Planning and Zoning Meeting Minutes

Minutes of the January 8, 2024
Planning and Zoning Meeting

The Planning and Zoning Board meeting was held in the Town Hall Commission Chambers at 409 Fennell Blvd., Lady Lake, Florida. The meeting convened at 5:30 p.m.

Call to Order

Dorilyn Furch

Pledge of Allegiance

Roll Call

Member Present
Brinson Yes
Saunders Yes
Galloway Yes
Furch Yes

STAFF PRESENT: 

Thad Carroll, Growth Management Director; Rebecca Higgins, Senior Planner; Bill Lawrence, Town Manager; Steve Hunt, Police Chief; Nancy Wilson, Town Clerk.

Attorney Sasha Garcia was also present.

A. New Business

1. Approval of Minutes

Planning & Zoning meeting minutes – November 13, 2023

Member Galloway made a motion to approve the December 11, 2023, Planning and Zoning Board meeting minutes as presented; Member Saunders seconded the motion. Motion carried 4-0.

2. Ordinance No. 2024-01 – An Ordinance of The Town of Lady Lake, Lake County, Florida; Providing for a Text Amendment to the Town of Lady Lake Land Development Regulations (Ordinance No. 94-08) Chapter 7, Section 7-9, “Site Development Plan Approval”; Amending the Requirements for Site Plan Approval; also, Amending Chapter 7, Section 7-10, “Time Limitations on Site Plan Approval.

Growth Management Director Carroll stated that Ordinance 2024-01 is an ordinance of the town providing for a text amendment to the town’s Land Development Regulations, Chapter 7, Sections 7-9 and 7-10. This is a staff-initiated proposal to amend our process on how we approve site plans.  Under the current process, when an application is received, staff delivers it to various parties for review. It is then presented to the Town Commission for approval. In most other jurisdictions in Lake County, this process is handled administratively. The reason why this request is being made is if a site plan proposal satisfies all the requirements of the vested rights under an approved zoning ordinance, as well as the applicable building codes, the applicant shall be entitled to exercise those zoning and building entitlements. The Town Commission is legally obligated to approve the plan if all requirements are met. If there is any deviation from the entitlements, those requests must go before the Planning & Zoning Board and the Town Commission to discuss those items that deviate from our Code.

The problem arises when a site plan application is brought before the Town Commission at which time the public can comment. Because of emotions or things revealed as part of that process, there is the possibility that the Commission will deny the site plan. When that happens, the town is at risk of litigation because the applicant has met all the requirements of our Land Development Regulations, yet they have been denied.

With the proposed site development plan approval change, the application will be reviewed by staff. Once all the comments are satisfied, there will be administrative approval of the development order by the Town Manager.

Regarding transparency, the Town Manager publishes a weekly report on the activities of each department. Growth Management reports on site plan applications, et al, in these reports. The public is made aware of what plans the town is processing via the Manager’s Report on a weekly basis. The applications and public records can be viewed by the public at any time.

Dale Kenton – 5301 Green Briar Drive

Mr. Kenton asked if he buys a large tract of land and wants to develop it does he have a right to unlimited water use or will that be addressed prior to a decision being made? He is on a well and is worried about the aquifer lowering to the point he will not have anything but sludge.

Mr. Carroll responded that he is not sure if water rights apply to single-family residential property. However, if the land is to be built into a development or subdivision, that request would come before the board and commission and St. John’s Water Management would weigh in on the matter.

Diane Kenton – 5301 Green Briar Drive

Ms. Carlon is interested in the potential Grand Oaks development project and asked if there are rules and laws in place that will determine what they can and cannot do. Growth Management Director Carroll stated that the property is in Lake County but if it is annexed into Lady Lake, it would have to adhere to our Land Development Regulations and Comprehensive Plan.

Chris Rosinski - 3313 Marion County Road

Mr. Rosinski said that when dealing with commercial property there are more requirements. There are regulations and bylaws that need to be met and this is where variances come into play. Lady Lake jumps through hoops to accommodate big developments. Why are the developers not conforming to our codes in the first place? Is there a limit to the number of variances that can be requested? It is not the town’s job to do the developer’s design work.

