Monday, February 22, 2021
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The Villages

Lady Lake turns down Spanish Springs apartments in 3-2 vote

The Lady Lake Commission on Wednesday night voted 3-2 to turn down a plan for apartments at Spanish Springs Town Square.

The Villages put on a Power Point presentation, led by attorney Jo Thacker, Tallahassee consultant Darrin Taylor and Villages Vice President Marty Dzuro, that lacked numbers and specifics and were not detailed enough for some commissioners.

The Villages team painted an idyllic picture of what life would be like in up to 45 apartments on the second floors of four commercial buildings at Spanish Springs. The plan would include seven apartments at the former home of Katie Belle’s, the storied Villagers-only club named after founder of The Villages Harold Schwartz’s mother.

Residents of The Villages voiced concerns about parking and the distinct change in the lifestyle they had been promised when they purchased their homes in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.

However, the most heated objections The Villages representatives faced were from commissioners.

“This is our hometown. Would you do this in your hometown?” asked Commissioner James Rietz.

Dzuro, who has worked for The Villages for 35 years and has been a major part of its growth, made a sentimental plea to the commissioners.

“We are committed to our town squares. We are committed to the shops and restaurants. Our town squares are a big part of The Villages. It is not something where we want to tear down the town square,” Dzuro said.

Commissioner Dan Vincent was suspicious of The Villages’ pitch as well as what he considered a veiled threat from the attorney, about the town’s comprehensive plan already allowing multi-family housing in such a setting.

“I object to this Perry Mason thing. Running in here with your attorney and saying, ‘We have the right to do this.’ Then go ahead and do this,” Vincent said.

Commissioner Tony Holden made a motion for approval of The Villages’ plan, but his motion was followed by a long silence with no second to follow. Mayor Ruth Kussard momentarily passed the gavel so she could second the motion.

It was clear that Rietz and Vincent would be voting against the apartments and that Holden and Kussard would be voting in favor.

When the clerk called on Commissioner Paul Hannan, the deciding vote was cast.

“Nay,” he said, in his first and last comment on that matter that evening.

After the meeting, The Villages team huddled for discussion in the parking lot. From the appearance of that conversation, the apartment issue is not dead.

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