November 2002 Newsletter Articles
Thomas Landing A Nightmare and a Joke
In 1980 during a tour of Lake Kissimmee to see the damage done by the most severe drought recorded in the 81 year meteorological history of the state, Vince Williams and Richard Coleman were disappointed to find an A-frame structure being built on one of the islands on the west shore of this premier fishing lake. It was obvious that dredge and fill was taken from what, under normal rainfall conditions, would have been wetlands on the shore of the lake. Their report of this development sparked several years of wrangling between the state and potential developers around Lake Kissimmee resulting in a multimillion dollar study to determine the Ordinary High Waterline around Lake Kissimmee. During this time Polk County and the State asked Thomas, the A-frame owner, to stop any further expansion of this site. Power lines and trailers began to appear. In 1984, the Florida Department of Environmental Permitting told Thomas not to build a long dock - he built the dock anyway. In 1985 the state sued over dredge-and-fill violations, his dock, and a fence built into the lake. In 1988 Thomas settled suit promising restoration and opened a fish camp without permits. In 1989 Thomas is cited by Polk County after investigators discover that he has developed a fish camp with a cabin and four mobile homes. He is denied a zoning permit. All through the 1990s Thomas Landing continued to expand and the county continued to take no effective action.
In April 2000 the Florida Health Department cited Thomas for many violations in his "unpermitted establishment". In August 2001 the Health Department in a letter responding to the SFWMD said, "In April of 2001, the Department entered into an agreement with Mr. Thomas to have the septic tank problems corrected and a RV Park application submitted by June 15th. Mr. Thomas has failed to complete the terms of the agreement." The Department said, "Earl Thomas has been operating an RV Park without an Operation Permit on his property for at least 10 years, in violation of Florida law."
In August 2001 the Polk County Codes Division cited Thomas. On February 1, 2002 the County codes investigator again cited Thomas. And in March 2002 Thomas sought a growth plan change to bring the illegal RV Park into compliance. County staffers recommended denial. Currently, the case has been delayed repeatedly while negotiations continue.
For those interested in the environment of Kissimmee Lake and those who think state and county laws ought to be enforced, this is a nightmare that has made an ongoing joke of the County, its Commission, its Public Health Department, and its Code Enforcement.
Elected Polk County Commissioners and hired professionals - when is enough enough?!
Call the County Commissioners, starting with Randy Wilkinson (534 6434) - because it's in his district - and ask them to enforce their zoning law.
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Surfing, biking, swimming, and fishing where enjoyed by our gang in September on Don Pedro Island. There was also time for lazing in the shade, good conversation, kayaking, hiking and reading.
This was a wonderful venture--our thanks to the Kaplans.
Photo by Richard Coleman, © 2003
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