Loosening Green Swamp Development Regulations Draws Pushback

A proposal by county planners that could potentially create more than 1,000 new lots for development in the Polk County section of the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern drew some pushback Wednesday during a hearing before the Polk County Planning Commission.
State officials classified 295,000 acres of the 512,000-acre Green Swamp–189,000 acres in Polk County and 106,000 acres in Lake County–in 1974 as an area of critical state concern because it contains the high point in the Floridan aquifer and serves as the headwaters for five rivers.
The designation arose over the concern that local officials lacked the ability or the will to adequately protect the area from unregulated development.
Wednesday’s hearing involved a staff proposal to adjust the density requirements, especially for property that contains wetlands, to make it consistent with land outside the protected area.
Ancient Islands Chair Tom Palmer questioned the impact because although staff had claimed the results would be minimal, they produced no maps depicting the effect of the proposed change.
Palmer also questioned why the staff used comparisons of county regulations in counties outside the critical area to advocate for the change.
Some Planning Commission members questioned why the change was even necessary, especially since no such change had occurred in Lake County.
Member Adam Bass also pointed out that the Green Swamp lies with the Florida Wildlife Corridor, and it seems inconsistent to encourage more development there.
In the end, the commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval to the County Commission, which will consider the proposed change on June 18 and Sept. 3.

Posted in Group Conservation Issues.