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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Apr. 14, 2021 3 weeks ago

Winter Garden truck ban moves forward with pause on enforcement

City commissioners approved the truck-ban ordinance on Marsh Road last week.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

Winter Garden commissioners are moving forward with an ordinance that will ban certain classifications of trucks from traveling on a portion of Marsh Road, but enforcement of the ban is on hold.

The ordinance earned approval during the April 8 City Commission meeting. Winter Garden has been in negotiations with officials from Lake County, Orange County, Clermont, Titan America and Center Sand Mine for more than a month after it initially passed a resolution banning the trucks in February. 

Ordinance 21-11 was drafted to correct a few errors in the details of the resolution. However, the second reading and final vote has been delayed twice.

“I will say this from the start: There’s been a lot of cooperation from everybody ... to try to improve these conditions there,” City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said. “However, when all is said and done, what we’ve come to the conclusion is there’s so many variables and so many different companies bringing in trucks and such that it’s probably beyond control of anyone to be able to get these truck numbers down to a speed that we feel is safe for the community and … will also reduce the impact on the conditions of the roads.

“It’s going to be impossible to keep all eyes on the road all the time, so when we no longer have people out there with decibel meters and speed guns ... what we seem to notice is once the eyes are off the road, behavior returns to the way it used to be,” he said. 

Bollhoefer initially recommended the commission move forward with the ordinance based on the data and studies at hand.

“They’ve made efforts … but we see a dip, and then as soon as eyes go away, we see the change back to more of what it typically is,” Commissioner Colin Sharman said. “There’s just not one single entity that has enough influence.”

Clermont officials and sand mine managers pleaded for more time to come up with a compromise and work on the conditions at hand.

“We can all agree that the core issue at hand here is quality of life,” Clermont Mayor Tim Murry said. “It has been made very loud and clear that the truck traffic along Marsh Road has had negative impacts on the Winter Garden citizens’ quality of life when it comes to the amount of trucks, the noise and the safety concerns. … These trucks would be forced to reroute through our city. Our citizens have shared their concerns with us … and I do not want to see their qualify of life negatively affected, either.”

Commissioner Mark Maciel said he was open to the idea of allowing more time for negotiations if possible but wondered if all parties involved were at a stalemate.

“Nobody wants to see a lawsuit, and nobody wants to interfere with anybody’s livelihood,” Maciel said. “You’re asking for more time … but if we’re at an impasse, we’re at an impasse.”

Jennifer Rafferty, general counsel for Titan America Florida, said there is still a need to explore options and alternatives, and she did not believe they were at an impasse. 

“Some very creative resolutions have been suggested, and trials have begun on those, and we did see positive movement on each of those items,” Rafferty said. “If an ordinance such as this is necessary in order to achieve that desired out come … without so drastically negatively impacting your industrial neighbors, we would support a ban on through traffic — that is traffic that is not making local business stops, pickups or deliveries along Hartwood Marsh Road,” she said.

Gabriella Pierami, a resident of Sanctuary at Twin Waters, called in to express her frustration.

“This has been going on for too long,” Pierami said. “I don’t understand: ‘Oh, the residents of Clermont, they’re going to be hurt by this.’ How about us? What about the residents of Winter Garden? We have been suffering with this for months and months.”

Winter Garden Mayor John Rees said in the end, the commission is responsible for its residents.

“We just keep kicking this can down the road, and somewhere it’s got to stop,” Rees said. 

Commissioners unanimously approved Sharman’s suggestion of moving forward with the ordinance but not immediately enforcing it, giving Bollhoefer the authority to decide when to implement it.

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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