Growth Management Director Carroll said that rarely do we have properties requesting multiple variances.  He is not going to push back on an application because of variances. He cannot prohibit them. Mr. Carroll said he has never had 7-10 variances requested for a property though they are looking at one with four. There is a lot to consider when granting a variance which is based on the merits of the application. If the developer can show a hardship that is their opportunity to get a waiver during the variance process.

Member Saunders asked if the proposed ordinance conflicts with the Sunshine Law related to public input. Town Attorney Garcia stated that what the ordinance proposes conforms to our Code and there is no conflict with the Sunshine Law. The Town cannot remove a property right that has been established. Only when a variance or waiver is requested does the plan need to be brought before the Commission.

Kathleen Farner – 41240 Gibralter Road

Ms. Farner said that on December 4th she provided input at the meeting regarding Lady Lake’s property rights element that was adopted in 2022.  She delineated the differences in the rights afforded property owners in Lady Lake’s adopted plan versus those recommended in a model plan. She encouraged those present to read the minutes from the December 4th meeting.

Regarding the proposed ordinance that states staff are of the opinion that the current site plan and approval process is inefficient, unnecessary and is a process that may be misleading to the general public -that statement gives the impression to many that property rights and public input are reduced. This is removing one more step in due diligence. She would rather have this information presented at a public meeting than in a weekly report and feels this is one more effort to suppress public input. Ms. Farner gave some examples of what she found to be variances that were approved in previous meetings that should not have been.

Growth Management Director Carroll stated that Ms. Farner brought up some good points regarding the current application processing. The fact that the public was able to speak out regarding the variances proves that the process is sufficient. The proposed ordinances only pertain to when no variances have been requested and we are legally bound to approve. The public will continue to be aware of what is going on in Lady Lake

Andrei Nana - 2202 Marion County Road

Mr. Nana stated that the U.S. Constitution is based on the idea of openness. The Town Attorney is trying to tell the audience that everything is ok. No matter how competent they are, they cannot guarantee that they will not miss some compliance issues. We are increasing the chance of litigation and town staff does not know better than anybody else. All site plans should be presented to the public.

Romayne Jones - 3520 Griffin Avenue

Ms. Jones asked that since the town is legally obligated to approve an application when there are no variances or waivers requested, what is the specific law; what obligates the Commission to approve? Town Attorney Garcia responded that if applications conform to what is in the town Code and the Land Development Regulations (LDR), the Commission cannot take away a right that has already been afforded a property. However, when a variance is requested, the applicant is then operating outside the Code and LDR’s so those requests need to be presented to the governing body. Ms. Jones asked if the Code can be changed so that commercial projects or projects over a specific size must go before the board. Ms. Garcia said there are already provisions in the Code that address Ms. Jones’ question and suggested she go to municode.com to review our Code.

Member Saunders stated that he has a problem with closing the door to public comments and asked what is wrong with what we have. He will vote against the ordinance.

Member Galloway stated that if he owns a piece of property and everything he wanted to do met Code, why should it be brought to the town for approval? If the application was denied, he could sue.

Member Saunders agreed but he is concerned with commercial developments adding that we need to be as open as we can.

Chairwoman Furch agreed with being open but for a developer who has met all the requirements, why should they have to go through the approval process; they have done their due diligence.

Mr. Carroll added that once zoning is in place, rights go with it. Deviations come back before the board. Development rights cannot be taken away because somebody does not like it. There is no point in bringing something forward that is a forgone conclusion. Rights are established at the time of zoning and that is when the public has an opportunity to speak.

Andrei Nana - 2202 Marion County Road

Mr. Nana asked what happens if a site plan is approved in error.  An Attorney cannot tell you 100% if what has been approved is correct. What is so hard about listening to a third opinion in the way of public input. If wrongly approved, litigation is worse.

Chris Rosinski – 3313 Marion County Road

Mr. Rosinski is confused about what the ordinance is proposing. Mr. Carroll stated that the ordinance is available for viewing by the public. What we are proposing is to make the process move from a public to an administrative process. If the application meets all the requirements of our Code, we must approve it; no alternative decision can be made. If we approve a site plan the public can still submit a public records request and the town can be challenged. On the other hand, variances will always come before the public.

Dale Kenton – 5301 Green Briar Drive

Mr. Kenton said he would like to get a copy of the procedures where the zoning was changed from a few horses on a property to building hundreds of homes. Mr. Carroll said there is no application for that project and when it is received, it will be highly publicized.

