The City of Groveland has approved a development in the Green Swamp that is denser than the state of Florida approved in a settlement agreement that laid boundaries for development in the environmentally sensitive swamp, a major recharge area for the state's ground water.
City officials, expecting concern that the increased density it has approved might draw litigation from the state and Lake County, also approved an "indemnification agreement" in which the Cypress Lake Reserve applicant agreed to "hold the city harmless" from any monetary repercussions related to its decision.
"We didn't want to take any legal risks if they were to pop up," City Manager Redmond Jones told GrowthSpotter. "They offered it up to make it more appealing."
Proposals to develop inside the Green Swamp have been around for decades. This particular collection of parcels is now called Cypress Lake Reserve. Formerly it was known as Montevista Farms, Hearthstone, and Banyan's Tract.
The land is some of the only swampland where development of any kind would be allowed in the area.
On Feb. 1, the Groveland City Council approved a plan to build 737 residential units on its 486.53 acres. That density equals 2.8 units per acre, higher than the two units per acre cap placed on the parcels by a settlement agreement with the state.
Jones said the city council agreed to the higher density after the developer, Cypress Lake Reserve, redesigned the footprint to cluster the units, shrinking its footprint to lessen its impact with smaller lot sizes.
The plan calls for 293 acres of the 486 to remain open space, 60 percent of its total.
160 acres of the total would be residential construction. There are 172 lots that are 65-by-170 feet; 317 on 50-by-20-foot lots. Also, 26 four-plex buildings and 26 six-plex residences are called for.
The development will also have more than nine acres of parkland.
"I think the developer should be applauded, they have really maximized the open space," said Jones.
The developer representative, Julia Johnson, did not return calls for comment this week.
The next step for the development is to send it to the state's Department of Economic Opportunity for review.
Lake County Commission spokeswoman Kelly Lafollette said since the development is inside Groveland's city limits, the county nothing to say about the approved density.
However, the county does have some concern that Max Hooks Road, which passes through the county and is proposed for access to it, is substandard and won't be adequate for the community's traffic, and the county has no funding for upgrading the road.