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DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Polk and Sumter counties of Florida

   

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month 2003 Newsletter Articles

THOMAS LANDING REVISITED
SAVE THE COURTS
MARIANíS NATIVE PLANT GARDEN

THOMAS LANDING REVISITED

For more than twenty years a haphazard development on Lake Kissimmee has made a mockery of Polk County Code Enforcement, the Florida Department of Health and Florida Department of Environmental Protection. A brief history of this farce was written for the November 2002 newsletter entitled, "Thomas Landing A Nightmare and a Joke." An up-date follows:

On November 13, 2002, the Polk County Planning Commission voted to expand a Non-Conforming Use for Thomas' Landing subject to conditions. Those conditions included several time specific events: within 30 days the sale of gas, propane, alcohol, and food was to stop until appropriate permits were obtained and a professional engineer was to be hired to do an audit of "all uses, structures, utilities, facilities, etc. that exist on the site..., any permits or approvals that have been obtained, permits and approvals that are required to become compliant with applicable county, state, and federal rules and regulations..., a schedule in which to obtain such permits and approvals ... ." Within 60 days that hired professional engineer was to meet with Public Safety officials and Florida Department of Health officials to determine the most appropriate means to provide fire protection and proper sanitation facilities. "Within 90 days of the permit audit being approved, the applicant shall disconnect from utilities all uses and RV/Camp sites not approved with this request. The disconnections shall be reviewed and certified by a professional engineer and documentation, signed and sealed by a professional engineer, shall be submitted to the County.. .Ē

"This audit shall be completed, signed and sealed by the engineer and shall be submitted to the County within 120 days of Commission approval." The Development Review Committee, basically the planning staff, "shall review the audit and determine if all the necessary steps, actions, etc. are included to successfully bring this development into compliance with applicable provisions of the Polk County Land Development Code and Comprehensive Plan. Once the Development Review Committee has approved the audit, the applicant has 120 days in which to implement the recommendations to meet LDC and Comprehensive Plan requirements. "This work shall be ... completed in accordance with the approved schedule in the permit audit."

This Audit was done by Dave Carter Engineering (Dave Carter, you may recall, was recognized by the Polk County Builders Association last year.) There are a number of significant assumptions and ambiguities written into the audit by the engineer and there are at least three requirements left out of the audit: an engineer certified site plan, a construction plan and a schedule in which to obtain permits and approvals. The audit does contain a drawing by John Reed, a surveyor, but that is hardly a certified site plan or construction plan signed and sealed by a professional engineer. Obvious assumptions and ambiguities written into the audit could be the subject of another article.

Now, Carter has submitted and revised the Audit with many changes and the planners are reviewing it as this summary and recommendation for action is being written. A large number of minor problems have been corrected, according to Carter, and still more are to be completed by specified dates. Some unapproved hook-up are said to be removed, others are proposed to be removed within 90 days of the audit approval. Problems with the restaurant have been resolved by closing it with no plans to reopen it. Mr. Thomasís need for a permit from the SFWMD involving floodplain and wetland impacts, sovereign lands and the ACOE Federal permits and general drainage issues are more important to those of us interested in protecting the lake than are most of the other issues raised by this "Expansion of a Non-conforming Use" process. Carter is proposing that the required Level 2 plans will be completed within 6 months of the final audit and be used both to comply with the Countyís requirements and for application to the SFWMD for an Environmental Resource Permit.

Bob Schaeffer is in charge of land acquisition along the shore of Lake Kissimmee for the SFWMD. He confirmed the interest of the SFWMD in this property and the cooperation of Mr. Thomasís attorney, Jack Brandon, in the ongoing assessment of that property (preliminary to negotiations between Thomasís Landing and the SFWMD). Mr. Schaeffer said that they were determining what of Thomasís property would be impacted by the Kissimmee Restoration Project. He was waiting for that information before he could speculate on potential costs. Mr. Brandonís office said that nothing new has occurred in years.

Now is the time for help in this activity. In order to reduce the likelihood of bureaucratic bungling and continued unlawful destruction of the Kissimmee resources, vigilance on the part of those who might volunteer to help is necessary. In our 20+ years of experience Thomas has operated unlawfully and is most apt to behave differently only when hell freezes over. Those who have offered to help should call Richard Coleman at 956-3771. There are schedules to keep and permits to apply for. Letís see that it happens. Keep your cameras handy!
....Richard L.Coleman, Florida Sierra Kissimmee Issue Chair

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SAVE THE COURTS

The Sierra Club, joined by several other organizations, is holding a Town Hall Meeting Monday, July 28, 7-9 PM at the Sun Pavilion Room Bayfront Center, 400 First Street South, St. Petersburg (downtown waterfront). The purpose of this and future grassroots meetings is to create a well informed voter ground swell which will reach Senators Nelson and Graham. We want to make certain our senators hold firm against nominees for federal court vacancies who have a predisposition to dismantle a generation of environmental, civil rights, and labor legislation protections.

