Lake County offers voters chance to protect more land from development

Lake County voters will have a chance to keep more land out of the hands of developers by voting for a conservation referendum in November.


The referendum seeks to extend a program the county first enacted in 2004, in which tax dollars are used to buy land that can be converted into parks or otherwise needs protecting, like drinking water sources.

The county raised $36 million in the first 20 years, which was used to conserve sites like the Lake Hiawatha Preserve west of Clermont.

The November vote would raise an additional $50 million through 2044, costing each property owner an average of $21 per year.

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Commissioner Sean Parks said the county is eyeing properties that it would like to protect from development, with a focus on the most sensitive environmental sites and sites that would get the most use, such as trails that connect multiple cities.

“With the inflation environment and the cost of land increasing and the intense growth that’s occurring, it’s sort of the right moment for us to jump in,” Parks said. “Some of these lands -- if we don’t acquire them now, they will be gone.”

Of similar referendums to come before voters since 2012, only one has failed. Others, including programs in Brevard, Polk and Volusia counties, sailed through their respective election day fights.

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Following preliminary approval by the county last week, county staff and the organization that manages the conservation program will work to adopt the exact language that will appear on the ballot.

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