Commission Meeting Minutes
Draft Minutes of the October 2, 2023 Commission Meeting, 6 PM
The regular meeting of the Lady Lake Town Commission was held in the Commission Chambers at Lady Lake Town Hall, 409 Fennell Blvd., Lady Lake, Florida, with Mayor Rietz presiding.
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m.
Moment of Silence
Pledge of Allegiance
Led by Mayor Rietz
Bill Lawrence; Town Manager; Thad Carroll, Growth Management Director; Pam Winegardner, Finance Director; C.T. Eagle, Public Works Director; Mike Burske, Parks & Recreation Director; Steve Hunt, Police Chief; Nancy Wilson, Town Clerk; and Carol Osborne, Deputy Town Clerk.
Town Attorney Derek Schroth was also in attendance.
1. September 6, 2023 — Town Commission Meeting Minutes
2. September 18, 2023 — Town Commission Meeting Special Meeting Minutes
3. September 18, 2023 — Town Commission Meeting Minutes
4. Consideration of Approval for the appointment of Rebecca Higgins as the Representative of Lady Lake to the Metropolitan Planning Agency’s (MPO) Technical Advisory Committee, and Reassignment of C.T. Eagle as the Alternate Member to the Committee (Thad Carroll)
Commissioner Freeman made a motion to approve the Consent Agenda as presented; Commissioner Kussard seconded. Motion carried 4-0.
B. NEW BUSINESS
5. Consideration of Granting a Fee Exemption for Use of the Community Building by the Girl Scouts (Mike Burske)
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Burske stated the local Girl Scout organization would like the use of the community building to accomplish various activities to earn badges and construct crafts. He stated that per Ordinance 2023-01, full or partial fee exemption applications for community building rental fees must be presented to the Town Commission at a regularly scheduled meeting. He read an excerpt from Ordinance 2023-01 regarding Friday, Saturday, and Sunday rental requirements.
Mayor Rietz confirmed with Mr. Burske that the two dates are one Sunday in December and one Saturday in January.
Commissioner Gourlie asked if anyone has inquired about renting the facility on these dates.
Mr. Burske replied that there is always a Sunday church service in the morning, and no one has contacted him regarding the January date.
Commissioner Freeman confirmed with Mr. Burske that there is no conflict at this time.
Commissioner Freeman made a motion to grant the fee exemption for use of the community building by the Girl Scouts for one Sunday in December 2023 and one Saturday in January 2024. Commissioner Kussard seconded. Motion carried by an all-in-favor vote, 4-0.
6. Discussion Regarding the Rental Fees for Park Facilities (Bill Lawrence)
Town Manager Bill Lawrence stated there was a brief discussion at the September 18, 2023 meeting to assess fees for use of our parks, Snooky Park in particular. Mr. Lawrence is asking the commission if they would like to move forward. He asked if this rental fee would be for everyone who reserves the park or would it be for groups and businesses.
Mr. Lawrence suggested using the same fee structure that is used for our community building rentals, which is charging a $200 security deposit and, when it is proven that the park has been cleaned, the security deposit would be refunded, minus $5 administration fee.
Commissioner Kussard agreed with charging a security deposit.
Commissioner Gourlie also agreed, adding that it is a public park and needs to remain clean. He suggested increasing the administrative fee due to the size of the park.
Commissioner Kussard confirmed that this fee is for businesses or organizations and not family gatherings.
Mr. Lawrence stated that it needs to be determined who can rent the park. He made the commission aware that the town has agreed to allow the Chamber of Commerce to utilize Snooky Park in November, and they should not be required to pay a security deposit.
Commissioner Gourlie agreed, adding that a business is more likely to clean up after their event. He stated that there should also be a deposit for families to rent Snooky Park.
Mayor Rietz asked if all renters of the community building are charged a security deposit.
Town Manager Lawrence replied affirmatively.
Mr. Lawrence stated that thus far the Chamber of Commerce is the first to request use of Snooky Park for an event. He stated that the Little League and Soccer League already pay a fee for use of the ballfields and soccer fields.
Mr. Burske suggested charging a $500 security deposit due to the size of the park. He advised that it requires an immense number of manhours to clean up a park.
Commissioner Gourlie asked how often his staff has had to clean the community building and the deposit was not refunded.
