Recycling Market Changes Coming To Polk

Expect some changes in recycling later this year.

You will no longer be asked to put glass bottles and jars in the recycling containers in unincorporated Polk County.

The change will begin Oct. 1.

There has been some pushback from the public on the end to glass recylcing, but that pushback ignores the economics of recycling.

Recyclable materials are commodities the same as oil, oranges, and any other product whose prices are set by the market.

The standards for what materials end users will accept is changing, too.

Glass breaks and contaminates loads of other materials, making them less marketable.

Elsewhere in Florida, the market is causing other changes.

In Orange County, county officials are now charging cities to process recyclables at a rate higher than it would cost them to simply dispose of it in the county landfill, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Orange officials cite the lower market prices for recyclable materials for the move.

Some prices have recovered somewhat from the low prices that were being paid during the economic recession.

Others, such as iron, are half what they were a few years ago when there was heavy demand from China before its economy ran into problems.

Despite the changes, recycling generally uses less energy than producing new products from raw materials.

If you haven’t been recycling, consider starting. It is worth the effort and will become more convenient with the advent of recycling carts instead of recycling bins.

There’s still no word from county officials about turning in the old recycling bins. Stay tuned.

Mosaic Peace River Park Expansion On Agenda

A proposal to donate 32 acres to Polk County to allow for the expansion of public recreation facilities is on the County Commission agenda for next Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The property being donated by FMP Groves lies between the existing park property and the railroad line along U.S. 17-98.

According to the agenda backup, the land could be used to expand a flight area used radio-controlled aircraft hobbyists and could be the location for a disc golf course.

The park’s other facilities include a trail system used by hikers and equestrians and an extensive boardwalk system in the Peace River floodplain that provides two access points to the river for fishing and nature viewing.

The park’s entrances are on County Road 640.

In other park-related developments, Polk officials are working with TECO on the construction of a reclaimed water pipeline through a portion of Loyce Harpe Park in Mulberry. The water will be shipped to TECO’s Polk Power Station.

Should Water Management District Boards Be Elected?

The idea that any government body with taxing authority should elected comes up from time to time.

The latest salvo came in a guest commentary written by Sanibel City Councilman Chauncy Goss that was published in Eco-Voice Daily, an online compilation of articles and commentary from south Florida.

He specifically mentioned the unelected members of Florida’s five water management districts. All are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate.

The makeup and method of selection of the water management district boards is now governed by state law.

The water management districts’ ability to levy property taxes was authorized by a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1976.

The districts have the authority to levy varying amounts of property taxes ranging from between 5 cents per $1,000 of taxable value in the Panhandle to $1 per $1,000 of taxable value in the Tampa Bay area.

The idea of whether the boards should be elected instead of appointed has been discussed in the past.

The idea of having elected boards was rejected because it could lead to decisions based on short-term political considerations rather than long-term sustainability, the winning argument went.

This does not mean that there is no politics in water policy decisions.

Board appointments often reflect the politics of whoever sits in the governor’s mansion and that affects board policies.

That includes tax rates, staffing levels and environmental permitting.




Lake Ashton Expansion Revives Road Capacity Questions

Winter Haven officials are poised, after a slight delay, to approve the next major expansion of the Lake Ashton development along Thompson Nursery Road in a formal rural and now booming suburban corridor along the Winter Haven-Lake Wales boundary.

As the vote approaches, some area residents such as former County Commissioner Jean Reed are asking how this project will affect traffic on the two-lane road when up to 1,747 new homes are built and sold out there.

In an exchange of emails involving Reed and county and city staff, county officials acknowledged there are no current plans to widen Thompson Nursery Road or to make any further intersection improvements within the next five years.

The main intersections that would be affected by the expansion are Ruby Lake Drive and U.S. 27.

County officials assured everyone there is adequate traffic capacity and that isn’t expected to change within the next five years.

Discussion of the widening and realigning of Thompson Nursery Road/Eloise Loop Road has been under way for several years, but Polk County officials have never come up with the tens of millions of dollars the project would cost.

It was one of the projects money from an additional half-cent sales tax proposed in was expected to fund. Voters rejected the tax.

Supreme Court Upholds Land-Use Limits

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an important ruling last week on the issue of when are local environmental regulations restricting development not a taking.

This issue involved a Wisconsin case over restrictions on riverfront development on a designated Wild and Scenic River.

The 40-page decision was decided by a 5-3 vote. Justice Gorsuch did not participate in the case.

The takings issue has been sometimes a factor in Florida zoning cases since the passage of Bert Harris Act, which laid out standards for when government regulations might go too far.

Sometimes the fear of provoking a claim under the law has been used to temper local zoning actions.

Perhaps this Supreme Court ruling will bring the pendulum back into balance.

The core issue is when regulations constitute a government taking of private property, which the Bill of Rights of U.S. Constitution bans without proper compensation.

One of the key principles is whether the regulations deprive private property owners of all beneficial use of their property or whether instead it restricts use for a proper public purpose.

The court majority ruled there was no taking because the property owners retained development rights, just not as many as they wanted.

Swiftmud Events Coming Up

The Southwest Florida Water Management District has scheduled a couple of events of local interest.

The monthly Governing Board meeting will be held Tuesday, June 27, at 9 a.m. at its Brooksville headquarters.

Items of local interest include a consent order with Conhagen Properties in the Mulberry industrial park for permit violations and approval of an easement to allow for the construction of a new boat ramp on Saddle Creek to allow boat access to Lake Hancock.

The Polk County Commission approved the agreement Tuesday (June 20).

Polk County officials expect to have the boat ramp completed by early next year.

On July 12, Swiftmud officials will hold a public meeting at Lake Wales City Hall from 5:30 to 7 p.m. to receive comments on a proposal to set levels on Lake Easy.

As Economy Rebounds, Conservation Lands Tax Talk Revives

Commissioners in Collier County are discussing raising taxes this year to revive its local conservation land preservation program called Conservation Collier, the Naples Daily News reports.

The move comes at a time when the public is still waiting for the Florida Legislature to implement the voters’ intent in a 2014 constitutional amendment to restart the Florida Forever program to acquire and protect land for conservation to finish the job begun in the 1980s.

The lack of state conservation land funding affects local conservation land programs because it can provide matching funds for land purchases.

Polk’s conservation land funding was diverted to road expansion and parks funding , which suffered from the five-year impact fee moratorium.

There has been no talk of restoring funding.

Activists are working on a campaign to persuade legislators to approve funding for the program rather diverting the money to cover routine operating expenses or projects unrelated to conservation preservation.

The plan will be discussed in a webinar Wednesday organized by 1000 Friends of Florida, featuring former Gov. Bob Graham.

Go to 1000 Friends’ website for details.