The Architectural Review Committee came down with a split vote on a “monstrous” garage at the center of an emotional battle in The Villages.
The garage expansion at the home at 2370 Five Forks Trail in the Village of Tall Trees is more than 90 percent complete. All that remains to be done is a driveway extension to provide access to the largest section of the garage.
However, the home’s owner, Martin Eisner and his fiancé, Angelina Broughton, have been battling their neighbors, 175 of whom have signed a petition in opposition to the garage.
Last week, Eisner won a round in the battle when his attorney, Stanley Plappert, asked for a continuance in a deed compliance case that had been lodged against the property. The Community Development District 6 Board of Supervisors, after a great deal of discussion, reluctantly granted the continuance.
One of the leading opponents of the garage project, neighbor Karen Phillips, kicked off Wednesday’s ARC meeting with a dose of what’s-good-for-the-goose-is-good-for-the-gander with her attorney’s request for a continuance for the hearing on Eisner’s latest application. Phillips’ lawyer’s request for a continuance was denied by the ARC.
Eisner’s original six-month application expired and a new application was filed in order to complete the project.
“A six-month approval is not fair. You cannot get something done in six months in The Villages,” Plappert told the committee on his client’s behalf.
Village of Tall Trees resident David Murray, who said he practiced law for 55 years, offered some sympathy for Eisner’s attorney.
“It’s embarrassing to come before a group and say, ‘I built without proper authorization,’” Murray said.
Like others from the neighborhood, Murray objected to the fact a tree had been removed from the Eisner property. He hinted that the tree had been removed without prior approval.
“The tree might have given (the garage) a little acceptability. It might have camouflaged it a bit,” Murray said.
The neighbor across the street from the Eisner property, Ron Polisoto, objected to the notification process. He said the process allowed the garage expansion to move forward without his knowledge.
“I am very upset that my rights have been trampled on. Before you are going to build a monstrosity across the street, you need to tell me,” Polisoto said.
He said the process of putting such notices at the postal station doesn’t sufficiently serve residents.
“My wife and I moved to The Villages to have a good time. Now I have to live across from this monstrosity. All of that concrete will make it look like the Orlando airport,” he said.
Phillips, who purchased her Village of Tall Trees home Feb. 4 and moved in March 1, agreed that the postal station notices fell short of informing the neighborhood.
“We had no opportunity to know what was happening,” she said.
The ARC’s legal counsel, Valerie Fuchs, repeatedly reminded ARC members that their sole focus was considering the application before them. You can view the application at this link: Martin Eisner application
Tall Trees resident Audrey White took issue with the new application because it included the entire garage, not just the driveway, which is the only piece of the project yet to be completed.
“This application as a whole is not a correct document. You are approving this whole application. Garage, shingles or whatever. I hope you don’t allow him to build another garage on this property,” White said.
ARC member Daniel Warren noted that the garage expansion had taken place on a very large lot.
“I think this is an appropriate request,” he said.
However, fellow ARC member Cary Sternberg didn’t see it that way.
“My objection with this project is that is is inconsistent with the existing neighborhood,” he said.
ARC member Joel Best agreed that the garage did not meet the aesthetics test.
Ultimately, four members – Sternberg, Best, Bob Blumberg and Shirley Manthorne – voted against Eisner’s application. Seven ARC members voted in favor of the application.