Sierra Continues Opposition To Polk’s Proposed Looser Green Swamp Development Rules

Ancient Islands Group has forwarded comments to the Florida Department of Commerce to protest a proposal by the Polk County Commission to loosen development density regulations in the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern.
The Department of Commerce oversees development proposals in the state’s areas of critical state concern in the aftermath of the abolition of the Florida Department of Community Affairs during the Rick Scott administration that reduced most state review of local growth-management decisions.
What Polk County is proposing is to allow easier development on parcels containing wetlands by allowing more density transfers from wetlands areas and using parts of county rights of way to make up for lots that fall short of the required acreage.
The measure is being pushed by County Commissioner Neil Combee on behalf of some of his neighbors along Rock Ridge Road.
Ancient Islands Sierra proposes changing the county development code instead to allow variances in cases of hardship. This would allow the claims to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis rather than giving wholesale exemptions that could potentially allow hundreds of new homes to be developed in this area that is important to the region’s water supplies and regional movement of wildlife through a network of statewide corridors.

State Wants More Info On Polk Septic Plan

County commissioners delayed action Tuesday on a plan to reduce septic tank pollution in eastern and southwest Polk County.
That is because state officials want the plan to include more specific information about how exactly Polk officials plan to bring central sewer treatment to areas served by septic tanks.
Polk’s proposed ordinance talks about reducing pollution–mostly involving nitrogen discharges–in these areas of Polk County that affect the Peace. Kissimmee and Alafia river basins through tougher standards for new development.
However, Polk’s plan does not directly address the idea of converting areas to central sewer service.
The state comments seek specific information on what sewer service is available now, what its treatment capacity is and what that capacity is likely to be 20 years from now
This comes at a time when Polk utility officials are proposing long-delayed updates-sewer rates had been reviewed since 2014–in water and sewer rates to pay for needed expansion of services in unincorporated Polk County.
County commissioners have tentatively scheduled a hearing on the updated septic conversion ordinance for Sept. 17.

Estimated Tax Roll Means More $ For Environmental Lands

Polk County Property Appraiser Marsha Faux recently released the tentative 2024 estimated tax roll.
It is good news for the Polk County Enviornmental Lands Program.
It will mean the budgeted funds from the voter-approved tax will increase from this year’s $11.3 million to an estimated $12.6 million in next year’s budget, which will take effect Oct. 1.
So far Polk County has received about 25 proposals involving more than 11,000 acres and forwarded them to the CLASAC committee for review and to make recommendation to the County Commission.
Most of the proposals have been recommended for further staff review.
This involves determining whether the landowner is interested in selling the property outright or selling a conservation easement. From there the discussion will include whether the county and the property owner can agree on a purchase price and whether the county can work with partners, such as water management districts, to raise the funds to complete a proposed deal.
Final approval of all purchases rests with the County Commission.