The "Bell" site

The Clermont boat ramp, located on the southwest side of Lake Minneola, will be permanently closed by the end of December to complete the 10-acre Victory Pointe Storm Water Treatment System and Triathlon Beach project, leaving boaters only one location on Hull Road to launch their boats. No one knows if the city will replace the ramp, though the city council said they will work with Lake County to find a suitable site for the ramp.  It’s anyone’s guess when that will be.

Boaters and Fishermen are worried that the Clermont Chain of Lakes will eventually be accessible only to those who live on it, much as the situation on the Windermere chain. Residents are concerned about traffic and safety issues.  Environmentalists want the ramp located in a place that will have the least eco-impact to the chain of lakes.

Since the launch of the Master Plan, the boat ramp has been conceptually moved at least 3 times.   The original plan showed the existing boat ramp moving to the east end of Waterfront Park (aka the “Bell Ceramics” site).  Last year, the proposed location of the ramp was once again moved due to the city’s concern about having a swimming beach and boat ramp in close proximity.  The lakefront property is also considered an asset and a boat ramp doesn’t serve as the property’s best use.

Two sites on Lake Hiawatha were considered and rejected due to the impact on its wetlands.  Thus, the city chose its least favored site, the Hiawatha Preserve, a passive park, as the site for the relocated boat ramp.

If the ramp were moved to the Hiawatha Preserve, located immediately past the roundabout on Lake Minneola Shores, it would provide no enhancements for boaters, impact the lake’s only wetlands and create traffic and safety issues. The compact ramp would also cause a hardship to the neighboring residents, one living only 40-foot from the ramp’s boundary. The city can save more than two-million dollars by not pursuing the project in this location.

Keep the Ramp at its Present Location?
Victory Pointe Storm Water Treatment System and Triathlon Beach projects cannot move forward without the removal of the ramp. Residents against the destruction of the existing ramp suggested that it would be cost-effective to keep the ramp as is and adjust the specifications on the Victory Pointe and Triathlon Beach projects so they don’t interfere with the ramp.  This would save over $2 million dollars to move the ramp. It would stay at its current site until an appropriate location can be found.

Move the Ramp to the Bell Ceramic Location?
Greg Amann, a life-long resident of Clermont and living on East Avenue, refuted the City’s evaluation regarding the traffic on East Avenue as; “just not true”. “Anyone that uses the boat ramp now, knows that the high activity at the ramp is primarily weekends and holidays when school is not in session”.   He went on to say that the roadways leading to the “Bell” property make plenty of sense, ie. East Ave. from Hwy 50, Grand Hwy from Hwy 27 and Lakeshore Dr. from Minneola.  Amann said he saw no traffic issues with this plan.

Toni Bell, a long-time resident of Clermont, gave an impassioned plea to the City Council on Tuesday, October 10, to move the ramp to the “Bell Ceramic” property as originally determined in the City’s Master Plan.  In a statement before City Council, she provided insight into the history of the property.

“My late husband, Richard Bell, his brother Peter and brother in law Calvin Hettinger sold Bell Ceramics, Inc. to Becky Decker in Cedar Hill, Texas when they retired in 2005.

Richard and the family kept the property to sell as part of their retirement.   Wayne Saunders was city manager at the time.   The city expressed an interest in the property at the same time that CBRE of Orlando (the largest brokerage firm in the nation) represented by Mike Phipps had offers to buy the land to put up condominiums.

Richard, Peter and Cal decided to sell the land to the city because they thought the land would best be served as a city of Clermont holding.  Richard loved this city as evidenced by his work in Kiwanis. They also were told that the city would put up some kind of plaque on the property to commemorate Bell Ceramics. This was not in writing but Richard felt the city would keep its word.

The city eventually bought the Pool property and built the Hiawatha Preserve as a passive park.  This kept the city financially strapped so they could not build anything on the Bell property at the time.  The Hiawatha preserve is an excellent use of the Pool property.  I think it is beautiful.  It would be ruined if there were a boat ramp destroying the trees and wetlands.

The point that I am making is that the Bell property would make an excellent boat ramp for which my late husband and his relatives would be pleased.

The objection that it would cause excessive traffic on East Avenue is not quite accurate as schools are closed on weekends when most people use the boat ramp.   Also, if the city sells the property for condominiums the traffic will be greatly increased because every unit will have at least two cars going in and out of the property on a regular basis.

My plea to you is to use the Bell Ceramics property for a public boat ramp. Keep everyone happy.”

Those attending the council meeting agree that they want a boat ramp. Everyone appeared to want to work together to get a location suitable for a ramp.  This should not be a win/lose situation.  It’s all about location. Finding the right location is attainable.