An overflow crowd showed up for Wednesday morning’s meeting of the Architectural Review Committee to protest the expansion of a home in the Village of Tall Trees.
The group of about 50 people, with big round green CARE signs on their lapels, filled the breezeway outside Starbucks at Lake Sumter Landing minutes before the meeting gaveled into session.
Once they reached the boardroom at the District Office, the majority of the group was directed to an overflow room where an audio-feed of the meeting would be available. That prospect frustrated many members of the group, even though a top official from The Villages Public Safety Department was on hand to ensure the proper fire codes were being followed, as the boardroom had already met its capacity.
Village of Tall Trees resident Karen Phillips wanted to give a statement to the ARC at the start of the meeting, but acting Chairman Don Simson pointed to a public comment period on the agenda. The public comment period was at the end of the agenda, behind the more than 100 applications the ARC was set to review that morning. Many of the residents and contractors representing those applications were in the audience, prepared to wait their turn. The agenda is prepared and posted for public notice seven days in advance of the meeting.
“We have a published agenda, which is required by Florida law. We are not an unfriendly group, but we have rules we have to abide by,” Simson said.
Outside the meeting, Philips explained that CARE stands for Citizens Against Reckless Expansion. Phillips said she and her husband had recently purchased a home in the Village of Tall Trees and that they and their neighbors are concerned about the expansion of a home at 2370 Five Forks Trail.
You can view the plans for the project at this link: 2370 Five Forks Trail
The project, which includes the construction of a new garage, in October won the blessing of the ARC. The contractor is Jerome Masonry. The owner, Jerome Wilson, was at the center of an epic 2015 battle over a driveway extension in the Village of Bridgeport at Miona Shores. In that case, the homeowner wanted a garage large enough to accommodate five vehicles.
After waiting for nearly three hours, CARE members still were not able to address their specific concerns, when finally given the chance to speak.
District Counsel Valerie Fuchs noted that the ARC serves as a quasi-judicial body and should not hear potentially prejudicial information ahead of a future decision it might have to make. Furthermore, the homeowner at 2370 Five Forks Trail was not present and had not been given notice that his property would be up for discussion. His property was not on the posted agenda.
Raymond Menzel, who lives at 2381 Five Forks Trail, attempted to toe the line when he addressed the ARC. He found fault with the notification process for neighbors.
“I don’t think you knew all the ins and outs of what you approved,” Menzel added.
After the meeting, CARE members indicated they were not satisfied – and they aren’t ready to give up.