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The Villages
Monday, September 27, 2021

Apartments are a road to nowhere in Spanish Springs

Jiim Cipollone
Jiim Cipollone

The Villages presented their new proposal for upfits to the Hacienda Hills property a little more than a week ago. There is a great deal of acceptance by the local residents living in the immediate area and also residents that live in the Hacienda Hills neighborhood. The Villages proposal was a pleasant surprise to many residents. What is interesting about the new proposal is The Villages heard the pushback from local residents and altered the original apartment plans to a more palatable proposal that fits the neighborhood.  Up-fits include resident amenities and traffic considerations suitable to the present atmosphere and conditions. All residents should thank The Villages for the new proposal as presented.

Spanish Springs Town Center, including the Van Patten Building, is another area that is under consideration for some type of revitalization by The Villages. Spanish Springs is located in the Development of Regional Impact (DRI) within the Town of Lady Lake city limits. Prior to the Spanish Springs development back in January 1988, the Town of Lady Lake passed Lady Lake 88-1 Ordinance DRI, a law passed by the municipal government (Town of Lady Lake), that gave The Villages the OK to proceed with the build-out parameters as such at that time. The Town of Lady Lake commissioners developed the 88-1 Ordinance as social conditions for The Villages’ hierarchy and is/was pursued both operationally and spiritually accordingly until now.

One of the most significant areas of municipal law is zoning. Zoning ordinances constitutes a master plan for land use within the municipality.  A municipality is typically divided into residential, commercial and industrial zoning districts. Zoning attempts to conserve the value of property and to encourage the most appropriate use of land throughout a particular locality. The Town of Lady Lake commissioners never exceeded their authority adhering to 88-1 Ordinance that is not in conflict with any federal, state or county laws. Barring any federal, state and county laws, The Villages operated and followed the 88-1 Ordinance accordingly for years that established both a precedent and lifestyle that attracted many residents to retire and settle in The Villages. 

The Villages presented their proposal to Lady Lake for the Spanish Springs apartments back in February 2021 and were denied approval by three of the five Lady Lake town commissioners. After a series of sparring, both legally and various presentations by The Villages, the three Lady Lake commissioners did not change their vote. The Villages now want to rescind their participation in the original 88-1 Ordinance by opting out of the ordinance. The action correlates with the removal of the stop sign on the corner because we get tired of stopping, then deal with the consequences. Will this again require the vote of the Town of Lady Lake commissioners to restate or void 88-1 Ordinance? Another consideration is; The Villages offered and sold the lifestyle of Spanish Springs and Katie Bells and profited as a result of adhering to the 88-1 Ordinance including jobs and taxes for the Town of Lady Lake.

The Villages is proposing that apartment style living will revitalize and bring prosperity to Spanish Springs.  The Villages is requesting an alternative direction to Spanish Springs up-fits as it exists. Who are they requesting alternatives from, the Town of Lady Lake, The Village residents, or The Village contingents?  What is Spanish Springs Town Center best suited for will determine the best direction forward.  We hear all kinds of marketing ploys that are not proven to influence opposing residents. Let the residents determine what is best, since we have to live with whatever the results are.

There are three distinct issues resulting from modifying Spanish Springs and the closing of Katie Belle’s. Economic, legal and resident opinions are questionable items needing consideration and recognition. 

The economics aspect is most important since The Villages reasoning for closing Katie Belles was due to monetary losses of operation.  The operational deficiencies were never shared with the residents and or patrons of Katie Belle’s.  So based on The Villages proposal for Spanish Springs Town Center, apartments are a set-it forget-it fix-all panacea. Most likely that will make a hand full of people happy and a multitude of residents disappointed and unhappy. Apartments will make a bad situation worse. Building apartments is the road to nowhere that will slow walk Spanish Springs into a deep sleep.

During the Spanish Spring apartment process back in February at the Town of Lady Lake Municipal Building, The Villages brought all the king’s men, executive VP, traffic and land development consultants and their lawyer to influence the process with their hypothetical program. Three of the Lady Lake commissioners were not sold on the process and program and voted down Spanish Springs apartments.  The three commissioners are elected officials doing their job. The Villages, not satisfied with the results, filed a lawsuit against the Town of Lady Lake. After several closed door meetings including the five Lady Lake Commissioners and the Town of Lady Lake attorney, Lady Lake is asking for a public hearing to resolve the Spanish Springs apartment proposal. The Villages now is petitioning a new venue to sell their idea. What is next?

The residents that have to deal with whatever is decided are the victims of a circumstance they have no say in the matter.  The Villages should explain the economic issues to the residents and what the burn rate is to keep Spanish Springs active and Katie Belle’s in business.  The Villages have extended assistance either financially or by incentives to maintain historic sites in the Villages.  There is a lot of history associated with Spanish Springs and Katie Belle’s that should be preserved.  The residents should be considered with the opportunity to maintain and preserve these places because the residents are part of what made the Villages.

Alternatives as asked for by The Villages:

Since the second floor office space utilized by The Daily Sun above the stores in Spanish Springs will soon be vacated, move MVP operations to this location.

The MVP building is most conducive for apartments because of the grand entrance behind the building, secured entry and parking lot proximity.  If high cost apartment living proves viable in this neighborhood, there is the property where the golf cart shop was on Duck Lake Road that can facilitate a first class apartment complex.

The first floor of the MVP building is totally vacant.  Move the stores from the first floor of the Van Patten building into the first floor of the MVP building. 

Put Katie Belle’s back the way it was in the beginning with additional features. Let the residents be part of the build-out and operation to maintain profitability. This will keep Spanish Springs prosperous.

Jim Cipollone is a resident of The Villages.

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