GROVELAND, FL-This rural town of 3,100 permanent residents, once a citrus jewel in agricultural Lake County, is kicking up controversy with a plan to annex 2,000 acres in the environmentally sensitive 287,320-acre Green Swamp, the main location of the state’s fresh drinking water supply.

What is infuriating development foes is that Groveland–25 miles west of Downtown Orlando–had the audacity to use $10,000 of state funds for a study that concludes the town’s growth mechanism for the next 20 years lies in land annexation from the nearby Green Swamp.

Equally galling to environmentalists is that only 1,000 acres of the 2,000 acres planned for annexation could be developable. The balance is wetlands where endangered species and vegetation are protected by law.

“It’s a long shot, but if I were a betting person, I would bet the town will win in some fashion, maybe not getting all it wants but probably a smaller annexation portion,” Dean Fritchen, senior associate, Arvida Realty Services Commercial Division, Winter Park, FL, tells “You have to keep in mind that Gov. (Jeb) Bush and his Cabinet officials are perceived as strongly pro-development.”

Elected officials in Groveland couldn’t be reached at’s publication deadline to learn the town’s next annexation step. Executives in the Florida Department of Community Affairs in Tallahassee, which approved the $10,000 annexation study, also couldn’t be reached.

In an editorial spanking, the daily Lake Sentinel chastised the Department of Community Affairs and elected Groveland officials for even conceiving the annexation plan. The newspaper called the plan “simply outrageous” and “misguided.”

Annexation “would only make it easier and more attractive for developers to build homes and businesses in the area,” says the Lake Sentinel editorial.

That’s precisely what area developers have in mind as they pursue newly discovered pockets of retail, hotel and office growth in nearby Clermont, Mascotte and Montverde. Clermont, also 25 miles west of Downtown Orlando, is Orlando’s established bedroom community as commuters race back and forth to work daily on State Road 50.

Groveland residents, meanwhile, ponder their growth dilemma as they endure with not a single grocery or drug store and only one doctor.

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