CHULUOTA, Fla. — As development in Central Florida booms, concerns of some neighbors in eastern Seminole County are growing too.
- Chuluota resident fights against development on rural land
- 'Urban/Rural Boundary' made to separate urban services, rural lifestyle
- Theodore Mello concerned about land annexation
“This is my passion, and I love this place. And I’m willing to fight to the end for it," said Theodore Mello.
Mello grew up in Chuluota and loves the rural lifestyle. A landscaper by trade, he's self-sufficient, fixing his own fence damaged by Hurricane Irma.
Mello's also growing an array of vegetables and raising chickens. He'll soon build a chicken coup.
Inside his home, fishing rods line his walls. He describes lakes and parks as "pristine."
But some of the area is designated rural, while some is not. That's enough to make 42-year-old Mello want to stay vigilant for future changes.
“The rural boundary line says everything," he said. “When the City of Oviedo keeps pushing and pushing to come in, or the state comes in, our quality of life dissipates.”
And as of late, talk has been swirling around developments and rural boundaries. Though no changes were made, Mello said that an April 10 County Commission meeting diving into the minutiae of rural boundaries "concerned" many of his Chuluota neighbors.
It wasn't long ago that neighbors a few miles away across the Orange County line railed against developments, like Lake Pickett South. Dubbed ‘The Grow,’ the project was recently revived by Gov. Rick Scott after reaching snags locally.
“We signed petitions with them. We fought with them," Mello said. “We don’t want that here.”
“Not only do we hear them and understand, we’ve actually established an entire land-use policy," said John Horan, chairman of the Seminole County Board of Commissioners. “We’re very interested in making sure that the will of the people is understood.”
In 1988, Seminole County voted for a county-wide charter. A few years later, the Board of County Commissioners established an Urban/Rural Boundary: a line that curves around Oviedo, separating urban services to the west and rural lifestyle to the east.
Horan said that Seminole reaffirmed their rural boundary line in 2004 and nothing has changed on a local level, except a bill just died in legislature which would override Home Rule.
“I’m never surprised by what the Florida legislature does," he said. “But our policy is to focus the growth where we’ve got the services. I think the state needs to stay out of it.”
“We seem like we’re winning at a local level, then we’ll turn around, and they’ll take it to a state level," said Mello. “If they don’t get what they want from the kids, they go to the parents."
While Mello’s concern about cities annexing land is valid, changes still have to be approved by Commissioners.
It's uncertainty that he said breeds distrust. After all, much is at stake.
"I don’t trust them. I need a voice," Mello said. “I just want to fight it until it stops, so I can go back to living my life, not have to worry about, 'How is my water going to taste tomorrow? Am I going to be able to get out of my driveway?'"