For immediate release - Feb. 24, 2005
TAVARES — After hearing more than two and half hours of testimony Tuesday, the Lake County Board of County Commissioners unanimously denied a rezoning request to the joy of several dozen applauding citizens.
If approved, the rezoning would have allowed property owners of a 200-acre parcel on State Road 46 near Sorrento to develop the tract with more than 500 homes. By denying the request, County Commissioners helped protect the integrity of the Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act.
Signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush last year, the legislation provides protection of the environmentally sensitive Wekiva River basin that stretches along the eastern border of Lake County while outlining a plan to develop a toll road that cuts through Lake County from Interstate 4 in Seminole County to State Road 429 in Orange County.
Lake County Planning & Community Design staff recommended the Board deny the rezoning request based on a series of factors, including the “overriding public interest” for the Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act to succeed. Labeled as an “essential property” for toll road acquisition plans, the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority lobbied the Board to deny the rezoning request, which would give expressway authority officials more time to negotiate with the property owners.
The Board of County Commissioners weighed the arguments from both proponents and opponents of the rezoning request before levying their decision. Ultimately, Commissioner Catherine Hanson said the request was “too high of zoning,” and openly questioned what the intent was for requesting a R-6 zoning classification of one to five units per acre in a generally rural area of the County.
In the end, commissioners Welton Cadwell and Bob Pool said it was wise for environmentalists to couple their efforts to the transportation project.
“It is a win-win situation all the way around for Central Florida motorists and environmentalists,” Pool said.
The County Commission was not only applauded by citizens for their decision Tuesday, but letters of gratitude also poured in following the meeting.
“As expressed by so many [Feb. 22], the Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act is an outstanding regional commitment to the future of Central Florida,” wrote Keith Schue, Wekiva Issue Chairman for Central Florida Sierra Club, in an e-mail addressed to the Board of County Commissioners. “Lake County has been a leader in that collaborative effort, truly demonstrating what can be achieved when a region comes together to solve transportation needs while protecting the environment.”
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