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Apopka City Council

After 92-minute debate, City Council denies developer's request to waive left turn lane


Never has a left turn lane been this debated in the history of roads.

After a continuous back-and-forth discussion between City staff and a developer, the Apopka City Council, at its May 17th meeting, voted 3-2 on a motion to deny the request from applicants of the Oaks at Monroe development to waive the requirement for a left turn lane in their installation due to potential traffic safety concerns. 

It only took a little over 92 minutes of debate, rebuttal, public comments, and council discussion to resolve the matter.

The decision came after Apopka Transportation Coordinator Pam Richmond argued in her presentation that according to Apopka's land development code, applicants must undergo access improvements to provide safe and adequate ingress and egress to their site for traffic-efficient operations, including left and right turn lanes.

Richmond explained that the Oaks at Monroe installation presents traffic safety concerns due to the applicants' decision to locate its entrance on the site's south side despite previous optimal entrance suggestions. 

"We wanted it in the northern side of the site so that when the property to the west developed, we could reconfigure side access and line it up with Christiana [Avenue], but they didn't want to do that, and they put it on the south," said Richmond. "Traffic backs up way beyond that entrance. It's just not a safe alternative when they have a perfectly safe option on Monroe [Avenue]." 

In support of the left turn lane, Apopka Deputy Police Chief Jerome Miller explained that motorists often use Monroe Avenue as an alternative route from US 441 and State Road 436 to avoid traffic and used by traffic enforcement as a detour when there is a road closure. 

"The benefit of a dedicated left turn lane in this location is it will allow traffic to flow westbound as cars are waiting to turn left," said Chief Miller. "The volume of the traffic that will turn left for the initial project may or may not warrant the installation of a dedicated left turn, but I think there's a proposed development coming to the west of there, and if we don't do it now than when are we going to do it?"

Land Use Attorney Scott Baker, who represented the property owner and applicant during the meeting, explained that in order for the City to demand an exaction from the client, they must first meet the nexus test to show they are causing harm and a proportionality test according to the Supreme Court. 

"We are in a quasi-judicial setting tonight, and you are required to make decisions based on the evidence that's been presented to you and testimony you're going to hear," said Baker to the City Council. "We have seen none from the City on this issue, just personal preferences or gut feelings about traffic increasing or more crashes. Those don't count." 

Traffic Engineer Vasu Persaud, who served in support of the developers, explained that if safety is the main concern of the City, adding a left turn could potentially lead to worse safety consequences as it would prevent future abilities to provide safe turn lanes on Christiana Avenue, enable drivers to speed more, and will potentially attract more drivers to want to cut through traffic on Monroe Avenue.

"Monroe is used for a cut-through. If you increase the capacity and you add turn lanes, now people have a clear shot and can speed," said Persaud. "If you have a safety issue on Monroe, the solution is not to add a lane, the solution is to add perhaps speed bumps." 

When discussing an estimated price for a potential left lane, Transportation Coordinator Richmond suggested it would cost about $25,000. However, Civil Engineer Kim Fisher said that a contractor should determine an accurate cost. 

"I'm not a contractor, and it's really a contractor who has to dial in what the cost is. I don't think staff should be talking about the decision being based upon cost, and we are not making our decision based upon cost," said Fisher. "We are making our decision based on scientific data." 

Although Richmond's main argument for requiring a left turn was safety concerns, Commissioner Nick Nesta said safety shouldn't be considered when making a final decision because there wasn't any data to prove those claims other than personal opinion. 

"There is a lot of conjecture about whether a turn lane will increase or decrease safety, and there has been no data to prove that, so I don't think that should be taken into account of what we are talking about," said Nesta. 

Commissioner Diane Velazquez said that although they may know the traffic patterns in the city and want to support the staff, there weren't any compelling facts presented to contribute to that opinion and that an attorney should have been present to guide them through the legality of the case.  

 "It just seems like it created more of a problem for other residents than it did supporting safety," said Velazquez. "But I understand what Pam was saying, and again I echo what we all feel up here, we want to support our staff, but we don't have anything to really offset or compare and say, well, this is going to really give us a choice to choose this over the traffic study that the developers are bringing to us." 

Commissioner Alexander Smith suggested that the City do its own traffic studies to be able to compare its data with information provided by developers in similar future discussions. 

"If we're going to come into situations like this where we feel like it is needed and wanted and the developers feel it is not and we do not have any concrete facts or evidence to combat it, then it would be to our advantage to have that," said Smith.  

Mayor Bryan Nelson advised having the code to be rewritten to make it less subjective. 

"This code is not very well-written, we need it to be a little bit more objective, and it's pretty subjective. I think it wouldn't be a bad thing to have an attorney look at it and see if there is a way to clean that up," said Nelson. 

As the discussion ended, Commissioner Kyle Becker based his judgment on the quasi-judicial decision and said the most compelling facts came from the Oaks at Monroe development applicants. 

"We have a set of facts here, and the most compelling set of facts that I've seen is the traffic impact analysis, and again we are going to get in a tricky area if we are going to use it as justification for one project and not for another one," said Becker. 

A motion to approve the waiver request from applicants of the Oaks at Monroe development was made by Commissioner Becker and second by Nesta, who both voted in favor, while Nelson, Velazquez, and Smith opposed the waiver.

Apopka City Council, Oaks at Monroe, Traffic, Left Turn Lane, Debate, Monroe Avenue


5 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • MamaMia

    Listening to that council meeting, it was like an example of "the blind leading the blind". We witnessed just how ineffective and misguided our city commission is without an attorney present to direct them on legalities. However, Becker didn't want to discuss the old subject of why the other attorneys resigned. Of course not!

    Velazquez actually complained, we need an attorney here to guide us, but she had followed Becker, as well as Nesta, in voting to get rid of the city attorney, we had, Rodriguez, which led to constant arguing, and Rodriguez resigning . She tried a covering tactic for why the other attorney, Byrd, left, but it didn't work. Those of us, who keep up with the council meetings, know why he left. Now, we have Nesta, who says safety should not be a concern, on this turn lane issue! That council meeting really exposed the commissioners, that they are not nearly as smart as they think they are. Even if an attorney is hired, I have doubts they will listen to the attorney, on legal advice. The commissioners have totally hit rock bottom IMO

    Friday, May 19, 2023 Report this

  • Richard

    The only thing that’s hit rock bottom is Nelson. Banging the gavel like an idiot and screaming. Who cares why the other attorney left. They fired Rodriguez and now it’s time for the majority vote of Council to ratify competent legal representation for the taxpayers. Hell, the bigger story is we don’t even have a city administrator. Obviously Vaverak doesn’t want the job. He didn’t even show. Can’t blame him at all under this administration.

    Friday, May 19, 2023 Report this

  • MelissaW

    Agreed, Richard. Didn’t watch the whole meeting, but I have conflicting opinions about this apartment complex being zoned there to begin with. Why is it zoned for multifamily in the first place? Seems like it should’ve been an expansion to the Winn Dixie shopping center…

    Friday, May 19, 2023 Report this

  • JimNisbet

    City Council votes t fire the City Attorney. He resigns as they applaud. Now they are complaining they need an attorney. These councilmen/women are short sighted, immature, silly little children. They continue to expose themselves for their ineptitude more and more at every meeting. I suspect some new blood will be in there next election cycle.

    Friday, May 19, 2023 Report this

  • wheresthepopcorn

    92 minutes but would it have been shorter with Rodriguez? No? He would probably have been yelled at and disregarded by a member of the council.

    They applauded…and they expect people to take then seriously?!

    Friday, May 19, 2023 Report this