Click a heading below to read more

6/5/24 Public Lands Bond Referendum Letter

June 5, 2024                                                                                                                                   VIA EMAIL

Lake County Board of County Commissioners

315 West Main Street

Tavares, FL 32778-4407

Mr. Kirby Smith, Chair, District 3                 

Mr. Douglas B. Shields, Vice-Chair, District 1

Mr. Sean Parks, District 2                              

Ms. Leslie Campione, District 4                    

Mr. Josh Blake, District 5                              

RE: Public Lands Bond Referendum


Dear Chair Smith and County Commissioners:


The Lake County Conservation Council, Inc. has received the draft ordinance prepared by Attorney Melanie Marsh concerning the Public Lands Bond Referendum.  We are generally pleased with the language, but we have some suggestions regarding Section 8, which deals with the creation of the Public Lands and Trails Acquisition Advisory Committee.  Under Section 8, the first sentence of section 2-131 (c) states as follows:

The PLTAAC will recommend spending policies from the 2024 referendum that generally achieve a project 50/50 funding balance between natural, passive use lands, and lands used for trail connectivity. 

This language could be interpreted to allow funding for active parks on lands purchased for trail connectivity.  We suggest that a provision be added specifying that none of the funds may be used to acquire or maintain active parks. 

We also suggest that a funding split not be specified.  The Committee may recommend that trail connectivity occur along the edge of natural, passive use lands. The ordinance specifies eight purposes for the funds; these purposes may align with natural, passive use lands or trail connectivity or both. The funding needed for a particular project will depend upon how much money is available from other sources.  For all these reasons, we believe that the Committee should have the freedom to recommend the best use of the funds.  The County Commission, of course, will still retain the power to accept or reject the recommendation. 

Thank you for your consideration of our suggestions.  




Jane L. Hepting

Jane L. Hepting, President 

Lake County Conservation Council, Inc.


cc: Attorney Melanie Marsh                         


Letter to BCC re Public Lands Bond Money 6 5 24

6/1/24 Vote NO on Amendment 2 - Right to Hunt and Fish

Please Vote “No” on the “Right to Fish and Hunt” Amendment

The Lake County Conservation Council, Inc. urges Floridians to vote “No” this fall on the proposed “Right to Fish and Hunt” amendment to our State Constitution. According to the Florida Legislature, this amendment would “preserve forever fishing and hunting, including by the use of traditional methods, as a public right and preferred means of responsibly managing and controlling fish and wildlife.”  

At present, our Florida Constitution preserves many rights, including the right to bear arms, and creates the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, but it does not create a right to fish and hunt.  Creating such a constitutional right is a bad idea for three reasons.

First, the language of the proposed “Right to Fish and Hunt” amendment is very broad and therefore difficult to interpret.  Does “public right” mean that hunters can pursue their quarry across protected conservation lands and across private property?   Will foreign ships have the right to fish in Florida’s rivers?  Does “use of traditional methods” include methods that are now illegal, such as the use of gill nets?  Does declaring that fishing and hunting are the “preferred means of responsibly managing and controlling fish and wildlife” weaken the ability of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to implement other solutions, such as creating wildlife corridors? 

Second, Floridians already have the right to fish and hunt.  Florida statute 379.104 provides: 

The Legislature recognizes that hunting, fishing, and the taking of game are a valued part of the cultural heritage of Florida and should be forever preserved for Floridians. The Legislature further recognizes that these activities play an important part in the state’s economy and in the conservation, preservation, and management of the state’s natural areas and resources. Therefore, the Legislature intends that the citizens of Florida have a right to hunt, fish, and take game, subject to the regulations and restrictions prescribed by general law and by s. 9, Art. IV of the State Constitution.

Third, inserting a right to fish and hunt into our State Constitution is problematic.  Our Florida Constitution should guarantee our most important civil rights.  As our human population increases and our animal population decreases, the wisdom of having a “forever right” to fish and hunt may diminish.  The need to protect human safety and to preserve animal species could eventually outweigh the economic benefit and the recreational value of hunting and fishing in certain locations, at certain times, and under certain circumstances.  If that day comes, a future Florida Legislature should not be limited in its response to a crisis by an unnecessary constitutional provision that is very difficult to change.  

Please vote “No” on the proposed “Right to Fish and Hunt” amendment this fall.  It will appear as amendment 2 on your ballot.  

Amendment 2 – right to hunt and fish

5/9/24 Letter to the Editor of the North Lake Outpost in favor of the public lands referendum

Thank you for reporting on this fall’s ballot question about land preservation in Lake County. I am pleased that our county commissioners have approved asking voters if they want to continue paying a small real estate tax to finance setting aside land for conservation and recreation purposes. The ballot process is called a referendum.