Mr. Burske stated that there was one party within the past two years that left the community building completely trashed, and that it took his staff approximately 16 manhours to clean. He stated that the $200 deposit was insufficient to cover the labor cost.
Commissioner Kussard asked Mr. Burske if a situation such as he described happened at the park, would the renter be banned. She asked if anyone has been banned from renting the community building.
Mr. Burske replied affirmatively and stated that there have not been many who are banned from renting the community building.
Mr. Burske stated that there are always birthday parties at the playground over the weekends and the area is cleaned well.
Commissioner Freeman asked if there is any language in our community building ordinance regarding an insurance requirement.
Mr. Bruske replied that he is not aware of an insurance requirement.
Commissioner Freeman stated that in the past when he used a public park, he had to provide proof of liability insurance. He stated that this is not expensive for a one-day event and this requirement should be considered.
Mr. Burske stated that for events such as what the Chamber is hosting at the park, they provide insurance with the town as the certificate holder. He stated that it may be too costly for a family or meeting event at the community building.
Mayor Rietz stated that he wants to see a fee structure for all of our grounds. He suggested asking the town’s insurance company to see if they could insure a family or business event.
Mr. Burske advised that the town’s insurance carrier has recommended a company to refer to outside groups. He stated that they are very professional, and the online application process does not take long to complete.
Commissioner Freeman asked if there will be more discussion or will an ordinance be drafted.
Mr. Lawrence replied affirmatively, adding if the commission agrees, this will be presented at an upcoming meeting.
It is the consensus of the commission to move forward drafting an ordinance outlining a fee structure for rental of town parks.
C. TOWN ATTORNEY'S REPORT
Attorney Schroth had nothing to report.
TOWN MANAGER'S REPORT
Town Manager Lawrence announced the following town events:
October 3, 2023 - The Farmer’s Market opens at 9:00AM; music will begin at 10:00AM. He stated there will be approximately 44 vendors.
October 4, 2023 – National Coffee with a Cop at our local McDonalds at 8:30AM.
October 13, 2023 – Pop Up Job Fair at the Lady Lake Library parking lot.
Mr. Lawrence made the following acknowledgements:
Public Works Streets Superintendent, Ted Williams, has been with the Town of Lady Lake for 40 years. Ted has shown great leadership throughout his career with Lady Lake and continues to be a valued member of the Lady Lake team.
Becky Higgins has been promoted to Senior Planner. Mr. Lawrence stated that in January and February of this year while Mr. Carroll was out of the office on leave and Wendy had her baby, leaving the office a bit empty, Becky stepped in and showed everyone her ability to carry on. Mr. Lawrence stated he appreciated that she is a good asset for Mr. Carroll’s team.
Cpl. Heather Couch while making a routine traffic stop and checking the operator’s license, found that the operator is wanted for murder in Virginia, and made the arrest.
Finance Director, Pam Winegardner and her staff, Debbie Lopez, Dawn Woods, Michelle Sloane, and Krysten Evens, are closing out the fiscal year for the Town. He stated it was another great year ending within budget and the finance department has done a great job.
Mr. Lawrence stated that there has been a vacancy in our utilities’ customer service department. He stated that Pam has been helping in the utilities department during the day these past few weeks and resuming the finance director’s duties in the evening.
MAYOR AND COMMISSIONER'S REPORT
Commissioner Kussard stated that she attended the Crafts with a Cops event, and that it was a great time seeing the enthusiasm of the children and that K9 Ember was the highlight of the event.
Commissioner Freeman stated that he also attended the Craft with a Cop event. He, too, stated that it was a nice event and that the kids had a great time. He showed everyone the model police car that he constructed at the event.
Mayor/Commissioner Rietz stated that he, too, was at the event, and agreed that K9 Ember was the focus of the event.
Mr. Lawrence stated that he will not be attending the the Coffee with a Cop event at McDonald’s. He and the I.T. Director will be attending a seminar in Jacksonville.
Commissioner Freeman stated that he noticed in the Orlando Sentinel that Clermont and Lady Lake are the only two towns who advertised that they were having this event.
(The public comments following Ms. Farner’s statement have been transcribed verbatim except where readability would be sacrificed.)
Kathleen Farner, 41240 Gibralter Road, Weirsdale
Ms. Farner read a prepared statement. “I am not a resident of Lady Lake thus I am not a constituent of yours. I reside in the unincorporated rural area of Lake County and my property is contiguous to the Grand Oaks Resort.