See you there!
...Darden Rice, Sierra Club

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Photos, top to bottom:
The Garden
The Garden
Monarch Caterpillar on milkweed
Monarch Butterfly
Firebrush with bee
Star Anise
Gulf Frittilary on Passion Vine
Virginia Willow
Blanket Flower

MARIANíS NATIVE PLANT GARDEN

Editors Note: For five issues weíve been writing about exotics you should eradicate. It seems time for a change of pace. On an urban lot the Ryans have created a native plant garden that is a gem. Here is the story of itís creation.

1989 was the year that my backyard plants were frozen into oozing puddles of cellulose. Gone were my hibiscus, banana tree, crotons, elephant ears and other ornamentals that are part of many neighborhood yards. This was also the year I met Dave Pretzsch, an avid native plant gardener. Daveís garden, complete with homemade pond, was on the xeric white sand of the Lake Thomas subdivision. That beautiful garden coupled with his enthusiasm and knowledge on the subject inspired me to also "go native".

I started the backyard with a fairly clean slate Ė the only thing that had survived the freeze was the pecan tree and the grass. I killed the grass with Roundup. It took a fair amount of time and research to learn what types of trees, shrubs, vines, flowers and grasses would thrive here. Soil type and sunlight are the major determiners of what plants will do well in your location. If your lot is large enough, you may have more than one soil type. The 3 major categories are xeric or sandy & dry; mesic or medium soils; hydric or moist to wet soils.

It was fairly easy to locate plants as there are several native plant nurseries in the area. Local small garden shops as well as Loweís and Home Depot often carry a small assortment of natives. The challenge was finding an assortment of plants that would thrive in the mesic soil of my yard. I wanted to focus on plants with high wildlife values - seeds, nuts, nectar, pollen, fruit and berries as well as larval foods for butterflies.

Butterfly host plants that have done well are: corky stem passion flower for Gulf fritillary, milkweed for Monarchs, wild petunia for white peacocks, partridge peas and Bahama cassia for sulphurs, pipevine for polydamas swallowtails, wild lime for giant swallowtails, pawpaw for zebra swallowtails. Nectar plants are: trailing lantana, blanket flower, tickseed, porterweed, pentas (non-native), coral honeysuckle, blazing star, butterfly bush, cone flowers, fire bush, asters, Mexican sunflower, ironweed, Tampa vervain, black-eyed susan, tropical sage, vanilla plant and goldenrod. For the birds plant Simpsonís stopper, Dahoon holly, beauty berry, Chickasaw plum, blueberries, wild coffee, and blackhaw vibernum. Hummingbirds visit the tropical sage, coral vine and firebushes.

Other natives in the backyard are: dwarf wax myrtle, wire grass, pink muhly grass, chalky bluestem grass, gopher apple, dotted horsemint, sunshine mimosa, lyre-leaved sage, blue-eyed grass, Florida violet, Carolina Jessamine vine, wood ferns, coontie, Cherokee bean, Virginia willow, star and Florida anise, saw palmetto, musclewood tree, fringe tree, sweet gum, and sabal palm.

Native plant gardening is addictive! Once I started, I just couldnít stop. "Plant it and they will come" is true! If you want a specific butterfly or bird to visit you, just find the plant that attracts them. Enhance the garden with a birdbath, a birdhouse and a brush pile. Leave some open sandy areas so birds can take a "dust bath".

Itís been fascinating to observe and learn about all the wildlife that my yard now helps support. There are several species of non-poisonous snakes and many bird species including hawks, great-horned owls, white ibis, and ruby-throated hummingbirds. Iíve had several successful clutches of wood ducks in the wood duck box despite the fact that the house is a block away from the lake. A mother raccoon has raised three broods under the wood deck. Besides butterflies, there are hundreds of species of insects that visit the yard: tiny bees, skippers, damselflies, dragonflies, beetles, moths, skippers, satyrs, cicadas, praying mantis and walking sticks. The only bugs Iím bent on eliminating are the milkweed bugs that eat my milkweeds! I donít use pesticides, so the only means of control is mechanical Ė as in squish them with my fingers. You get used to it.

Every now and then I use herbicide to kill off the neighborís grass that creeps into my yard under the fence. Weeds are hand pulled when they pop up, but there arenít many because I keep a 4-6 inch layer of mulch on the ground. I primarily use pine straw to enhance the naturally occurring leaf litter, but will use any mulch EXCEPT CYPRESS! (Sierra Club doesnít believe that grinding whole cypress trees into mulch is an appropriate use for these valuable wetland trees.)

There are many good books and websites available to Florida native plant, butterfly and wildlife aficionados. One of the best for butterflies is "Butterflies through Binoculars" for Florida by Jeffrey Glassberg, Marc C. Minno, and John V. Calhoun and for native plants go to http://whwhat.org (Winter Haven Wildlife Habitat Area Team - under construction) and http://www.fnps.org/ (Florida Native Plant Society).
...article and photos by Marian Ryan

   

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masthead picture: Busy Bee on Firebrush , published with permission
Copyright © 2003, Marian Ryan, All Rights Reserved

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