 In 2004, a similar public lands referendum was approved by 71% of Lake County voters and was in effect for 20 years.  According to Lake County’s website, the referendum allowed Lake County government to acquire over 3,400 acres of land for the creation of wonderful properties including PEAR Park, Ferndale Preserve, Green Mountain Scenic Overlook and Trailhead, and Pine Meadows Conservation Area.  

 The stated purpose of the 2004 referendum was to finance the cost of the acquisition and improvement of land to protect drinking water sources, improve the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams, protect open space from overdevelopment, provide for connectivity between wildlife corridors, provide parks, sports fields, trails and recreation areas, and preserve natural areas.  

 Our need to set aside land for conservation is much greater in 2024 than in 2004 because of population growth and climate change. When we replace farms, forests, and wetlands with rooftops, sidewalks, and streets, we destroy wildlife habitat, decrease air quality, increase air temperature, increase flooding, increase pollution from stormwater runoff, and interfere with the return of filtered water back into our aquifer.  

 I urge Lake County voters to vote in favor of the public lands referendum this fall.


Jane Hepting


5/10/24 Tips for Challenging Land Development Proposals


Please note: LCCC cannot give legal advice and urges consulting an ATTORNEY to find out the best way to challenge a land development proposal.  In addition, LCCC may only have capacity to provide volunteer support to research proposed amendments to Comprehensive Plans related to Rural Protection Areas, as these are priority areas of conservation.

ALERT– Notify LCCC if you see any news, an onlinenotification, or physically Posted Notice, from the county or city of a proposed ordinance or amendment about a land site that concerns you. Notify your neighbors, your HOA, and your friends.

INVESTIGATE– Research the land use rules from the city and the county, and the history of the parcel. The Comprehensive Land Use Plan (Comp Plan) is the main general governing document, and the Land Development Regulations (LDRs) are the supporting detailed documents. Both are tailored to each jurisdiction.  LDRs can be waived, the Comp Plan cannot! However, comp plans can be amended after a longer process. These documents are often posted on the city or county site.

Here is the link to the Lake County Comp Plan (When you click on this link it is a pdf file.):

 Here is the link to Lake County‘s LDRs (Note that they are called Code of Ordinances and these are usually posted on line under the Municode Library.):

 If you cannot find municipal documents online, you could ask the municipality to download the documents onto your flash drive.  

 Common aspects of a developer’s plan that may go against the Comp Plan and/or LDRs include density, setbacks, building height, size or shape of retention ponds. If you are unsure about the rules, ask if LCCC can review them to be sure.

If a plan meets all the governing body’s regulations, it might be adopted without public meetings.

EDUCATE– Write an email to the governing entity: city council members, county commissioners, county attorney, city attorney, and city development services planning & development director. The email should notify them of the concerns and FACTS about the history and land use rules/codes. You may want to ask them to DELAY or MODIFY the notice of the public hearing or decision meeting until the rules and codes are met.

* Facts, Codes, and Laws make your request more powerful. An agenda item cannot be denied due to emotional pleas.

PROTECT– Send an email to or call state and local conservation organizations that might have an interest in purchasing or protecting the land. These might be The Nature Conservancy, Florida Forever Program, Water Management District, Florida Fish and Wildlife, etc. Tell them about the size and location of the parcel.

Find out the name of the owner and real estate agent. Contact them to let them know about the conservation agencies, and that selling to developers might not be their only option.

STAY AWARE– Keep informed about the next steps of the county/ city decision making, so you can continue to be engaged on any future decisions about the parcel.

PERSIST and HOPE– Even if the city or county tells you it’s a losing fight, or that there are only two bad choices, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes they are hoping you go away, and sometimes, they simply aren’t aware of the land use rules and codes. Each jurisdiction is short on time and resources to look at the details. At times, they check the LDRs, and don’t review the Comp Plan. Or they see the development proposal “mostly” meets the regulations or the “intent” of those regulations. Unless citizens point out the inconsistencies, they go unchecked.

Keep persisting, keep educating, keep questioning. It isn’t over until it’s over.

4/1/24 Letter to Lake County BCC re Hillcrest Planned Unit Development near Sorrento

April 01, 2024           VIA EMAIL:

Lake County Board of County Commissioners
315 W. Main Street #3813
Tavares, Florida 32778

Commissioner Kirby Smith, Chairman
Commissioner Douglas Shields, Vice-Chairman
Commissioner Sean Parks,
Commissioner Leslie Campione,
Commissioner Josh Blake,

RE: Hillcrest Planned Unit Development; FLU amendment PZ2023-253, rezoning PZ2023-254

Dear Lake County Commission,

The Lake County Conservation Council Board has read comments submitted to you by Friends of the Wekiva
River regarding the Hillcrest PUD and Rezoning and we agree with the issues raised in the FOWR letter.

The proposed Hillcrest PUD departs greatly from the original Sorrento PUD with respect to open space,
impervious surface, and karst features. By decreasing open space, increasing imperious surfaces, and implying a
potential conflict with karst features, the Hillcrest PUD as proposed, does not provide additional protections to
the Wekiva Study Area.

