Amid truck traffic increases, and resident frustration, Winter Garden City Commission pushes Marsh Road truck-ban decision to April 8
Friday, March 26, 2021
"What’s most important is the sheer number of trucks and the noise volume. If we can get those down, I think it’s something we can live with as neighborhoods off of Marsh Road.”
The Winter Garden City Commission has tabled another final vote — the second time this month — on an ordinance that would permanently ban trucks on a stretch of Marsh Road, which runs past three residential communities in western Winter Garden.
In urging the city commissioners to delay their vote Thursday night, City Manager Mike Bollhoefer acknowledged that although truck traffic on Marsh Road had initially improved — the average daily number of trucks had dropped to 400 from 1,400, and truck speed had declined from 41 mph to 35 mph — the honeymoon was short-lived. By mid-March, the city’s traffic data specialist reported a new high had been hit on March 10: 1,660 daily trucks.
“I was surprised by the numbers,” Bollhoefer told VoxPopuli. “I thought they would have gone down.”
Bollhoefer told commissioners that he’d briefly considered implementing a stopgap resolution that would have limited truck traffic between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the road. But a call to Titan America, which owns the Center Sand Mine in Clermont and uses trucks to move its sand around Orange County, indicated the idea was a nonstarter. He said doing so would immediately trigger a lawsuit against the city of Winter Garden “which Titan was trying to avoid.” But another two weeks might help, he added.
Two weeks ago, at the city commission’s March 11 meeting, under the looming threat of a lawsuit Titan America promised to file if the ban was passed, commissioners voted unanimously to delay formalizing Ordinance 21-11 until Thursday’s meeting to give all stakeholders, including the city of Clermont, Lake County, smaller mining companies and independent truckers, an opportunity to negotiate a solution.
“They asked for another chance,” Bollhoefer told the meeting assembly. “I know the residents are getting frustrated. It’s tough on them. But once we go the route with the ordinance, we’ve lost the opportunity to negotiate. Sometimes it’s like herding cats getting this done. But we’ve gone through this pain long enough. Let’s give it two more weeks and see what we can get for an improvement.”
The matter is expected to be resolved April 8.
“It’s better to sit down at the table and come up with a compromise that everybody can live with,” said Mayor John Rees. “But sooner or later you gotta say, ‘We pushed far enough.’”
“If we try to delay any more,” Bollhoefer told VoxPopuli, “the residents will try to hang me.”
“I don’t think the ban will ever happen,” said one resident who lamented the delay. The resident declined to give a name because the issue has grown contentious on Winter Garden Facebook pages, with commenters from outside communities posting hateful messages against truck-ban supporters as well as targeting their businesses.
Bollhoefer has reason to be more optimistic, however. In a followup interview after the meeting, he shared a text from a Titan America representative involved with the meetings: “I understand what needs to be done. I’m getting on it.”
Brett Minzner, one of the Marsh Road community organizers, doesn’t mind the delay as long as Titan America and the other players keep coming to the table.
“If we can work together on a solution, it’s better for everyone,” he said. “Obviously, the people of Clermont don’t want the trucks coming through their community. We don’t want them coming through our community. We just need to continue working. But as soon as the communities or the company stop working, then we always have [the ordinance] in our back pocket. One reading’s been completed. All that’s required is a second reading to put the law into effect. What’s most important is the sheer number of trucks and the noise volume. If we can get those down, I think it’s something we can live with as neighborhoods off of Marsh Road.”