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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. .

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