We respectfully request that you withhold your vote to adopt the proposed Hillcrest PUD and do not transmit
the FLU Amendment to the Department of Commerce until such time as these matters have been resolved.
Please include our comments in the Public Record.

Jane Hepting
Jane Hepting, President
Lake County Conservation Council, Inc.

Jennifer Barker, County Manager
Melanie Marsh, County Attorney
Mike Fitzgerald, Director of Planning & Zoning
Janie Barron, Chief Planner, Office of Planning & Zoning
Mary Ellen Stern, Executive Director Economic Growth
Eva Lora, Public Hearing Coordinator, Office of Planning & Zoning
Lake County Planning & Zoning Board,

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – 

Link to .pdf of letter:  LCCC to Lake Co BCC Re HILLCREST PUD

1/29/24 Bear Bill Letter

January 29, 2024

Dear Florida Legislators,

The Lake County Conservation Council strongly urges you to Vote NO on House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 631, related to the taking of bears.  

 The extremely broad language of these bills would allow anyone to kill a bear if he or she simply “feels” threatened or feels that their property is threatened in a manner unspecified. This demonstrates an extreme lack of awareness of bear behavior and lack of knowledge by individuals who live in areas where bears are known to reside.

 Rather than this unnecessary and bad legislation, we encourage legislation that requires bear awareness information be provided to new residents to areas known to support bear populations like the Wekiva/Ocala ecosystem, and we encourage legislation and more funding to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to support existing ongoing bear awareness programs for all residents living where bears occur.

A person already has the right to use lethal force in self-defense, weather the attacker is a bear or any other creature, including a human being.

The most recent bill revision that would allow a bear to be killed to protect “property” provides no specific guidelines related to protecting property. Individuals might interpret this to mean a bear could be killed for passing through their property, eating food intended for other wildlife, or scavenging unsecured garbage. Legislation providing more funding for bear awareness programs is needed, not undefined and ambiguous language that discourages landowners living in bear habitat from implementing preventative measures like securing their garbage and limiting feeding of birds and other wildlife, activities that are well known to attract bears.

 Lake County Conservation Council encourages the legislature to enact legislation that promotes environmental stewardship that fosters public understanding and appreciation for all Florida wildlife and wildlife behavior.

Again, we urge you to vote NO on HB87 and SB632.


 Deborah Shelley, Corresponding Secretary


Jane Hepting, President

Lake County Conservation Council, Inc.

11/30/23 LCCC Letter to BCC re Rapture Air Soft Gun Facility

November 13, 2023


Lake County Board of County Commissioners
315 West Main Street
Tavares, FL 32778-4407

Mr. Kirby Smith, Chair, District 3                 

Mr. Douglas B. Shields, Vice-Chair, District 1                                                        

Mr. Sean Parks, District 2

Ms. Leslie Campione, District 4                    

Mr. Josh Blake, District 5                              

RE: CUP-2023-4 Raptor Air Soft Gun Facility Dear Chair Smith and County Commissioners,

The Lake County Conservation Council, Inc. (LCCC) is a not-for-profit organization whose mission includes promoting the preservation and protection of the natural resources of Lake County and encouraging responsible growth management.

LCCC has reviewed the Raptor Air Soft Gun Facility (Raptor) request for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) amendment to modify the conditions previously approved in Ordinance #2020-43. LCCC agrees with the Planning and Zoning Board Recommendation of Denial.

LCCC has the following concerns regarding the requested modifications:

