Live Blogging Tom Pelham

You might have read the Ledger editorial today that discusses the meeting with Tom Pelham, secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs. Well, I’m here and live blogging as well as I can. Forgive grammar and spelling mistakes.

If you’re reading this on Polk Voice..please come to Live Blogging Tom Pelham for the full story.

12:41 The crowd arrives. Right now about 60 including Rick Hood and Ron Morrow of CSX, Winter Haven officials, Kathleen Munson of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, and other neighbors and interested parties.

12:47 Questions from the press and public only if there is time. The discussion is opened by Paula Dockery. (This is going to be broadcast during the week.)

12:48 Dockery mentions she first learned of the project by Downtown business. She wonders why she didn’t learn of it earlier.

12:50 This was never intended to be a big open forum. The reason we’re here in the first place is that this project was done behind closed doors. Dockery mentions that she is pro-rail and business, but also of government in the sunshine.

12:51 Jim: First off..the DRI is “regional.” “Rail Relocation Feasibility Study” mentioned. (Link to follow). Mentions the project didn’t follow the recommendations of the study. “Coordination with Lakeland and Ocala would be addressed.

12:54 Tampa Rail authority article from yesterday’s Tampa Tribune is mentioned about passenger rail Tampa to Lakeland.

12:56 Jim talks about traffic concerns Regional Resources that will fail if the ILC is constructed.

12:58 Bartow road needs improvement and funding not available. More talk on the roads around the site and how it affects State Road 60. The audience now fills the room.

1:00 Jim talks about the Alliance Texas ILC and how it was constructed next to an interstate road.

1:01 Jim mentions there are about 16 crossings in the area and how US 92 will have level of services failure. Mentions of Ocala and Lakeland have train stations that are more expecting passenger trains. Investments in bus stations will be affected. Florida Ave will be more constrained.

1:03 What are the adverse affects of the ILC on the Lakeland community. 10,000 people downtown with 100,000 trips over the roads. The metro area has about 250,000.

1:07 History of Lakeland downtown development and how rail with affect the area. Talk of Quiet Zones and the expected cost is about $2,000,000 and the city is looking at closing New York.

1:10 A slide showing a two mile train would block every crossing in downtown Lakeland. The concern that one study showing double-tracking might be possible again in Lakeland.

1:11 Finally someone mentions that the HDR study’s appendix showing how rail companies have contributed to fixing problems in the city.

1:12 The city recognizes the need for improved rail. They ask a fair study be made and problems be addressed. We ask for a more thoughtful, long term solution. Jim finishes.

1:16 A call is made by the next speaker for a strong DRI study before anything is down. Special emphasis that the state look at the area comprehensive plans. You really need to watch this guy and pause to write down what he is citing. He is probably the most emphatic speakers I’ve seen from any person regarding this project. He does mention state policy often.

1:24 He knows how to speak. strong quiet summation.

1:25 Different groups will address the guests.

1:26 Tony Yati from Lake Wales speaks. The Lake Wales city commission is a supporter of the DRI. He doesn’t consider the requirements Winter Haven is placing under contract to be the proper method. They should be part of a zoning ruling. Not a contract. More talk about the traffic and also mention of possible

Yati asks the status of the PDA.

Pelham answers that as of Friday that CSX does not plan to file a PDA, but will ask for an approval of the DRI.

1:28 Nancy Daily Mayor from Lake Alfred speaks. Mentions the city is impacted due to roads. Wants to make sure that CSX ‘s offers of jobs are high paying with health benefits.

1;30 Greg, asst. city manager Plant City, reads a brief comment. “our city has long been bisected.” Speaks on Plant City’s efforts to redevelop Mid-town community. Most talk is of how rail traffic. Mentions the city has not taken an official opinion on the project.

1:34 Mulberry city manager speaks. Church-South Florida dig. :) They believe the project would adversely traffic.

1:36 Ocala speaks: Greg , director of the Ocala planning commission, My elective board had a high level frustration with how this was handled. Our primary concern is with traffic impact. Dockery asks if the citys proposed 35 mil rail crossing is part of the 491 mill state taxpayer dollars. Dockery asks when the city first learned of the project. Ans: “early 2006”

1:39 County Commissioner Bob English reads a statement: Mentions the commission’s May 2007 call for a full DRI.

1:41 Ann Furr, LDDA speaks: speaks about their effort to place the Amtrak station. They want the opportunity to have passenger trains come through Lakeland, but could it be looked at to move freight to other lines.

1:44 DLP president speaks to the grassroots awareness that they have helped build.

1:46 Commissioner Fields asks Central Florida Ex. Dev Dir. to talk about the difference between regional and local impacts. To date we dont have an application in hand. She said they have had meetings with CSX and they “have in the last 3 hours set a pre-application meeting”:

October 15 at 1:30 pm in Winter Haven in the dept. of agriculture building

That is the formal entry into the DRI process.

It is not a public meeting. It is a technical and procedural process. It is very acronym oriented. However, it is an open meeting. Not to solicit public comment.

That day CSX will explain their intent. She said that CSX plans to say only the 318 acre project is to be implemented.

City of Winter Haven will make the final approval. The DRI will address what is local and regional impact. Large roads, environmental impacts are regional.

1:53 Dockery asks when they learned about the project. The answer, “about a year and half ago.” She mentions that in May or June 2007 they became much more aware of the issues.

1:54 Gow Fields asks if the DRI just looks at Phase 1 or will they look at all of proposed project. They expect CSX to ask only to cover the 318 acres as a stand alone project. She said CSX would have to come back to approve anything outside the 318 acres.

1:57 Ask from questions from community. Delbert Tipton from Sundance speaks. He mentions they first heard of it in August 2005. He is concerned of possible overweight trucks on the route.

2:01 Martin Halpert, Winter Haven, is concerned with traffic and cargo safety issues.

2:02 Dave Dicky Community Development director of Winter Haven is encouraged with the DRI. He would like to assure everyone that the city of Winter Haven is concerned. They plan to partner with the county, Lake Wales, and Bartow.

Dockery wants to know when the city knew of the project. Middle to late 05 is as best he knows. He feels the project has been well-publicized. She differs with him that the project was well publicized.

2:06 Wally Kruston, Lake Aston and Lake Wales. He feels that one ILC in Florida is the wrong building model. He things smaller ILCs near the areas needed would be better.

2:07 Ford Hickok, Lakeland downtown business owner, wants to know if the DRI will cover all 1280 acres. He would like it to. Pat answers: she can’t to speak to hypotheticals. She said the application is expected to only cover 318 acres.

2:09 Dee Dee speaks. She and neighbors that there is a conflict since Winter Haven is the regulatory committee and seller of the acres. She feels the city of Winter Haven did try to keep the project as quiet as possible.

2:11 Sue Nelson. This isn’t about one project. She emphasizes that we should have had an environmental assessment long ago. She tells Dockery the date she has been asking all afternoon: She said November 10, 2004 is the date of the letter between the state and CSX.

Dockery asks where Nelson found it. Nelson said she found it online. However, she mentions that you put things where people don’t expect to find it.

2:14 Dockery thanks the audience. She mentions that she has found it very difficult to get information about the project. She had to send a formal request last week.

Dockery: “Let’s not fear public involvement.”

2:16 Pelham’s closing remarks: Thanks everyone for the invitation. “I have learned from today’s activities.” Someone voiced concerned that Winter Haven would be the overseeer. He wants to emphasize that the DCA will review the project.