Waterfront setback requirement dominates council discussion

Town council members debated the town’s 50-foot waterfront setback for pools after the DRB voted unanimously in favor of the setback in April.

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A conversation relating to the 50-foot waterfront setback requirement for pools dominated the discussion at the Tuesday, May 10, Windermere Town Council meeting. 

Town Planner Brad Cornelius gave a detailed presentation on other cities’ requirements and the Development Review Board’s unanimous recommendation to keep the setback.


Lakes consultant Amy L. Giannotti recommended keeping the setback, as the Butler Chain of Lakes is an Outstanding Florida Waterway.

Giannotti said the setback is important to keep any pool water from being discharged into local surface waters. She said swimming pools are a known source of pollution to lakes and wetlands because of the chlorine and other pool chemicals that are harmful to aquatic plants and wildlife — even at low levels.

David Hansen, senior environmental specialist at the Orange County Environmental Protection Division, agreed. 

“Pool water is not lake water, and the greater (50-foot) distance should be there to allow for infiltration of pool water into the ground rather than run to the lake in case of an accidental discharge,” Hansen said in a letter to Cornelius. “There may be options like a berm and swale, but these would have to be maintained for the life of the pool.”

Hansen explained the Butler Chain also is subject to several feet of rise and fall in water levels, particularly post tropical events, and the greater distance may help prevent pool flooding and introduction of treated water into the lake.

He said his concern with a reduction would be that there is nothing to prevent further reductions in the future. 

Windermere resident Brandi Haines spoke saying she does not think the town should go backward and take away restrictions, referencing all of the professional recommendations to keep the setback. 

However, not all agreed. 

Another Windermere resident said Clermont is also recognized as an Outstanding Florida Waterway, although that city only has a 25-foot setback. 

“Their fish are thriving, their lake is thriving, and they’re using that ordinance,” he said.

He said looking at the changes and exploring the opportunity could enhance the Windermere area.

Council Member Bill Martini, DRB liaison, said the town needs to do what it can to ensure the quality of the chain of lakes is protected. 

Council Member Tony Davitt inquired on what discussion the DRB had in terms of engineering solutions to the problem. 

Martini said the DRB did not discuss any provisions relating to seawalls or other factors, as the board’s main focus was on the environmental impacts.

In the end, the council decided to table the conversation to its next meeting, so Cornelius can look at the standards in Winter Park’s setback for consideration, as well as to include the absent Council Member Andy Williams in the discussion. 


According to the town’s current rules, all structures must be at least 50 feet from the Normal High-Water Line elevation. 

Cornelius said he looked at how many lots in town were impacted by the regulation. His analysis found there are 398 waterfront lots impacted, measuring to about 10% of all the lots in the town. Of the 398 lots, 52 are one acre or greater of size from the Normal-High-Water line. The average lot size of the local waterfront lots is 22,780 square feet. 

Cornelius said the issue came up in the past few months, because of the two variances that came in close together — the most recent at the February Town Council meeting by Ashley Walker, who lives at 11 Main St. — after meeting with the DRB, which recommended a 5-1 denial of the variance. 

The two cases were both tabled, with one being rescinded.

Cornelius said over a seven- to eight-year period, the town has only processed five variances related to the setback, and of the five, only three were for pools. Of the three, two pools were denied and one was approved for a pool deck.


Platt Loftis, of WastePro, delivered an update regarding the company’s struggles servicing the town.

“We’re having challenges servicing this municipality,” Loftis said. “The town is having service issues, we acknowledge it, this is something we’re trying to get in front of. This is an absolute industry-wide situation that we are in. I’m not here to give you any excuses. I’m here again to acknowledge what’s happening. It’s unacceptable.”

Loftis said the company has been having issues when it comes to the pandemic and inflation. He said the supply chain difficulties and labor shortages have also been challenging. In addition, waste tonnages are increasing.  

Loftis said the company is addressing the issue weekly with staff and are trying to communicate more effectively when problems arise. 

“Please be patient with us; we are working through this every day,” Loftis said. “This is something that we don’t take lightly.”

Mayor Jim O’Brien said although he understands the difficulties, he wants to identify a strategy moving forward. 

Loftis said he will compose a detailed action plan for the Town Manager Robert Smith. 

“If we’re a little understaffed or there’s extra load and the route leaves the same people at the end short every time, maybe we can reverse some things, and I’m not saying it will go away overnight, but let’s be creative in terms of how we try to distribute the pain if that’s the situation,” O’Brien said. 


  • Col. Calvin B. Wimbish, congressional candidate for U.S. District 10, gave an introduction. 
  • Mayor Jim O’Brien read a proclamation designating April 29 as Arbor Day and recognized May 1-7 as Municipal Clerks Week. 
  • Town Council members approved unanimously a resolution adopting revised town personnel policies and procedures approving documentation regarding the Florida Drug Free Workplace Policy. 
  • Tom Stroup was appointed as the newest member of the Historic Preservation Board.
  • The Windermere council approved unanimously the JPF Development Solutions Consulting & Retainer proposal for the Windermere pavilion as well as an agreement for general services. 
  • The council approved unanimously Kimley-Horn & Associates FDEM grant support services for Butler and Bessie Street drainage improvement projects in the amount of $25,210. Hao Chao, representative from Kimley-Horn & Associates, said the design and permitting documents were submitted at the end of February to FEMA. He said FEMA has up to a six-month review period, meaning possibly not until the end of August. He said his estimate is a November timeframe for construction. 
  • Council members approved unanimously a property swap at 112 W. Eighth St. 
  • The Council approved unanimously ballfield parking lot paving by Middlesex Paving LLC in the amount of $27,447.50. 
  • The council agreed to reschedule the May Town Council workshop from Tuesday, May 24, to Thursday, May 26, to allow for participation in the Orange County Commission meeting regarding Bird Island.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.