I was totally shocked to read a news article about the proposed annexation and development of the Grand Oaks Resort. As an adjacent property owner, this was my first notice to learn of a proposal that will have a massive impact on me, my neighbors, and the community. I cannot express how very sad, disturbed, and disappointed I am in the lack of communication to the stakeholders who will be affected by this proposal.
I have lived in Lake County most of my life. I spent my entire career in public service here in Lake County. I retired from the Lake County Schools after 30 years of service and I also worked for Lake County government for five years.
In 2003, I heard about the annual Carriage Festival that Gloria Austin held at the Grand Oaks. I took my mother and two of her little friends to the festival and had a delightful time watching and learning about the various carriages and horses. When I drove down Marion County Road that day, I thought it was the most beautiful area and dreamed of living there one day. Ten years later that opportunity presented itself and I have been very blessed to have lived in my simple home on five acres for the past ten years. I thank God every day for my special place - the gorgeous trees, the peace, and the nature I enjoy. I also think how special it is to catch a glimpse of carriages and horses that pass along the length of my property.
I share this information so you know I am a person. A person who is greatly affected by the decisions you will make about the proposal to annex an enclave property and approve 795 manufactured homes and the infrastructure to support these homes adjacent to my property and in this rural community.
While I am not authorized to speak on behalf of my wonderful neighbors or the Weirsdale community, they are people, too. They have their own stories about why they choose to live in a rural community and how this proposal will significantly affect their way of life.
We are hard-working people who pay taxes and support our local businesses and communities. I seriously wonder why the lives of existing people are compromised and not even considered for people who do not yet exist in or support our community.
On Friday, a young mom waited at the bus stop at Smitty Road and Marion County Road with her daughter. The bus stopped with its flashing lights, yet a vehicle passed the bus even after the bus driver blared his horn. Imagine the horror this mom felt as she watched her daughter almost get hit by this vehicle. The driver, by the way, turned into the Grand Oaks. A very short distance, a tenth of a mile, where she works. And this was just a tenth of a mile from the bus stop.
Increased traffic. That’s just one of the many things that we will be discussing in future episodes of public input.
I’d like to conclude with a quote from Oliver Anthony’s recent song, “Rich Men North of Richmond.” It skyrocketed to the top of the music charts even though he was an unknown artist because it represents how we the people feel, ‘We’re tired of being the first ones taxed and the last ones considered. I thank you for this time to give my input.”
Growth Management Director Thad Carroll thanked those in attendance for sharing their opinions. He stated that this development was presented at a conceptual workshop, and that there is no public notice requirement for a conceptual workshop. He advised that a conceptual meeting is provided to the applicant for them to present a proposal to the commission and receive their feedback as to whether the project is worth going forward.
Mr. Carroll explained that when a formal application is submitted, he is required to notify all neighboring properties within 150 feet of the property. There will be a Planning and Zoning Board hearing and at least two Commission meetings. He stated that not only will notices be mailed, but the property will also be posted, traffic analysis will be provided, along with several other studies. He stressed that nothing happens that is not transparent for the public, and that nothing that was discussed at the conceptual meeting is binding.
Mr. Carroll reiterated that an application has not been submitted. He stated that there are times after a conceptual workshop that a formal application is not submitted.
Renee Custer, 41650 Kendra Lane, Weirsdale
Ms. Custer stated that she has a Weirsdale address, but is in Lake County, across the road from the Grand Oaks first entrance. She stated that she lived there prior to Grand Oaks when it was Continental Acres and just pastureland. She stated that Gloria Austin bought the property and has done a wonderful job with it. Ms. Custer stated that they want to keep it rural.
Ms. Custer stated that Marion County Road has people that drive 50 and 60 miles an hour. She stated that her mom is 92 and no longer drives. Yet when her mother did drive and would pull out of their driveway, she was afraid that her mother was going to hurt somebody or get killed. She stated that they need to pull out of their little road to get anywhere and if there are another 795 minimum vehicles on the road out there, which is one car per home that is going in at Grand Oaks, they won’t be able to get out of their driveway.