Member Brinson made a motion to forward Ordinance 2024-01 to the Town Commission with the recommendation of approval; Member Galloway seconded the motion.

Member Present
Brinson Yes
Saunders No
Galloway Yes
Furch Yes

Motion carried 3-1 for approval.

3.   Resolution 2024-101 - A Resolution Granting a Variance from The Provisions Of Chapter 5). Chart 5-2, of the Town Of Lady Lake Land Development Regulations Which Requires The Rear Yard Setback To Be A Minimum of 20 Feet Within The Mx-5 “Mixed Low Density Residential” Zoning District. The Variance Request Is to Allow a Minimum of A 11.08 Foot Rear Yard Setback On Property Owned By Robert Klapperich And Tiffany Henderson, Located At 37911 Ridgecrest Lane, Within The Town Limits Of Lady Lake, Florida.

Senior Planner Becky Higgins stated that the purpose of the resolution was to grant a variance from the provisions of Chapter 5, Chart 5-2, of the Land Development Regulations (LDRs) which requires the rear yard setback to be a minimum of 20 feet within the MX-5 "Mixed Low-Density Residential” Zoning District.

The request was submitted to amend an after-the-fact encroachment into a rear yard setback with the setback currently at 11.08 feet instead of the required 20 feet. An addition added on by previous owners is what brought about the encroachment, the remainder of the house complies with setback requirements. The addition was not permitted.

On Monday, December 11, 2023, a variance application was filed with the Town of Lady Lake, by Robert Klapperich and Tiffany Hendersen, the property owners.  The owners did attempt to get a permit to rectify the fact that the addition was not a permitted structure. They needed to make some renovations to the addition which prompted the permit application. On August 9, 2023, Patriot Builders submitted an after-the-fact permit for the addition on behalf of the homeowners. When the permit was submitted, it was discovered that the addition encroaches into the twenty-foot rear setback. The home without the addition does meet the required setbacks.

The applicant’s justification statement expresses that when the home was purchased, the laundry room on the back of the house, which contains the main electric and hot water heater, was not finished, and had water and termite damage. The homeowner had the understanding that a permit would not be needed to repair the room. The homeowner had electric and plumbing permits pulled for the repair of those portions of the project. At the completion of the repairs, the homeowner discovered that the previous owners had constructed the laundry room addition without a permit. When attempting to secure an after-the-fact permit, it was discovered that the addition was constructed within the rear setback. The homeowner is pursuing the variance to rectify the existing violation.

Melyssa Lopez  - Ridgecrest Lane

Ms. Lopez stated that she owns the property that surrounds the property being discussed. Her concern is that when the land was split the pump being used ended up on the Lopez property. The property owners at 37911 Ridgecrest Lane have continued to use their water. Also, their septic tank drain field is on the Lopez property. They would like to put up a fence to divide their property, but they do not feel that is possible until the septic and well locations are addressed.  Ms. Lopez added that they do not oppose the variance request regarding the rear yard setback reduction. Mr. Carroll advised the Lopez’s to consult with Lake County to address the well and septic issues.

Robert Klapperich - 2931 Sunnyside Road

Mr. Klapperich is planning to move the septic and well. The lot split was not handled properly. He wants to do everything correctly.  The septic tank is on his property but some of the drain field is not.

Ms. Lopez stated that she would like to set a time limit for moving the septic and well.

Member Galloway made a motion to forward Resolution 2024-101 to the Town Commission with the recommendation of approval; Member Saunders seconded the motion.

Member Present
Brinson Yes
Saunders Yes
Galloway Yes
Furch Yes

Motion carried 4-0 for approval.

CHAIRPERSON AND MEMBERS REPORT

Member Saunders asked about the new financial disclosure form, Form 6. It was explained that Form 6 only applies to elected officials and Form 1 remains the requirement for voluntary boards.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Chris Rosinski - 3313 Marion County Road

Mr. Rosinski asked how long Lady Lake expects to continue annexation into the town. Variances are a stickler with him, and he is concerned when cities approve a lot of them. Maybe the number of variances should be limited.

ADJOURN

The meeting adjourned at 6:30 p.m.

Nancy Wilson, Town Clerk

Dorilyn Furch, Chairman