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Apopka City Council

Nelson the lone nay vote on Clear Water Lake initiative despite city staff recommendation

The 4-1 outcome puzzles commissioners


"I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

--John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election

It seemed like a done deal.

By any measure, the Clear Water Lake issue has been difficult. Two subdivisions - Clear Lake Estates and Clear Lake Landing, have been dealing with significant flooding issues since Hurricanes Ian and Nicole caused the lake to overflow. The residents complained during City Council meetings' public comments section - which continued to escalate.

After a particularly contentious January 18th City Council meeting, City staff and Mayor Bryan Nelson took the next two weeks to iron out a deal. Then, at the February 1st meeting, it seemed as though everyone was singing off the same page of the hymnal.

At least, that's how it seemed.

The plan, presented by City Engineer Richard Earp, included pumping water out of Clear Water Lake and using it as reclaimed water in other developments. The city agreed to pay to bring the pumps and equipment required to do the job at an estimated cost of $600,000, although it expects to be reimbursed through reclaimed water and irrigation bills that residents already pay.

It was enough for both HOA Presidents and their residents to agree.


Staff recommended Council approve the deal under two motions, according to the agenda packet for the February 1st City Council.

Here are their remarks:

On November 16, 2022, a workshop was conducted in City Council Chambers with a discussion presented by City of Apopka Staff and St. Johns River Water Management District Staff. Additional presentations were provided to City Council on January 5, 2023, and January 18, 2023. During these discussions, the estimated costs to design, permit and construct irrigation systems designed to use water currently in Clearwater Lake to irrigate Clear Lake Estates and Clear Lake Landings were presented. This Alternative Water Supply Project is anticipated to add more than 60 million gallons annually to our reclaimed water supply system, thus reducing our need to use groundwater to supply our irrigation demand.

The estimated cost to design, permit, and construct the proposed Alternative Water Supply Pump Stations is approximately $600,000.

Staff contacted several irrigation companies seeking services to design, permit, and construct the subject Alternative Water Supply Project. Ballenger Irrigation was the only responsive company identified. Ballenger has met with City Staff in our offices, in the field, and at the SJRWMD Service Center to continue to refine their design.

Over the past two years, staff has utilized Stage Door II services under a piggyback contract. Stage Door II’s work to date has been cost-effective, timely, and of high quality. Staff is aware of Stage Door II’s experience with very similar emergency pumping operations in recent years. Because emergency pumping is not part of the piggyback contract, we seek this emergency approval to use this contractor for this emergency work.


Authorize an Emergency Designation of Ballenger Irrigation for design, permitting, construction, and one year of routine maintenance of the Alternative Water Supply irrigation pump stations for Clear Lake Estates and Clear Lake Landings for $600,000. Authorize City Administrator to negotiate access easements from Clear Lake Estates and Clear Lake Landings for the City to access, construct, operate, and maintain this Alternative Water Supply System. Approval of this item requires a budget amendment to assign funds for these services under Resolution 2023-02 on today’s City Council Meeting Agenda.

Emergency Designation for Public Services to procure the services of Stage Door II to implement a temporary pumping operation intended to reduce high lake water levels in Clearwater Lake. Approval of this item requires a budget amendment to assign funds for these services under Resolution 2023-03 on today’s City Council Meeting Agenda.


The commissioners, who have witnessed the critical remarks during public comments, and received multiple emails on the subject, had questions for Earp but ultimately agreed with the proposal.

 "I do think it's a reasonable allocation of city resources to address this issue.," said Commissioner Kyle Becker."And again, I would assume, maybe just a general confirmation that the authority of this Council is to be able to assess these things on a case-by-case basis, enter into this type of an agreement that we feel like it's for the best interest of our city as well as our taxpayers. Otherwise, I just thank the staff and thank the individual communities for participating. I'm sure we'll hear from other people. But thank you for the time and energy that you all took."

"Well, my concern was that at the last meeting, the community was totally against the same proposal," said Commissioner Diane Velazquez. "And then I have some concerns about the meeting with the mayor. I don't know what was discussed. I have to be responsible to the other taxpayers who are literally reaching out and saying they understand that we need to help this community even though it's a private community and a private lake, but they understand that that's something we need to do."

"I just want to share what I'm kind of having to decipher here because I literally went back and listened to the council meeting we had for over two hours," said Commissioner Nick Nesta. "But I also made a lot of notes. And I remember when you left here, you were adamantly opposed to this proposal. And so that's why it was important for me to find out what happened between then and now, and now the same proposal is coming back. So that is a concern for me because I want to tell my taxpayers, the ones calling me, that utility reserves will be replenished in five years. And that's important because, you know, you're one development, but we have so much development going on, others are going to look towards the same problem. If we have this problem, we're going to go to the city. And so that's my concern."

"Let me first say I was very appreciative that the two communities were willing to come in and discuss, as was previously mentioned, at the last [Council] meeting, a lot of contention is going on in reference to this particular project," said Commissioner Alexander Smith. "And to come to this point to an agreement, I think, is a great deal. I, too, received some phone calls from individuals opposed to what we have asked to do today, as well as some who were supportive of what we're about to do today. And so, in the process between Monday and today, I did some homework on my own to make sure that what we were doing today, as far as my board is concerned, was due diligence. And from the legal aspect, one question was what we're doing is going to set a precedent. And so, after doing all my due diligence, I'm fine."

So, it's staff-recommended, HOA, and resident-approved, with all four commissioners in agreement. It seems like a slam dunk, right?

But a funny thing happened on the way to a unanimous vote... take a look at this dialogue:

After a 5-0 vote on the first item, Nelson called for a second vote.