  1. CUP Compliance: Raptor requests that it no longer be brought back to the BCC to ensure compliance with the CUP. Based on comments below which detail potential environmental degradation, we recommend that the CUP be brought back to the BCC to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of the current and any future CUP. The Lake County Public Works Department and the Lake County Office of Code Enforcement should conduct at least two unannounced inspections per year and submit reports on their findings to document compliance or non-compliance.
  2. Hours of Operation: Raptor requests that the hours of operation be extended. The subject properties, Alt Key 1784441 and 3636171, are located within the Wekiva-Ocala Rural Protection Area (RPA) as defined on the Lake County Future Land Use Map. The Lake County Comprehensive Plan Objective 1-5.2 states: “This Rural Protection Area is intended to preserve rural density, character, and lifestyles, and to protect the ecological integrity of public and private lands associated with the Ocala National Forest, Wekiva-Ocala Greenway, and St Johns River.”Raptor’s request to modify the hours of operation for this rural and remote location is inconsistent with the protection of the ecological integrity of both public and private lands associated with this region of the St John’s River Watershed due to the reasons mentioned below. The properties being proposed in the current CUP are private, as are a few adjacent properties. The Alt Keys of other adjacent properties are public lands including 1709695, 3884345, 1784450, 1785073, 2870184, and 1709741, which are owned by the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, Tallahassee. These adjacent properties are held in trust for the people of Florida and are therefore publicly owned conservation lands. These lands are managed as part of the Seminole Forest Wildlife Management Area. The requested amendment is also inconsistent with the protection of wildlife that range within the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway and the Ocala National Forest.
  3. Patrons: The current CUP restricts patrons to 50 at a time during regular hours of operation and restricts the patrons to 300 during special events. Lake County Staff determined this restriction non-enforceable, thus it has been removed under CUP 2023-4. Under current CUP conditions, the volume of pellets generated by patrons is a great concern. The proposed changes, to extend hours with no limit on the number of patrons, exacerbate the existing environmental concerns to an During events which allow fully automatic mode, 10 or more pellets are fired per second. Depending on the battery and voltage, many guns fire twice as fast. Using a conservative sale of pellets described on Raptor’s website, involving 7 players purchasing 2 bottles of 5,000 pellets, the number of pellets used per player would be 1,428 for the day. (Math: 5,000 pellet per bottles x 2 bottles = 10,000 divided by 7 players = 1,428 pellets per person). At the current number of players allowed at any time being 50, we can calculate 50 x 1,428=71,400 pellets in one day. If allowed to operate 353 days per year with 50 players, the number of pellets totals 25,204,200 in one year. This accumulation of substantial volumes of projectile pellets in a Rural Protection Area, with potential migration onto public conservation lands and wetlands, is extremely objectionable.Chapter 790.333 (1) (f), Florida Statutes states: “Over the years of operation, projectiles have accumulated in the environment at many gun ranges. Whether this projectile accumulation has caused or will cause degradation of the environment or harm to human health depends on factors that are site-specific.” The statute further recommends implementation of environmental management practices to avoid or reduce any potential for adverse environmental impact. “Environmental management practices” includes but it not limited to Best Management Practices for Environmental Stewardship of Florida Shooting Ranges as developed by the DEP. Such practices include, but are not limited to, control and containment of projectiles, prevention of the migration of projectiles, and documentation of actions taken (Chapter 790.333 (2) (e), F.S.). “Environment” means the air, water, surface water, sediment, soil, and groundwater and other natural and manmade resources of this state (Chapter 790.333 (2) (f), F.S.).
  4. Signage: Rapture requests eliminating the currently required “No Parking” signs along Fullerville Road. The proposed volume of cars that would be generated by expanded hours of operation and expanded patronage parking along the unpaved road would result in compaction of the soil and subsequent runoff during storm events. Parking along the road is also inconsistent with preserving rural lifestyle in an RPA because excessive vehicles and traffic would frequently interfere with the quiet enjoyment expected by the local community.
  5. Pellets and Ammunition: Rapture requests that it be allowed to use non-biodegradable pellets and ammunition. The current CUP restrictions require the use of a biodegradable air soft pellet made from Polylactic Acid (PLA), a plastic made from fermented plant starch. While these pellets are a popular alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics, PLA pellets biodegrade, but very slowly.The alternative non-biodegradable pellets proposed by Rapture are composed of plastic known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), and they usually have a mineral or petroleum-based- center. When deposited in the environment, they are reported to last for several centuries. ABS plastics are also known to result in soil infertility which subsequently affects plant growth.

    Both types of pellets may be carried away by rain, wind, and floodwater, causing a migration onto adjacent state- and privately-owned properties, and would likely result in accumulation of pellets at drainage points. The pellets would also be a hazard to wildlife as they are known to be mistaken as a food source and consumed by animals and birds. Even the biodegradable pellets can have a negative impact on wildlife. biodegradable-bbs/

    Raptor Air Soft currently allows guns with a minimum of 100 feet engagement on the premises. Guns requiring a minimum 100 feet between the gun and another player could easily result in pellet migration directly across the currently approved 50- foot setback into wetlands and across the 70-100 foot buffers into adjacent properties. Raptor allows guns up to 3.5 Joules which can shoot far beyond the current size buffers.

  6. Lighting and Noise: The current CUP restricts lighting to Dark Sky Principles. Rapture requests a lighting condition that allows shooting sports during night games and special Dark Sky Principles should be maintained. Noise, smoke, and lights consistent with shooting sports activity are typically excessive of that found within this Rural Protection Area and adjacent public conservation areas. Absent the required Noise Assessment conducted by a qualified professional using approved methodologies, no changes to the current CUP should be considered.
  7. Consistency with Comprehensive Plan: The request to modify the current CUP is inconsistent with the following Comprehensive Plan Policies:
  • Policy I-5.1.3 Protection of existing… wetlands …floodplains… and water bodies. Pellet accumulation is not protective of wetlands.
  • Policy I-5.1.3 Protection …. wildlife and Pellet accumulation is not protective of wildlife and habitat.
  • Policy I-5.1.3 Promotion of passive recreation and ecotourism. The existing CUP is not consistent with this Policy. The proposed modifications exacerbate the issue.
  • Policy 1-5.1.4 Ensure that development along roadway corridors improves or protects the rural character of the corridor. Excessive parking along Fullerville Road is inconsistent with this Policy.
  • Policy 1-5.1.4 Protect dark skies through a dark sky lighting

Night time shooting is inconsistent with this Policy.

