City of Lake Helen to Receive Award from 1000 Friends of Florida For Visionary Planning to Protect Community's Small-town Character
The City of Lake Helen will be presented with 1000 Friends of Florida’s Better Community Award for its citizen engagement and visionary planning to protect the community’s historic, small-town character. The award will be presented by 1000 Friends President Charles Pattison at an “Ice Cream Social” to be held in the City of Lake Helen on the evening of Tuesday, September 25 at 7 p.m. Residents of Volusia County are urged to attend this event at Lake Helen’s community center, historic Hopkins Hall, at the corner of Euclid and Connecticut Avenues.
“The City of Lake Helen has done what many other communities only contemplate,” says Charles. “It has engaged its citizens, established a compelling vision, and then incorporated that vision into its local plan.” The community was nominated for the award by Sam Tollefson of Cassadaga. “Having been an activist fighting to control the growth machine that has swallowed much of Southeast Florida, I have been alarmed to see such growth coming to Central Florida and other parts of state,” says Sam. “I was delighted to learn that Lake Helen has the insight, vision and courage to implement a growth plan that, if sustained, will enrich the lives of the people that live here for generations to come.”
In 2001, the community held a series of visioning sessions, and it soon became clear there was strong public support for maintaining Lake Helen’s unique, small-town, historic character. As a follow up, the city commissioned a population build out study on its 1992 comprehensive plan. Citizens and community leaders alike were shocked to realize that it would allow the distinctive community to grow dramatically in population.
Under the leadership of Mayor Mark Shuttleworth, Lake Helen then embarked on a four-year planning process to update the community’s comprehensive plan. In 2005 the city amended the plan, directing development first to infill areas, and incorporating smart growth principles for development outside the central core. The new plan slightly more than doubles the current population of almost 3,000 residents, which is considerably less than the 12,000 residents contemplated in the previous plan.
Mayor Shuttleworth attributes their success to two factors. “For years, our citizens have clearly expressed their desire to preserve Lake Helen’s small town atmosphere and quality of life,” says the Mayor. “They were willing to forgo ‘economic development’ and ‘jobs’ promised by strip malls and highway convenience stores in order to maintain our community’s environmental quality.” He goes on to note that the citizens trusted local government when it rezoned two-thirds of the town to ensure a population cap of about 6,500 at build out.
Mayor Shuttleworth also credits City Administrator/Planner Don Findell, who has guided the city’s planning and municipal infrastructure development program over the last eight years. “Don has been invaluable,” says Shuttleworth. “He brought many years of experience from other locales, and helped develop an acclaimed planning strategy to ensure the survival of this small Central Florida town.”
“The City of Lake Helen is a shining model for other communities across the state,” says 1000 Friends President Charles Pattison. “While its 1992 plan maximized the city’s future population and growth potential, the 2005 plan incorporates focuses on maintaining Lake Helen’s distinctive, small-town character.”
1000 Friends’ Better Community Award is presented annually for plans that have been implemented and projects that are completed that use the principles of smart growth to create livable, vital environments. 1000 Friends of Florida is also presenting six other awards for individual achievement and journalism at separate events over the course of 2007.
A statewide nonprofit organization, 1000 Friends was founded in 1986 to serve as Florida’s growth management watchdog. It has been presenting awards for innovative growth management efforts since 1990. For more information on 1000 Friends, visit www.1000friendsofflorida.org.