Ms. Custer stated that prior to buying her property, she lived on S. Lady Lake for 15 years and when they decided to buy, they looked within an eight-mile radius from that property for about three years deciding where they wanted to live and build. She stated that their current location is where they built, they have been very happy there and that she will be extremely unhappy if they put a trailer park across the street from them. She stated that she does not think any of the commissioners would appreciate having a mobile home park in their backyard.
Ms. Custer stated that they are really pleading to the Commissioners to not let this go through.
Mr. Carroll requested that no more comments go into the record because there is no formal application, and the applicant is not present to address the comments. He expressed his appreciation to the residents that are present and for following what is going on in the community. but the best time to make comments and statements is at the public hearings.
Mr. Carroll reiterated that the neighboring residents will be notified, and they will be heard at the hearing. He advised them to submit their concerns via email, letter, or to attend the meetings and they will be considered at that time. Mr. Carroll added that until the application is filed, the comments should be reserved for a later date.
Town Attorney Derek Schroth explained that it is a due process issue as the applicant is not present and was not notified that this would be discussed. He advised that it is better to wait until the formal public hearings, of which there will be several. By allowing comments without the applicant present causes a legal issue.
Mr. Schroth advised the applicant to be provided with the minutes of this meeting, identifying the people speaking and what they had to say.
John D. Hart, 3210 Marion County Road, Weirsdale
Mr. Hart stated that his property adjoins Grand Oaks adding that he served on a board in another municipality and when he saw what the proposal was compared to the surrounding properties that are five-acre and larger lots it concerned him. He stated that he raises horses, his neighbor raises black angus cattle, and a few neighbors have horses that they breed. To come into the area with a mobile home park is not conducive to the area and he thinks that any plans should conform to what is already there. That would make more sense as far as good planning is concerned and as far as he is concerned. Mr. Hart thanked the commissioners and hopes they will consider his comments.
Mayor Rietz asked if anyone has discussed their concerns with the owner of Grand Oaks.
Mr. Hart stated that the owner is from New York, and they do not see him very often.
Kathleen Farner, 41240 Gibralter Road, Weirsdale
Ms. Farner stated that the morning after she read the newspaper article, she called Grand Oaks to speak to the manager. She stated that approximately five hours later she received a text message saying that her request would be passed up the line, and she is still waiting to hear from anybody. Referring to Mr. Carroll’s comments about not providing anymore public input because this is not on the agenda, she stated that it is her understanding that public comment is for people to comment about anything. She stated that she was not being accusatory of Lady Lake for not communicating with the residents in that area. She stated that she knows the legal requirements for hearings. However, when a planning group is working with your neighbor that has four hundred acres and is proposing a development, one would think that community-wide meetings would be held to inform us of what was about to get proposed in a conceptual meeting with the Town Commission. She stated that she worked for the school board for 30 years, if the school board was proposing something they met with community members to discuss proposals and get input. She again stated that she is not being accusatory towards the town or the planning and development department, as she knows what they are legally bound to do, but being considerate of people who are being affected by this is a totally different situation.
Ed Wise, 2128 Marion County Road, Lake County
Mr. Wise stated that he was born and raised in Lady Lake, born on Griffin View Drive and asked if any adjoining property around this proposed site is already within the town limits. He asked how it can be annexed into the town if it doesn’t touch the town.
Mayor Rietz answered that the area is not within our town limits. He stated the developer presented a proposal and asked what their thoughts were about the project.
Mayor Rietz advised that this area does not need to be in the town to develop that property. The property can remain in the county and be developed.
Linda Wise, 2128 Marion County Road
Ms. Wise stated that she was born and raised in the area and with the concept of paying lot rent, financing to own, it is going to be a trailer park. She stated it is not a manufactured home community with beautiful homes. She stated that she has watched “Leisure Meadows” for 30 years sell the exact same trailer and the exact same concept. They hit working people at tax time, asking them to put $5,000 down and they will sell you a manufactured home. She stated it is her understanding that this is what is being proposed for the Grand Oaks property.
Ms. Wise stated that “Country Life” in Okahumpka started the same way, $5,000 down and you can buy a trailer; they’ve sold the same trailer over and over again and rip off the poor working-class people that they are proposing to help. She stated that if you read what they are wanting to build, that’s exactly what it’s going to be.
Mayor Rietz asked if there were any further comments.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 6:36 p.m.
Carol Osborne, Deputy Town Clerk
Jim Rietz, Mayor