  • Policy I-5.1.7 Protection of Wetlands. Wetland impacts …. shall be prohibited within the Rural Protection Accumulation and migration of projectile pellets into and adjacent to wetlands is not protective of wetland habitats and wildlife.
  1. Effect on Adjacent Properties: Objections from adjacent property owners are set forth in documents on the Staff Report in Attachments F & G and were stated at the Planning and Zoning meeting.

Because of the above-listed concerns, LCCC requests that you deny the proposed amendment to prevent further degradation and impact to natural resources associated with wetland dependent species and other wildlife known to utilize the area, and to prevent the excessive accumulation of projectile pellets into the environment. In addition to the denial, we request that an Environmental Management Plan be required for the existing CUP.


Recommendations to improve current CUP conditions include:

  • Increase the buffers around the playing fields to a minimum of 300-
  • Increase the wetland setback to a minimum of 300-
  • Include a mandate for the use of an industrial outdoor vacuum or other methods to remove as many pellets as possible at the end of each day of operation.
  • Direct Lake County Code Enforcement and/or Lake County Public Works to conduct at least two inspections annually and report on their findings.
  • Advise Public Land Managers to inspect their boundaries adjacent to the facility to determine if pellets are present.
  • As required by the existing CUP, require that a Noise Assessment be conducted by a qualified professional using approved methodologies with results reported in writing and presented to County Staff, the BCC, local residents, and other interested parties.


Thank you for your consideration of our concerns. We respectfully request that modifications to CUP- 2023-4 Raptor Air Soft Gun Facility be denied.



Jane L. Hepting


Jane L. Hepting, President

Lake County Conservation Council, Inc.


cc: Jennifer Barker, Lake County Manager

Melanie Marsh, Lake County Attorney                                            

10/13/23 Peachtree Hills to Groveland City Council Letter

13 October 2023 


TO: Groveland City Council:                                          Honorable Evelyn Wilson, Mayor –

Mike Radzik, Vice Mayor

Councilwoman Barbara Gaines –

Councilman Richard Skyzinski –

Councilwoman Dina Sweatt –


Peachtree Hills Resolution 2023-16

Peachtree Hills Preliminary Plat

City Council Meeting 16 October 2023


Honorable Mayor Wilson and City Council Members,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Peachtree Hills development project. The Lake County Conservation Council, Inc. (LCCC) is a Florida not for profit organization whose mission includes promoting the preservation and protection of the natural resources of Lake County, promoting responsible growth management, and cooperating with other conservation and environmental groups for our common purposes.

We are aware that the Peachtree Hill development project was annexed into the City of Groveland over 10 years ago through the Interlocal Service Boundary Agreement process with high density entitlements compared to the surrounding rural area. A portion of the Peachtree Hills parcel is within the Yalaha – Lake Apopka Rural Protection Area (RPA). The north portion of the project along East Dewey Robbins Road shares a common boundary with the RPA. All the homes planned within Peachtree Hills along East Dewey Robbins Road border large rural homesteads and family agricultural farms.

While Groveland’s Land Development Regulations allow for a 25-foot buffer, the 30-foot buffer proposed along East Dewey Robbins Road is not sufficient to provide compatible adjacent land use. Most, if not all of the homes along this road are set back from the road 50 to 100 feet or more, and as mentioned above, all are with the Rural Protection Area.


Peachtree Hills

13 October 2023

Page 2


One important stated purpose of the Interlocal Service Boundary Agreement Act (Chapter 171, Florida Statutes) is to “balance the needs and desires of the community.”  Incompatible adjacent land uses do not meet the needs and desires of the existing rural community. A wider buffer of at least 75 feet would provide for more compatible adjacent land use and a much more desirable viewshed for the existing community and for future residents entering the subdivision.

Groveland’s Comprehensive Plan, Future Land Use Element Goal 1, seeks to ensure that the character and location of growth in Groveland compliments existing neighborhoods. At the current density with a minimum 30-foot buffer on East Dewey Robbins Road, Peachtree Hills does not complement the existing adjacent community of large parcels that consist of 5,10, 20 and 40 acre lots, many with eco-agrarian uses. 

Groveland’s recently adopted Strategic Plan (June 21, 2022) states the city “values the natural and agricultural landscape.”  We urge you to do everything in your power to provide a wider buffer on East Dewey Robbins Road to preserve the agricultural landscape and rural appeal of this section of Groveland. 

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.


Jane Hepting

Jane Hepting, President

Lake County Conservation Council, Inc.

