at the edge of the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern.

TECO serves the Mulberry, Auburndale and Lake Alfred areas of Polk County.

The utility is also building solar farms in neighboring Hillsborough County as part of its effort to expand its green energy portfolio.

What If The Voters Had A Say On Those Toll Roads To Nowhere?

If the planned system of toll roads stretching from the Everglades to the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp were put to a popular vote, I wonder how it would do.

I was thinking about that after listening to another round of public comments last week at the conclusion of a brief online meeting of the task force appointed to come up with recommendations that would set the stage for building some sort of highway between Lakeland and Naples.

There’s another toll road proposed between Tampa and the Georgia border somewhere between Tallahassee and Jacksonville.

I mention an election because as it turns out, the coronavirus outbreak that has closed down much of Florida has also moved the deadline for the completion of the task force reports to sometime after the general election in November.

I wonder how many people challenging incumbent members of the Florida Legislature will make the vote to approve this boondoggle or a vote to repeal it a campaign issue.

If the public comments following the meeting are any measure of popular sentiment, I’d say it might be worth a shot because there was nearly unanimous opposition from the public.

The only support is coming from the road-building and development lobbies, who represent special interests.


Some State, County Parks Open; Roads To Ruin Site Launched

Just to catch everyone up on what’s happening while we’re holed up at home.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced some park openings beginning Monday. The only parks in this area that will be open will be the Gen. James Van Fleet Trail and Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek State Park. Polk County reopened its environmental lands sites Friday.

South Florida Water Management District recreation lands in this part of the state remain closed, but the Southwest Florida Water Management District sites remain open except for camping.

Meanwhile, the No Roads To Ruin Coalition has launched a site to provide the latest information and commentary on the plan to jam new toll roads through rural areas of Florida from the Everglades to the Okeefenokee. You can see the site at noroadstoruin.org .