Residents near Lake Apopka concerned with airstrip expansion plan

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. —

Environmentalists said plans to expand a private airstrip could end up wasting millions of your tax dollars that have already been spent to clean up Lake Apopka.

The north shore of Lake Apopka is home to the largest number of water birds anywhere in central Florida, but neighbors are afraid they could be driven off.

The owners of a landing strip in the middle of a farm along the Lake-Orange county line want to expand it and build an industrial park around it.

"I'm extremely concerned about this airport," said resident Connie Harvey. "It could destroy the north shore Apopka area."

"It creates a destination. It attracts visitors. That's what an airport is for," said Guy Haggard of the West Orange Airport Authority.

At a regional summit, officials and residents from both counties hashed out the pros and cons.

Part of the discussion was about the tens of millions of tax dollars that have been spent to restore polluted Lake Apopka. Some say more planes could ruin everything.

"Done wrong, done in the wrong places, airports have the potential to kill this dream," said Charles Lee of the Florida Audubon Society.

Some officials said the area is ripe for what they call eco-tourism and believe it's perfect for something similar to Disney's Wilderness Lodge.

But is an airport part of that picture?

""If they don't work together, then we need to say so," said Fred Brummer of the Orange County Commission. "We need to make the decision which one will go forward."

Some Lake County leaders said the choice is clear, and they think a larger airport should be off the table.

"For it to expand and then also have an eco-lodge, no," said Leslie Campione of the Lake County Commission.