5/15/23 Letter to the Governor opposing SB540 – The Sprawl Bill

15 May 2023


The Honorable Ron DeSantis
Governor of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001


Dear Governor DeSantis,

 The Lake County Conservation Council urges you to VETO SB540.

We applaud your Executive Order signed earlier this year that calls for improvements to the comprehensive planning process to ensure sustainable growth and protect the natural resources of Florida.  SB540 is in direct conflict with your Executive Order because it will eliminate most, if not all, of the ability of Florida citizens to challenge amendments that are not compatible with their communities’ comprehensive plans.  Often citizen challenges are the only check against unsustainable development projects. SB 540 would require Florida citizens who lost a legal challenge to pay the opposing party’s legal fees. This would represent an unfair practice imposed on local citizens. Legal fees should be incurred by what is referred to as the American Way, where each party pays their own fees.

Please uphold the rights of Florida citizens and VETO SB 540.


 Jane L. Hepting


Jane Hepting, President
Lake County Conservation Council, Inc.


3/29/23 Report on Recycling in Lake County by Cindy Newton

The Lake County Workshop on Solid Waste was this morning (3/39/23). What a fabulous presentation and insight on the industry, its trends and  Lake County’s issues and questions with garbage, recycling and yard waste collection and processing! The County Commissioners will be needing to make some very difficult decisions and we as citizens and as members of various groups are in the position to help.

Before decisions can be made, there is a need for more gathering of information from what is the composition of our recycling (how much plastic, fiber, cans, glass in what proportions) as a whole in our county, and some fact gathering on what do the citizens want, the cost analysis of changes or even in keeping things the same? Where we can render aid in this area is to help with communication and access for the surveys and education on what is happening and how individuals can help. As the process progresses, we will be asked to help guide people to the surveys, etc so they have enough data to make great choices. So, I’m asking now for you to think how you can help in that regard so when the task time comes, we have a plan in order. If it’s to simply pass on the information to various organization’s email/members/friends lists, or actually post the questionnaire/survey or a link to it on the various websites? How can you help?

The second request is an individual ask. It was eye-opening to find out that over 40% of Lake County’s recycling collected is not usable due to contamination. That contamination comes in the form of items being placed in the recycling cans that should not be there because the recycling center can not utilize them, or in regard to food, dirt, etc actually contaminating what is placed in the cans either at the household level, the pickup level or the processing level. Lake County will be including educational information in this regard with the survey. In the meantime, let’s take the time to do our part starting NOW at the household level because most of the problem begins there and it’s easily fixed!  I believe most people who use the recycle cans want the service to continue, but at a 40% loss of what is picked up and  paid to be dropped to the plant, if we don’t do better…. we could lose this service. So, let’s make it simple!


  1. PaperThe approved paper is non-glossy or coated products, such as office paper, newsprint, magazines, envelopes, phone books, unwanted mail and paper bags. This needs to be free of plastic, metal or hard binders and placed loose inside the cans. None of it should be contaminated with food or dirt.


  1. Cardboard Cardboard consists of corrugated (moving boxes) and boxboard (cake or cereal type boxes). Cardboard should be free of anything other than corrugated and boxboard materials, and should not contain packing or packaging materials, strapping, shrink wrap or wax coatings. It must be placed within the recycling cart.


  1. Commingled Containers (Mixed Containers) Commingled containers of rinsed glass beverage containers (any color), aluminum beverage containers, steel and tin cans, and food grade household plastic containers #1-#7 with or without a neck. Lids are fine. Plastic soap containers (dish, laundry, carwash, etc) are considered food grade and are acceptable. Place items loose in the recycling cart.


So, if it’s not on that list…. IT DOESN’T GO INTO THE RECYCLING CART. Items must be loose and rinsed. So, it doesn’t matter what you put inside a plastic bag in the recycle cart, or how clean it is, it will be considered contaminated. Plastic bags of anything get tossed. And let’s think about things that are often put in the recycle cart that are not to be placed there….






NO PIZZA BOXES unless there is no grease or food on it




If in question, put it in the garbage cart rather than the recycle one.

Please, pass this on to others in Lake County. We really need to get our recycling less contaminated at this first level.

Thanks everyone!!!!!! You all rock! WE CAN DO THIS!

2/27/2023 Article on Water Resources and Conservation in Lake County by Pat Spear

Legislation adopted at the State level in 2022 changed the modes of operation of two important governmental agencies responsible for water conservation in Lake County.  One is the Lake County Water Authority and the other is the Lake Soil and Water Conservation District.

The Water Authority is unique to Lake County as no other county in Florida has one.  It was an independent taxing authority with board members elected by the people.  Established in 1953 by the Florida Legislature, the Authority’s purposes are to conserve freshwater resources; foster improvements to streams, lakes and canals; improve fish and aquatic wildlife by improving streams, lakes and canals; and protect the freshwater resources of the county by assisting local governments in the treatment of storm water runoffs.  There was general agreement that the Water Authority has been very effective over the years. 

