Cronyism And Questions Delay Looser Green Swamp Regs

The reasons behind the effort to loosen lot density requirements in a good section of the portion of the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern in Polk County became clearer during Tuesday’s public hearing before the County Commision.
County Commissioner Neil Combee said the impetus came from some complaints from some fellow Green Swamp property owners who discovered the current regulations would not allow them to create lots to pass on to relatives.
That is because the regulations require 10 acres outside of wetlands ln the less heavily regulated portion of the Green Swamp.
The rest requires 20 acre lots, but one acre of uplands is enough to get a building permit, he said.
That results in situations where someone ay have only, for instance, a 9.8-acre development lot.
His solution to the situation is to simply water down the regulations and use road right-of-way to make up the difference.
Of course. there is another alternative that the bulk of Polk’s property owners who do not have the ear of a county commissioner can pursue. That is to apply for a variance to remedy conditions that prevent an otherwise legal use of one’s property due to conditions beyond their control.
Combee spent some time criticizing the emergence of the tougher regulations over the years in contrast to earlier times when all you needed was one acre as long as you had frontage on a county road.
That was what was known in pre-growth management days as the Rural Conservation zoning category.
One thing to keep in mind in this discussion is that the Area of Critical State Concern classification came about because local zoning regulations were considered too lax to protect the Green Swamp.
You also have to keep in mind that up until a few years before the state imposed the designation that there were not any zoning regulations in unincorporated Polk County at all.
This is an imposition that some people likely still chafe at and the history of growth management in Polk has often been about how to scale back on the regulations..
There was some improvement in the staff presentation Tuesday in which they finally attempted to depict how much of Polk’s portion of the Green Swamp is already protected by conservation easements or outright purchases. Nevertheless the maps were a bit piecemeal and a single comprehensive map would be more helpful
Another aspect of this issue was highlighted by longtime Green Swamp advocate Marian Ryan, conservation chair of Sierra’s Ancient Islands Group.
It is that although protecting water resources was the original justification for protecting the Green Swamp. subsequent research has also revealed its importance as a key hub in a statewide network of wildlife corridors.
She said that fact argues more for increasing protections, not loosening them.
At the end of the discussion and the questions raised by Sierra and others, the proposal was continued to the July 16 meeting where better maps and a more sophisticated approach to the lot-size issue may be on the table.
Posted in Group Conservation Issues.