"Anybody from the public wishes to speak on this one? If not... look for a motion to authorize an emergency designation for public services to procure the services of Stage Door II to implement a temporary pumping operation intended to reduce water levels in Clear Water Lake. So moved motion by Commissioner Nesta. Second by Commissioner Smith. All those in favor say, Aye... to which all four commissioners vote in the affirmative.

"Those opposed? Aye," Nelson says, meaning he voted against the measure.

"Okay. Four to one. So motion carries. Okay, next up, public hearing ordinance number 20," Nelson said, ready to move on from his mystifying vote against his staff's own presentation.

"I'm sorry, you said 4-1?" Velazquez asked - clearly puzzled.

"Yes," said Nelson.

"Who was the no vote?" Velazquez asked.

"Me," said Nelson

"I mean, it's typically the case where we know why people vote no," said Becker.

"I'm just voting no," said Nelson.

"But what I find interesting is he had the meeting and proposed it, and he's the one disapproving it.," said Velazquez. "That doesn't make sense. You just beat me down to vote for it. What reason... why did you vote no?"

"Susan, next up," Nelson said to City Clerk Susan Bone, ready again to move on.

Politicians have made several classic "flip-flop" type votes and quotes over the years. There is President George Bush's "Read my lips, no new taxes remark" and John Kerry's "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." and Mitt Romney touting his Massachusetts Health Care Bill, only to denounce it in the 2012 election. But has anyone ever voted against a proposal his own staff presented with no warning or explanation?

Yes, both parts of the initiative to assist the residents of Clear Lake Estates and Clear Lake Landing in their time of need passed, but what would make Nelson flip on the second part? The Apopka Voice contacted Nelson by text to ask him why he voted against his staff's proposal but did not respond before the article's publication.

Apopka City Council, Apopka, Clear Water Lake, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson,


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

  • SusanBeth

    Good grief. Mayor Nelson strikes out yet again. Negative press continues.

    Friday, February 3 Report this

  • MamaMia

    Well people can change their minds before they vote, in regard to the mayor's pumping the Clear Lake water. On the fire report issue, in fairness, the mayor did say he had been going over the report line by line with the fire chief, but hadn't finished the report, but would in the next few days. It was a draft, not the finished report. It wasn't that he hadn't even been examing it, he had been going over it. I even heard Commissioner Becker make a reference to some paperwork that he hadn't gotten a chance to read yet, but it wasn't the fire report. I didn't see anyone jump on him, and go crazy, because he hadn't completed reading his paperwork. Everyone just jumps too quickly with their accusations, sometimes.

    Friday, February 3 Report this

  • MamaMia

    Everyone needs to stop with the idea of firing the city attorney, because they don't like his messages. The law firm that the city hired to represent the city in the Duran case, directed the city attorney to issue the gag order, and shut down, the employees of the city from talking about the case, and also the city council members. It was that law firm that instructed the city attorney to monitor the public record requests going out concerning any and everything regarding the Duran case and things regarding the fire department. Why can't some of you all, just not understand that? You see places all the time state that they don't respond to pending litigation. I know you all feel very sorry for the Duran family...I get that, I do. It would be best to abide by instructions you were given about not discussing the case, or questioning about the Duran's public record requests....IMO

    Friday, February 3 Report this

  • MamaMia

    I don't think anyone should even be entertaing the idea of firing the city attorney, Mr. Rodriguez. He hasn't done anything wrong, just giving you all the message. God knows it wasn't Mr. Rodriguez that was involved with the east Orange County brothel, like one of the previous city attorneys, (TC) that former Mayor Kilsheimet hired....LOL

    Friday, February 3 Report this

  • MamaMia

    Correction: Mayor Kilsheimer

    Friday, February 3 Report this

  • MamaMia

    If everyone was fired, that some people want fired at the city, there wouldn't be any need to keep the doors of city hall open, the lights turned on, and the water running. Just unbelievable, who all's names have been called up to get pink slips. Totally ridiculous!

    Friday, February 3 Report this

  • MamaMia

    This is a different subject matter, but there is this horrible viral video I just watched of a 9 year old girl and her 10 year old brother on a school bus, getting beaten badly by older boys on the bus. It happened Feb.1, and was in Homestead, Florida on a bus from Coconut Palms K-8 Academy. This is what children have to contend with it, this day and age. It is shameful! There are several media outlets showing the video, some very clear, others blurred it. Watch them all. It makes me angry!

    Friday, February 3 Report this

  • MamaMia

    It would seem to me, that the city attorney, Mr. Rodriguez, is a department head of the city, over that department, that was created under Mayor Nelson.

    Saturday, February 4 Report this

  • MamaMia

    I have been following the news on the Chinese spy balloon flying over areas where our country stores nuclear facilities. Does anyone believe the Chinese version of why that balloon was flying up there sooooo high? I don't believe them. That balloon needed shot down! Who knows what they were up to? They were affecting our air space, and planes scheduled coming and going. They've got some kind nerve! It should of been shot down immediately when it got into our territory! It could of had a bomb, it could of been spreading diseases, viruses, or anything possible. So now China is mad, and pledges retaliation? Looks like we are headed for a war with China! It was reported over Montana. People there were able to see it. One lady was aware of it, and stated she saw a fast moving super jet flying by like lightning, then saw an explosion, and she made photos of the smoke trail. I thought it was shot down then. Then it was reported again over Kansas City. I didn't know where it was next, until I heard it was shot down finally over the Carolina coast out in the Atlantic. Good riddance. Hope they find out what that balloon really was. I can only imagine if the US had a big balloon, and sent it over China, that sucker would have been shot down immediately, no doubt!

    Sunday, February 5 Report this