Gotha residents confront Orange County commission over flooding

‘There are no words to satisfy what we’ve lost,’ resident says

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Wearing green shirts with "Gotha Floods" printed on the front about a dozens residents made their pitch to Orange County Commissioners Tuesday about the need to address flooding concerns in their community.

For the past month, News 6 has chronicled the problems near Lake Nally and other nearby bodies of water. Some people have been forced out of their homes due to rising water, despite a lack of recent rainfall.

Theresa Scretzmann-Myers runs Nehrling Gardens, which has lost much of its trail due to flooding.

"We're very concerned, we're asking for your help," she said to the board. "We're losing a piece of Florida horticulture history as we speak."

Those who live and work in the area argue that new housing developments and interstate expansion are likely to blame for the increase in water runoff into their community.

Mary Fernandez and her husband were forced to evacuate their home months ago and move in with their daughter. "We want to move back home, we want our home back," she said. "That's our home. How can you take away from that and say 'We'll see what you do. We'll review your situation.' You get to go home, we don't. Right now, actions speak louder than words."

District 1 Commissioner Betsy VanderLey told News 6 she's already reached out to different agencies to try to find a cause, including Florida's Turnpike Enterprise and the St. Johns River Water Management District.

"We don't know what the contributing causes are yet," she said. "So my whole focus is we need to figure out where the water is coming from so we can figure out what we need to do to turn the tide on this and make things better for the residents out there."

In the past, county leaders have told News 6 that bodies of water like Lake Nally are private, and are not owned by the county. However, at this Board of County Commissioners meeting, county leaders acknowledged for the first time, that the ownership of the lake likely doesn't matter when it comes to fixing the problem.

"I'm going to let the lawyers weigh in on what's owned by whom," VanderLey said. "My whole focus is making sure whatever we need to do to solve this problem that we do everything in our power to do that."

For some residents, the time to sit back and research long-term solutions has passed.

“I understand it could take some time to find a permanent solution for all the flooding issues, but we need something now,” said resident Stacey DeHart. “It’s still disappointing. What is our time frame? What are we looking at here? We have homes under water, time is of the essence. I do find that it’s a shame to have taken so long.”

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