Large Controversy and Small Victory In Lake City


planzonecampgroundboardBoard members Busscher, Peeler, Chair Jordan, Ruffo, Attorney Foreman, Planner Stubbs

Even though the final outcome is still uncertain, it looks like a few people last night (Tues. Nov. 15, 2016) made a difference for the river.   During the course of a more-than-two-hour meeting of the Columbia County Planning & Zoning Board, reviewing an application for the development of the equestrian campground at River Rise Preserve just off Highway 27 near High Springs, the final vote killed the requested RV dumping station on the banks of the Santa Fe River.

Thanks to Dr. Colette Jacono for discovering this issue and for researching the facts not apparent in the deceptive application

It is unclear where this plan originated, but it appears that perhaps the DEP has decided that they can make money by building 20 RV campsites at the now designated “primitive” camp at River Rise Preserve.

planzonecampgroundmaryv                                                     planzonecampgroundkearney
Sierra Club Suwannee-St Johns Group Maryvonne Devensky                   Judy Kearney, environmentalist and nearby resident

The application was misleading and deceptive, because it claimed there was no need for an environmental analysis because nothing new was going to be added, only a few “amenities.”  These so-called amenities included a new bathhouse, septics, an RV dump station, electricity concrete pads, a new road, a drainage ditch.  Quite an infrastructure, indeed.

The park ranger from O’Leno State Park did his best to bring in this development and believes it will not impact the river nor environment

The preserve is in an area that Columbia County has zoned  “Conservation Zone District” and “no use other than non-intensive resource based recreation activities and native vegetative community restoration shall be permitted.”  Yet Tallahassee wants to develop this area on the banks of our Outstanding Waterway, on a river the state designates as impaired, in recovery, and which is already overloaded with nutrients, precisely because of bankside developments such as this.

Sierra Club National Organizer Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson lets no detail go unnoticed. Her years of experience with governing agencies and their processes gives her many weapons to draw on. This lady is tireless, she spent many hours earlier this same day at the Standing Rock solidarity event in Gainesville.



So they sent out their team, one from Tampa and one from Tallahassee, which met with unexpected and strong resistance from the public, supported by two of the zoning board members.  Chairman Jordan, helped by board member Ruffo, worked long and hard to get a compromise, such as moving the dump station back from the river, but the state-backed team would not budge one inch, repeating over and over words such as “standards,” “specifications,” “regulations,” and “budget.”

The building team had all the answers until asked by Chair Jordan to move out of their box of comfort. Then they had trouble expressing new thoughts. At the end they were silent.

County Attorney Joel Foreman was quite helpful and had to explain to some of the board members what their options were, and what they could or could not do.  Several motions were made and fizzled, and finally, in what seemed out of desperation, since the Tallahassee team was totally intransigent, board member Peeler moved to accept the application without the dump station, and all agreed except Chairman Jordan.

The applicant has the option to accept or re-apply with no time restrictions, and did not indicate what their plans might be.

County Planner Brandon Stubbs swears in OSFR member Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson to make sure she tells the truth and does not deceive the board.

Thanks go to environmental watchdog Dr. Colette Jacono for bringing this underhanded attempt at deception by our state protective agency to the public’s attention, and for speaking eloquently, clearly, descriptively and logically to the board.

Dr. Jacono also brought a friend, Judy Kearney, who ably defended the river.  Sierra Club representatives Maryvonne Devensky and Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson spoke also, as did your OSFR historian.

Chairman Jordan has specific questions for the ranger and the building consultants. They were not receptive to his suggestions.


Merrillee make sure our points are not forgotten.


Columbia County Board of Adjustment and Planning Zoning Board

Position Member
Chairman Robert Jordan
Vice-Chairman Vacant
Member Earl Peeler
Teena Ruffo
Roger Busscher
County Planner Brandon Stubbs – (386)754-7119
County Attorney Joel Foreman – (386)752-8420

Planning and Zoning provides various services to the County which entails providing technical, professional and administrative support to various boards, Board of Adjustment, Planning and Zoning Board, Board of County Commissioners and the general public. This department implements and enforces the Columbia County Land Development Regulations, monitors and updates the County’s Comprehensive Plan.

The board meets every fourth (4th) Thursday of each month at 6:00 p.m. at the Columbia County School Board Administrative complex:
372 West Duval Street
Lake City, Florida 32055


Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life:  once taken, it cannot be brought back-


  1. Wow! Do we now need a clear definition of the word ‘amenities’? No homeowner would be allowed to do those improvements without permits.

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