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The Villages
Saturday, May 8, 2021

Future of Spanish Springs and Katie Belle’s bigger than the Town of Lady Lake

Jiim Cipollone
Jiim Cipollone

Lady Lake had published openings to replace two zoning commissioner positions that are recently vacated for specific reasons. Since the Town of Lady Lake now includes a much more diverse increase both in population and lifestyle due to demographic changes, the zoning decisions affects many of the people not living within the town limits. Please consider residents with the same zip code as potential zoning commissioner candidates. Existing zoning restrictions requiring commissioners to live within town limits were scripted before the growth of Lady Lake. Lady Lake currently has employees fulfilling various key positions that don’t live within the town limits. Please consider non-city limit residents with the same zip code as qualifications for Lady Lake zoning commission positions.

Referencing The Villages’ petition for Spanish Springs Town Center area zoning changes from commercial to multi-family residential, what is happening? The Villages in their lawsuit asked for alternative suggestions from commissioners, but The Villages only mentioned the apartment presentation with sketchy details, and asked the commissioners to fill in the blanks.  The Villages are only questioning the three Lady Lake commissioners, that have questions, decisions that voted negatively to apartment development in the Spanish Springs area.  The remaining two Lady Lake commissioners that are/were in favor of apartment development in Spanish Springs conversely have a responsibility to many Lady Lake and Villages residents that are against apartments as to what influenced a positive response to apartments living in Spanish Springs. Whether promises to friends, neighbors, secret one-on-one meetings, etc. that effect a positive decision for apartments needs transparency and explanation to residents.

The old dance floor at Katie Belle’s.

The Villages built a lifestyle based on what Spanish Springs Town Square and Katie Belle’s offered.  The Villages used both of these places as a selling point to attract potential home buyers to settle in the Villages. History of The Villages was based on the atmosphere created by Spanish Springs and Katie Belle’s. Many, many residents and people living around both of these facilities are concerned about the future of Spanish Springs and Katie Belle’s. These concerned people were never given the opportunity to voice their opinion to the direction of both of these Village benchmarks.  The Villages made changes to these places based on operational economics, never sharing any deficiencies with residents. The Villages founders wanted Spanish Springs and Katie Belle’s as a way of life that The Villages offered and were recognized as having. There is no alternative plan from the current Villages hierarchy, only we failed to operate Katie Belle’s efficiently so we’ll try something else, period. They ever brought any issues to the residents and patrons that frequented Katie Belle’s. They just shut it down since The Villages operational plans lost money.  This lifestyle as developed by The Villages founders is comparative to a patented function that includes residential living, entertainment and social activities to bring many Village residents together at these locations.

The exterior of the Van Patten House, former home to Katie Belle’s.

Historically any national landmark, e.g. Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island both in New York and places all over our country are preserved and kept as close to original for generations to recognize as what help start and make this country.  Spanish Springs and Katie’s Belles helped make The Villages what it is today.  These locations should be preserved as an historical part of The Villages. Spanish Springs may not be centuries old but what happened yesterday is history today. May not be memorable to all, but Spanish Springs as is and Katie Belle’s have an influence on many people both young and old.  Our children and grandchildren appreciated and attended functions at either of these places. Apartment living in Spanish Springs or Katie Belle’s offers no value other than The Villages “set it and forget it” mentality to sweep their mistakes under the rug.

The Villages have successfully accomplished a monumental task to build and improve The Villages from the inception to the present day. Since Spanish Springs and Katie Belle’s are what drew many residents to The Villages, these residents should be allowed to participate in the future of these places. If Katie Belle’s operated at a loss, what is required to make it whole? Spanish Springs is not suited for apartments because of the scheduled activities that take place in and around the square. There are many apartments and assisted living places around The Villages that single people can live maintenance free. The stores and businesses in Spanish Springs bring people from all over the area; apartment dwellers will have very little effect on these existing businesses.

The Villages use both the newspaper and social media to brag about what they are doing and also to influence people’s outlook of the progress. Please don’t let the outcome pertaining to apartments be overshadowed by prejudice. The Villages is looking for alternatives, let’s put together a proposal that will keep Spanish Springs the way it is and re-establish Katie Belle’s to original operating condition with a draw to attract people to patronize both of these areas.

Jim Cipollone is a resident of the Village of Palo Alto.

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