Winter Garden passes dump truck ban along Marsh Road to residents’ relief
Friday, February 26, 2021
Dump trucks rumble through three Marsh Road communities at 6 A.M. on a January morning.
The Winter Garden City Commission Thursday night unanimously voted to uphold a resolution that banned truck traffic along Marsh Road despite a threat of a lawsuit from the sand mine company and fierce opposition from truck drivers and the mayor pro-tem and other representatives from Clermont where the company is based.
The standing-room-only crowd — including residents from the three Marsh Road communities affected by the traffic — burst into applause after commissioners OK'd Ordinance 21-11 on first reading. If the ordinance is passed on second reading at the March 11 city commission meeting, it will replace Resolution 21-03 which initially banned truck traffic on the road. That resolution was approved Feb. 11.
Clermont officials, truckers and the plant manager from Titan America’s Center Sand Mine pleaded with Winter Garden officials to rescind Resolution 21-03 and to find “other solutions.” Susan Stephens, an attorney with Hopping Green & Sams representing Titan America, promised a lawsuit if the ordinance was passed.
Ordinance 21-11 is the result of the efforts of a small band of Winter Garden citizens who live in three communities along Marsh Road and have been dealing with noise and vibration of the dump trucks hauling materials on the road to and from the Center Sand Mine for six days a week. Trucks typically started rolling at 4 a.m. Residents reported that noise reached 100 decibels, the walls of their homes shook and trucks routinely sped down the two-lane, local road. Led by real-estate agent Maritza Saint-Hilaire, the Marsh Road residents demanded that Winter Garden intervene since the road is city-owned (read related feature story).
Independent research requested by city officials found that an average of 1,400 trucks a day traveled on Marsh Road through the communities, with 85 percent exceeding the speed limit, according to City Manager Mike Bollhoefer.
“We’re getting an unfair share of all these trucks and that’s really what the big issue is,” Bollhoefer told commissioners and the audience Thursday night, before the vote. “They have used Marsh Road, but times have changed. Now these are more local roads. As cities grow things change.”
Bollhoefer shared an anecdote with the room. “I had this discussion 14 years ago with then-commissioner Bob Gould of Lake County who worked in Winter Garden. I said, ‘Commissioner, what you’re doing in Lake County is killing us on Marsh Road. We need to work together to find a solution.’ And I’ll never forget what he told me, he said, ‘Well, that’s not our problem. That’s your problem, and you need to deal with it.’”
Bollhoefer urged commissioners to vote for the ordinance, adding that all the stakeholders were more likely to “work faster” to find a solution once the ordinance was in place.
City Attorney Kurt Ardaman said if Titan sued the city, Winter Garden officials could “deal with that. But that given the safety concerns and the problems that are being imposed on the city roads and the city residents, it would be a mistake to rescind the resolution at this point.”
Since Winter Garden has agreed to sit down with the other stakeholders to find solutions, a lawsuit at this juncture, would be “in bad faith … almost an aggressive act,” added Bollhoefer. “If they file a lawsuit, then the meetings all end, and we just see what the courts say. It wouldn’t be a wise move on their part.”
Ardaman agreed. “It would be a mistake if we’re trying to work this out," he said.
An email sent to Titan’s attorney, Susan Stephens, seeking further comment was not immediately answered.
This story will be updated as new information is received.