Bill HB 1105, enacted in 2022, removed the independent taxing authority, made the Board of County Commissioners responsible for appointing board members instead of having them elected, and put many previous responsibilities of the Authority under control of the County Board.  It remains to be seen how effective the Water Authority can be under the conditions dictated by the recent legislation.

The Soil and Water Conservation District, for Lake County as well as other counties in Florida, was established in 1950 by the Florida Legislature for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the wise use, management and conservation of the county’s soil, water and related natural resources.  The District works closely with the US Department of Agriculture and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  A Mobile Irrigation Lab provides services to growers, to optimize irrigation protocols for water conservation and financial savings.  Also, the District supports a number of educational programs for high school students. 

Bill SB 1078, also enacted in 2022, contains new procedures for subdivision of the District, for the purposes of electing Supervisors.  It restricts eligibility of candidates for Supervisors to citizens who engage in agriculture in some form and poses certain requirements for meetings of Supervisors.  Again, it remains to be seen whether these changes, mandated by the new legislation, will have positive or negative effects on the District.

12/13/22 Letter to the Eustis City Commission on The Wekiva-Ocala Rural Protection Area

13 December 2022


Eustis Planning Commission
Eustis City Commission
Honorable Michael Holland, Mayor
City of Eustis
10 N. Grove Street
Eustis, Florida 32726

RE: City of Eustis Proposed Comprehensive Plan 2035 Amendments and Land Development Regulations 

Dear Mayor Holland and Commissioners, The Lake County Conservation Council (LCCC) has coordinated with the Friends of the Wekiva River (FOWR) and read their comments related to the Eustis Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan). We support and concur with all the comments provided to the City of Eustis by FOWR.

We especially concur that:

  • the most effective recharge areas for the Floridan Aquifer depicted in the Wekiva Springs Overlay District should be addressed in the Comp Plan and the City of Eustis should comply with statutory requirements of Chapter 361.321 (3) F.S.
  • Map 19 should not be deleted until a replacement map is agreed upon by the City of Eustis and Lake County.
  • the Wekiva-Ocala Rural Protection Area (RPA) boundary should be honored and Lake County’s comprehensive plan standards for this area should be incorporated into the City’s comprehensive plan
  • densities of 3 du/acre cannot be considered Rural Transition and should be reduced to reflect a more reasonable transition to existing rural areas

Thank you for your consideration of the FOWR and LCCCs comments.


Egor Emery, President
Lake Count Conservation Council

cc: Christine Halloran, City Clerk,,
Tom Carrino, City Manager,,
City Attorney,
Sean Parks, Chair, Lake County Commission,
Leslie Campione, Lake County Commission,

11/1/2021 Article on Facing Climate Change in Lake County by Jane Hepting

Almost daily, our local newspapers carry articles on climate change. The science is clear: greenhouse gases are causing our planet to get hotter, which means more droughts, more fires, more severe rainstorms and hurricanes, bigger algae blooms, rising seas, salt water intrusion, flooding, and many other threats to the health of all living things. Lake County particularly is vulnerable to climate change, not just because we live in a subtropical zone, but also because our population is growing rapidly. More people mean more greenhouse gas emissions, more water pollution, and more strain on our water supply. To eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 and to ensure an adequate supply of clean water, we must put sustainability policies in place now.  Also, we must implement resiliency measures to prepare for climate threats.

Although Rick Scott dismissed climate change worries while he was Florida’s Governor, GOP attitudes may be changing in Tallahassee. Republican State Senator, Jason Brodeur, who chairs the Senate’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee, recently stated, “More so than perhaps any other state, Florida is vulnerable to the impacts of our changing climate and increasingly severe weather events.”

This is a great time to urge Governor DeSantis to appoint a Sustainability and Resiliency (SR) Officer, who can lead the state in developing a climate action plan for Florida. That plan needs community input to ensure that the burden of addressing climate change does not have a disparate impact upon the poor and people of color. We should also urge our county government and our 14 municipal governments to likewise hire an SR Officer to create local climate action plans, with input from citizen advisory panels. Those officers and panels should consider the suggestions listed below as they search for solutions to each of our environmental challenges.

What can we do to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions? We should phase out coal and gas powered plants and end oil drilling and fracking. We should reward utility companies for promoting solar and wind energy. We should require that new homes be equipped with solar panels and be built with other green technologies. Starting immediately, state and local agencies should spend their transportation dollars on electric vehicles and their construction dollars on building green. In addition, they should expand public transportation and install more charging stations for electric vehicles.

What can we do to stop water pollution? All of our municipal governments should follow the lead of the Lake County Commission and adopt a fertilizer ordinance. Septic systems that are polluting our waterways should be replaced with sewer systems. More monitoring should be done to ensure that industry is not discharging harmful chemicals. We should ban plastic bags and foam containers.

