Polk commissioners deny plans to build on land considered Florida's 'Critical State of Concern"

LAKELAND, Fla. — No more neighbors!

“We are right on the edge of the green swamp,” Mike Poorbaugh said.

He has been in the middle of this fight before.

After all, this is not the first time a developer has tried to build along Old Polk City Road.

For Poorbaugh, it won’t be his last battle to preserve it either. 

“It’s very important for this environment to be protected,” Poorbaugh said.

The land, which was up for rezoning is considered critical.

The 39.3 acres is directly south of Florida’s Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve and the drainage now runs naturally through this property.

“We just need to remind them [county commissioners] that no matter how much money is at stake and how much interest there is, we need to protect this for future Florida,” Poorbaugh said.

Right now, Polk County zones this area residential suburban, which means one home per five acres in Orangedale.

The new owner planned on building two homes per acre or more. 

“I think that’s just a lot of homes to be put on that small area,” Sandra Poorbaugh said.

She loves living out in the country.

But the idea of 117 homes right next door doesn’t thrill her or her neighbors.

Orangedale residents say they don’t mind forward progress, they just want to protect what is there.

“We just are doing our best to preserve what we have and be able to pass down that legacy to our children and maybe their children,” Sandra said.

Another major concern for those living on Old Polk City Road, is the sharp curve and fast traffic leading up to the parcel.

“To put another 120 homes in, the burden on the corner is an endangerment,” Poorbaugh said.

A representative of the land owner promised county commissioners Tuesday that they would not build on the flood plains or the critical wetland.

They also claimed builders would be sensitive to the environmental issues.

43 neighbors opposed the application to build on the Green Swamp land, and so did commissioners, denying the plans 4-1.

“We just have to be vigilant and make sure we don’t overdevelop,” Poorbaugh said. 

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