FOUR CORNERS – Ever since the housing market collapsed in 2008, there’s been an assumption by many that growth is no longer a major issue in Central Florida.
After all, houses are no longer being built at a rapid pace, and in some areas there’s still an inventory of unsold homes that were constructed in the past decade when the market was soaring.
So without the pressure that rapid development puts on local resources, local communities should, in theory, be experiencing fewer growing pains.
But Hector Lizasuain doesn’t see it that way, and neither does Gene Terrico.
What they see is an area like Four Corners, where the counties of Polk, Lake, Orange and Osceola come together along two major highways, U.S. 27 and U.S. 192. Both highways have become popular tourist spots, with new shopping plazas on U.S. 192, and a growing number of vacation home resorts along U.S. 192.
And even if few if any new homes are getting built here, the ones that did get constructed between 2004 and 2007 brought so many newcomers to the region that growth pressures are still alive and well, Lizasuain said.
Lizasuain is Osceola County’s West 192 coordinator, and he’s also a member of the Four Corners Area Council, a group of business owners in the Four Corners region who meet on a monthly basis.
For the second time, the council has scheduled a regional summit, aimed at bringing together the government leaders from all four counties, as well as some of the region’s top business leaders, to talk about the unmet needs in the Four Corners area.
The summit will be held on Thursday, Nov. 1 at 1 p.m. at ChampionsGate Golf Resort.
“We’re going to be partnering with the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber on this,” Lizasuain said. The Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber is the parent company of the Four Corners Area Council.
The council has held regional summits in the past. Four Corners is made up of unincorporated sections of four separate counties, and the residents living there are not particularly close to their county government offices.
For residents of Northeast Polk County in unincorporated Davenport, those offices are in Bartow. For South Lake County residents in unincorporated Clermont, those offices are up in Tavares.
Northeast Osceola County residents need to visit downtown Kissimmee, while for Orange County residents, the offices are in downtown Orlando.
Often times, Lizasuain said, these residents feel they’re not getting the attention they need from their government leaders, and there are challenges that still need to be addressed.
“We already know what the topics will be” at the summit, he said. They include water resources, redevelopment, and transportation.
Terrico, the chairman of the Four Corners Area Council, said the summit is needed because the Four Corners area grew so quickly, that government leaders are still playing catch up with local residents’ needs.
Polk County just did that when it opened a new regional park in Davenport, right off U.S. 27 and a sort distance from the U.S. 192 exit. That was the first public park built in Four Corners, and it opened this spring.
Water is also an issue, particularly in Lake County, Lizasuain said, where the demand for water exceeds what is available.
Paul Senft, a former Polk County commissioner who is now Haines City’s economic development director, said he could help the council find ways to address water issues.
”I’m chair of the Southwest Florida Water board, and I can help on the water issues,” Senft said.
In addition, the council has been working with the counties to get more public transportation to the area, Lizasuain said.
”From (U.S.) 27 to the (Florida) Turnpike, we’re working on an agreement between Lake and Orange (counties) on a Lynx bus route,’’ Lizasuain said.
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