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Saturday, May 8, 2021

The Villages suing Lady Lake over rejection of apartments at Spanish Springs

The Villages is suing the Town of Lady Lake over the rejection of a plan for apartments at Spanish Springs Town Square.

The Villages of Lake-Sumter Inc. and The Villages Operating Company filed the lawsuit last week in the Fifth Judicial Circuit in Lake County.

The lawsuit was filed as a result of the Feb. 17 Lady Lake Commission meeting in which commissioners voted 3-2 to turn down the plan for up to 45 apartments to be located on the second floor of buildings at the square. The Villages has indicated it would like to start with seven apartments at the former home of Katie Belle’s, the Villagers-only club famous for dining, drinking and dancing. It was shut down one year ago.

The lawsuit hardly comes as a surprise as it has been hinted at during commission meetings.

Darrin Taylor

Tallahassee consultant Darrin Taylor, who has long represented The Villages, testified Feb. 17 before the commission and offered his “expert” opinion.

“When you analyze your comprehensive plan, this amendment is clearly consistent with your requirements. When you look at your land development regulations, this amendment is clearly consistent with your standards,” Taylor said.

Commissioners followed up with questions, including Commissioner James Rietz, who raised the issue of parking, which has long been a problem at the square. It was suggested that someone from Tallahassee might not be familiar with nightly entertainment, Market Night at the square and shows at The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center, all of which contribute to congestion at the square. That concern was dismissed as “personal opinion” in The Villages’ lawsuit.

“Apparently, the Commission had not heard, or did not grasp Mr. Taylor’s testimony that the parking for the subject buildings had already been developed in greater quantity than the proposed multi-family would require,” wrote attorney Scott Glass of Shutts & Bowen LLP of Orlando.

He argued in the lawsuit that Rietz and Commissioner Dan Vincent “simply expressed their, ultimately unfounded, personal concerns as to whether granting the applications would adversely affect available parking in the Town Center.”

Ultimately, Rietz and Vincent were joined by Commissioner Paul Hannan in voting against the apartments. Mayor Ruth Kussard and Commissioner Tony Holden voted in favor of The Villages’ request.

The Villages is seeking a determination by the court that would prevent the town from standing in the way of the plan for the apartments.

You can read the entire lawsuit at this link: The Villages vs. Lady Lake lawsuit

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