Dense residential sprawl development should be allowed to move deeper into rural, environmentally sensitive land in the Everglades headwaters, the Polk County Commission decided in a 3-1 vote Tuesday.
The project known as Creek Ranch is a proposed 1,876-unit subdivision that also contains some planned commercial development on the north side of Hatchineha Road between Marigold Avenue and Firetower Road in the eastern edge of Polk County.
Area residents and local environmental activisits opposed the project, citing its incompatibility with surrounding environmental preservation areas, questions about the reliability of water and sewer service and an inadequate road network to handle the thousands of new vehicles the project will eventually put on the road.
In addition, a former Polk County School Board administrator presented documents that showed school officials have been manipulating school capacity numbers at the behest of development lobbyists and their allies in the school administration to avoid building moratoriums because of inadequate school capacity.
But project representatives assured commissioners everything was fine regarding roads and utilities and maintained that the only compatibility that mattered was with adjacent developments, not the environment.
The majority of the commission bought that argument.
Meanwhile, whether the project is ever built is an unanswered question.
Owner Reggie Baxter has also applied to the state and to the Polk County Environmental Lands Program to have his property considered for a conservation easement.
A technical team from Polk County is scheduled to visit the site Sept. 29 to evaluate it.
The technical team’s report will be forwarded to the Conservation Lands Acquisition Selection Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the County Commission.