It should be noted, as elections approach, that County Commissioner Bob English, of Lakeland, supports the Winter Haven CSX hub, the Orlando-to-Polk freight train dump, and the creation of downtown Lakeland industrial freight corridor.
Unlike Commissioners Randy Wilkinson, Jean Reed, and even Sam Johnson, Bob English has never taken a single action designed to slow or mitigate the impacts of the Winter Haven hub. He has been a reliable ally, in his inaction, to Jack Myers and the rest of the small group of economic developers, politicians and government officials pushing this project. He voted against asking for a regional development review, and he voted for the project at Wednesday’s regional plannning counsel meeting.
Who knows if this is an issue that moves votes or not? I’m with Tom on that one. It’s hard to know.
But for those factoring this very important growth and development matter into your vote, consider that Bob, whatever he says at any campaign forum, has repeatedly sided with interests of the East Polk development elite and Orlando political establishment against the interests of the voters in his hometown and the residents of the area around the hub. Period. If Bob wants to dispute any of this, I encourage him to do it. We’ll publish it.
When you consider that on top of the fact that Bob was the driving force behind the largest tax and fee increase in Polk County history – after running as anti-tax businessman – well, there might be some reasons for pause, even for Republican voters.
At least Bob will be long gone when it comes time for the county to create new taxes to pay for the eventual CSX impacts.
Speaking of paying for impacts, the Winter Haven folks ought to think about this bit from Tom’s story a couple of days ago.
Earlier in the meeting, County Commissioner Jean Reed asked whether [DOT] would change road priorities to deal with the impact of the CSX project, which will generate about 1,000 trucks a day.
Lakeland City Commissioner Gow Fields said the bigger issue is the traffic impact of a later phase and how that would affect how much transportation funding would be available.
Stanley Cann, the District 1 Florida Department of Transportation secretary, said the development of regional impact process would require the developer, not DOT, to pay for road improvements. (Emphasis mine.)
Got that? That means whoever wants to develop phase two, where all the supposed jobs are, will have to pay for upgrading the transportation system, presumably before they get to develop. That won’t be CSX. They are going to build their hub and sell the rest of the land to somebody else. Ron Morrow has said as much publicly, with a few qualifiers.
What Winter Haven should understand is that no one at DOT, DCA or CSX gives a rat’s rear end about phase two of this project. They don’t care about Winter Haven’s economic development, just like they don’t care about Lakeland’s downtown or the the project’s neighbors. This is about building CSX a centralized distribution hub so it can dominate Florida shipping for years to come. The reason this has sailed through the way it has so far is that this hub is, as the guy once said in The Usual Suspects, protected from on high by the prince of darkness himself. Once CSX gets what it wants, the political element of this deal diminshes greatly, and you may well find that the technicians get to take over.
If that’s the case, they might indeed insist that the developer of phase two pay for all the transportation impacts. Who is going to do that? Now maybe Winter Haven thinks it could override the regional planning counsel and approve phase two without forcing the developer to pay. Or maybe DCA and the other bodies will allow developers to skirt the aggregation rules and grow individual warehouses like mushrooms to avoiding triggering a second DRI at all.
But with CSX and JD gone (from the senate) – and with the technicians back in charge of the growth management process in this case – I wonder if DCA wouldn’t step in. Who knows? Haven could end up with a no-job, no-tax-money CSX hub and an undevelopable field. If I were a Haven or county planner, I would be clarifying pretty specifically what Stan Cann meant when he said what he did.