Commission Workshop Meeting Minutes
Minutes of the Commission Workshop - February 7, 2022, 5 p.m.
The workshop meeting of the Lady Lake Town Commission was held in the Commission Chambers at Lady Lake Town Hall, 409 Fennell Blvd., Lady Lake, Florida. The meeting convened at 10 a.m.
A. Call to Order
Mayor Jim Rietz
B. Roll Call
Attorney Derek Schroth, Town Attorney; Bill Lawrence, Town Manager; Thad Carroll, Growth Management Director; C.T. Eagle, Public Works Director; Mike Burske, Parks & Recreation Director; Chief Robert Tempesta and Lieutenant Nelson Vargas, Lady Lake Police Department; Nancy Wilson, Town Clerk
C. New Business
Discussion regarding future development in Lady Lake
Mayor Rietz said that we frequently have plans presented by developers who spend a tremendous amount of time and money researching their projects. They may have contacted the state, county and other entities for data to help them meet project needs. It is in their best interest to perform due diligence, so their projects don’t hit roadblocks. Further, we have staff who perform a lot of background work to ensure that what will be presented at a meeting meets Town requirements and satisfies current and future needs of the Town.
Town Manager Lawrence reached out to the Interim Town Manager in Eustis who said a moratorium had been put in place a few years ago. The Interim Town Manager, Tom Carrino, who is also their Economic Development Director, said that Eustis’ Land Development Regulations that they rewrote turned out to be too restrictive. During the rewrite, a housing development that wanted to go in was refused so a lawsuit ensued which resulted in an out of court settlement; other developers were also hurt in the process. Because of this, those developers vowed never to build in Eustis again. Some residents and businesses hold the city accountable for rewriting their LDR’s that they feel stymied growth. In retrospect, the restrictive LDR’s were not good for the city.
Town Attorney Schroth added that the Town has the legal ability to enact a moratorium to give the town the opportunity to revise its LDR’s. Politically, however, it sends the message that the Town is closed for development, and it costs a lot of money and takes about a year to redo the comprehensive plan and LDR’s. For a long time, Eustis had the reputation of being closed for business. If the Commission did move forward with a moratorium, it would not apply to anyone already in the pipeline. Also, one of the effects of a moratorium is you might have a flood of applications come in prior to its passing so it might be counterproductive.
Mayor Rietz asked each Commissioner for their vision of the Town moving forward.
Commissioner Hannan said that after the last meeting, he received more information, did some soul searching and he is no longer in favor of enacting a moratorium.
Commissioner Kussard is also against a moratorium adding that we cannot stop progress, but we can monitor it to ensure responsible growth. She added that people in Lady Lake appreciate having businesses near their homes; a moratorium would hurt businesses and residents.
Similarly, Commissioner Holden does not want a moratorium on building, but he would like to tweak some ordinances. He is worried about traffic and said the Town needs streets that are easy to traverse and that are laid out properly. Piecemealing development like a puzzle makes it difficult to have user friendly roadways.
Commissioner Freeman is not interested in a moratorium either, but he has a problem with building houses on top of each other. He understands that the developer wants to make money but how is that good for the Town. We already have a good tax base so developments like the one proposed are not necessary. Adding more people necessitates more services. He sees problems with zoning if it allows for this kind of dense development. The roads are very important, but the Town does not have a lot of control over many of them. Development is important but how it happens is more important.
The Town Manager said that he attended a meeting that included representatives from 14 municipalities and all the attendees had the same concerns mentioned by the Commissioners. We are all concerned about roads, traffic, development and how we want our Towns and Cities to grow.
Growth Management Director Carroll acknowledged that there are some issues with the roads in town with Rolling Acres being the most problematic; it is a county road. He discussed a plan from 2011 that was shelved and a county plan in 2025 to perform a Project Development and Environment study.
Mr. Carroll said that regarding lot size, the Town has a variety of zoning districts: RS6, RS4, RS3 and RS1. At the same meeting attended by Mayor Rietz and Town Manager Lawrence, conservation land and options to preserve it was discussed. Options for preservation include clustering which is in the Town’s Code. Clustering designates 25% of the developed property in a subdivision for open land resulting in the developed area being denser and the open common areas larger. Developers want to make a profit and so they have seen the need to develop houses on smaller properties. Should the LDR’s be revised, the Town should not close the door on smaller properties; people have different needs and wants. He said that when property is annexed, zoning and future land use is assigned at that time. The property being discussed this evening is a scenario where they got an entitlement for six dwelling units per acre. For properties that have been rezoned, it is problematic when they are not allowed the density they are entitled to. If the Commission changes the density, forcing a different zoning, their development rights are taken away.
Town Attorney Schroth said that what will be presented to the Commission later in the meeting is a unique situation where the owner never got the property rezoned. Some applicants are vested for the proposed use of a property. Anything coming before the Commission where a waiver of the Code is requested, the Commission has the discretion to deny.
Answering a question posed by Mayor Rietz, Mr. Carroll responded that generally younger people are looking for smaller properties. The product people need in Lady Lake is smaller houses on smaller lots. The roads are crowded because there are a lot of people who need to commute who cannot afford to live here; that is a product that is missing in Lady Lake. The Town is trying to provide good housing choices which includes smaller houses with good design guidelines and/or an HOA, keeping the community appealing.
Commissioner Kussard said that a lot of the children who attend school in Lady Lake are not from this area. She has asked a lot of people for their opinions and has found that young families do not want to spend their free time working on their property; they want family time. They will spend their money here if there is local affordable housing for them.
Mayor Rietz asked the Commissioners if they want more commercial or residential growth, and the consensus was that they need a balance.
There was concern that in densely developed areas, there would not be enough open space for children to play which would drive them onto other properties. Commissioner Holden said that the 5% of a development that is supposed to be set aside for recreation can include retention ponds and he does not favor that.
Mr. Carroll said the Town Code does say that 25% needs to be dedicated to open space and it can be dry retention areas. The Town did implement the provision that 5% of a development needs to be improved for activity use (such as playground equipment, basketball courts, etc.) not just open area. He added that with anything over .5 acres, the delivery of utilities is not efficient, and it is land that is best not to annex.
The two major concerns expressed by the Commission are that the properties for the proposed development are too close together and that traffic problems will continue to get worse in that area.
Mayor Rietz said the developers are doing their research. He thinks that we need to encourage responsible development and he feels the Town has been doing just that.
Commissioner Holden said that with small houses, people want to start adding on, with or without permits, and then it looks like a shanty town.
D. Public Comments
Dan Vincent suggested putting the ball in the developer’s court. Make him go to the county to nail down issues with roads and schools. Why wait until we have the problem then try to resolve it.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:34 p.m.
s/ Nancy Wilson, Town Clerk
s/ Jim Rietz, Mayor