What can we do to ensure that we have enough water? To allow our rainwater to be absorbed back into our aquifer, we must keep open spaces. Real estate developers should minimize impervious surfaces and should be required to install landscaping that does not require frequent watering. River water should be stored in shaded swampy areas, rather than in dams where loss from evaporation is high.  Utility companies should set higher rates for above-average water use.

What can we do to become more resilient to climate change? We need protections for employees who work in the hot sun, more shelters and trained volunteers during climate disasters, and more funding to help low-income families weatherize their homes. In addition, we need to help farmers switch to drought resistant crops. Because trees provide shade and capture carbon dioxide, we should protect them and plant more.

Each of us should make sure that climate change is an important topic at all governmental planning sessions. Consider forming an environmental committee at your place of worship, work, or recreation. One way to become a better advocate is to join one or more environmental advocacy groups, such as the Oklawaha Valley Audubon Society, Friends of the Wekiva River, the Lake County Conservation Council, and the local NAACP’s Environmental & Climate Justice Committee. As we learn more together, we can envision and create a hopeful future – one with abundant, clean, and affordable water and energy.


Currently Lake County and Florida state development rules have a loophole!  Lake County has several Rural areas defined as "Rural Protection Areas".  These areas limit development to 1 home every 5 acres.  However, cities in Lake County can annex parcels that are currently in Rural Protection Areas then change the density to whatever the particular city code allows - often several per acre.


Click the Read the Petition link to the right to learn more about why it's important to preserve Rural areas and our 'ask' to Lake County to preserve these areas. 


DOWNLOAD a printable copy HERE



WHEREAS rural areas provide environmental services and are essential to the health, safety, and well-being of Lake County residents. Rural lands are vital for agriculture, forestry, wildlife preservation, open space, recreation, aquifer recharge, flood control, carbon sequestration, and water purification; and

WHEREAS the value of rural areas is codified in numerous Florida Statutes including the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, the Rural Family Lands Act, the Wekiva River Protection Act, and the Community Planning Act; and

WHEREAS a 2023 legislative finding stated, “A thriving rural economy with a strong agricultural base, healthy natural environment, and viable rural communities is an essential part of Florida…” and … “the agricultural, rural, natural resource, and commodity values of rural lands are vital to the state’s economy, productivity, rural heritage, and quality of life.” (Chapter 570.70(1) and (3) Florida Statutes); and

WHEREAS Florida’s Community Planning Act requires that every local government create a comprehensive land use plan so that it can, among other things, “protect natural resources within their jurisdictions.” (Chapter 163.3161 (4) Florida Statutes); and

WHEREAS Florida’s Community Planning Act specifies that future land use plans should discourage “urban sprawl” (Chapter 163.3177 (6) 2h, Florida Statutes), which the Act defines as “a development pattern characterized by low density, automobile-dependent development” that fails “to provide a clear separation between urban and rural uses” (163.3178 (52), Florida Statutes); and

WHEREAS Lake County’s 2030 Horizon Comprehensive Land Use Plan, adopted in 2010, recognizes the preservation of core areas, designated as Rural Protection Areas, as a fundamental component of its growth management plan. The Comprehensive Plan states that “Lake County shall exercise extraordinary care to uphold the long-term integrity of Rural Protection Areas and shall recognize their primacy in future land use decisions.” The Rural Protections Areas (RPA) are identified on the Future Land Use map as Wekiva-Ocala RPA, Emeralda Marsh RPA, and Yalaha-Lake Apopka RPA; and

WHEREAS through the Interlocal Service Boundary Agreement process Lake County municipalities are annexing lands within the Rural Protection Areas at an alarming rate. Annexations are transforming rural lands into urban zoning categories and densities, which fail to provide a clear separation between urban and rural uses; and

WHEREAS the Comprehensive Planning process requires extensive public input related to growth management while Interlocal Service Boundary Agreements do not require any public input and are typically created with a lack of transparency; and

WHEREAS, numerous recent municipal annexations of land located within Rural Protection Areas have preempted and circumvented Lake County Comprehensive Plan Goals, Objectives, and Policies, resulted in urban sprawl, incompatible land uses adjacent to existing rural parcels, loss of Lake County’s rural heritage, and diminished health, safety, well-being and quality of life for Lake County residents.

NOW THEREFORE, I (we) hereby petition:

  1. Lake County government to use all its available power and legal authority to stop municipalities from annexing and urbanizing lands within Rural Protection Areas, including modifying Interlocal Service Boundary Agreements and Joint Planning Agreements.

  2. Lake County municipalities to change their Comprehensive Plans and Land Development Regulations such that they recognize, respect, and adopt Lake County designated Rural Protection Areas and their associated Land Use Series, Open Space requirements, density categories and development strategies, and address preservation of county designated Rural Protection Areas in Interlocal Service Boundary Agreements and Joint Planning Agreements. .

%%your signature%%