The East Mulloch Drainage District (EMDD):
In the late 1950’s, Florida was in the ‘ditch and drain’ mentality. The goal was to move the water from what was formally the Mulloch Creek watershed off the landscape as quickly as possible, so that San Carlos Park could be developed. By 1963, the East Mulloch Drainage District (EMDD) had been created by the an act of the Florida legislature (FS 63-930 EMDD). The district is funded by a non-ad valorum tax (not based on property value). The maintenance fee was set at $15.00 per acre in 1963. Most of the approximately 8000 lots in San Carlos Park are a quarter-acre.
Residents of San Carlos Park have expressed frustration with the poor maintenance of the drainage district since at least the 1980’s. In 1983, 83-455 FS East Mullock Drainage District was passed that would allow the district to be ‘taken over’ by Lee County. This would allow the district to be managed and funded locally instead of requiring a state law to make any significant changes to the operation and management of EMDD. In 1986 86-425 FS Mullock Drainage District was adopted, which resulted in the amount of the maintenance fee to be doubled, to $30/acre. From then, until now, property owners pay (only) about $7 per year for each quarter-acre lot. That provides about $70,000 per year to do upkeep for the system (21 miles of canals, lakes, and other structures). The bulk of those funds are used to spray for emergent plants (when folks call to complain), and to remove, also upon complaint, anything that hinders the flow of water through the system. The drainage district suffers from 50 years of neglect. The result is what you see around you as you drive through San Carlos Park today- ditches overgrown and with garbage, surrounded by the invasive exotic plants (melaleuca and Brazilian pepper). Even though we have yard waste pickup and unlimited refuse disposal, some horticulture waste and garbage ends up in the canals and easements. Residents with homes along the (wet) canal have lost significant portions of their back yards to the canal as a result of erosion. The invasive exotics DO provide a nice privacy buffer (more on that in the Restoration tab).
What could be an asset is currently a liability. I envision a different future, but it will take additional funds, and perhaps a different governing structure, to allow for the EMDD to be repaired, restored, and maintained.
The San Carlos Park MSTU:
The San Carlos Park Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU) was created for the purpose of paving the streets, and maintaining and installing streetlights. In order to create the unit, 50% of the residents signed a petition to voluntarily tax themselves to fund paving of the roads, installation of the streetlights and paying the monthly bill to keep them lit.
In 1989 Lee County Ordinance 89-25 was adopted for this purpose. The San Carlos Park MSTU is funded by ad-valorum taxes. They are paid based on the value of the property. The MSTU is governed by a board of (4) volunteer (residents), appointed by the Lee County Commissioners of district 2, to oversee the budget for the MSTU. The Lee County Department of Community Affairs helps administer the taxing unit by keeping the books and scheduling the annual meetings. The meetings usually occur in early April, and are held at the Karl Drews House.
The two taxing units have different responsibilities and governance structures. Funds from one cannot be used for the other.