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The Villages
Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Proposed DRI changes could impact Spanish Springs Town Center

Jiim Cipollone
Jim Cipollone

Since substantial population growth in the State of Florida, prevalent from the 70s of the last century until today, Florida legally adopted and implemented Development of Regional Impact ordinances for the purpose of monitoring planned and projected development of land that respective developers petitioned for up-fits to facilitate various industries, commercial businesses and expanding population residential requirements.

The DRI ordinances as written included every county in the State of Florida. Counties bordering other counties may not enact DRI ordinances that will adversely affect neighboring counties. The Town of Lady Lake geographically is located in three counties, Lake, Sumter and Marion counties. The Town of Lady Lake cannot approve DRIs that adversely impacts other counties’ territories, only parts of counties that are included in the Town of Lady Lake city limits.   

Since the inception of DRI ordinances, the State of Florida approved many thousand DRIs for build-outs.  A majority of these DRIs were approved “with conditions.”

In 2018, the Florida Legislature eliminated all state and regional review from the DRI ordinance processes and giving local governments the authority to review DRI changes against their local comprehension plan and land development regulations. 

Orange Blossom Gardens-South (OBGS) petitioned the Town of Lady Lake on Jan. 18, 1988 for approval of residential development, thus DRI Ordinance 88-1 was approved “with conditions.” In 1990 Orange Blossom Gardens-West (OBGW) was formed, petitioned and approved per DRI process. Subsequent to OBGW approval, OBGS and OBGW were combined and development collectively is referred to as Tri-County Villages DRI.  DRI Ordinance 88-1 was amended eleven times “with conditions” since 1988 approval. Most recently Amendment Development Order (ADO) for Tri-County Villages to petition The Town of Lady Lake to abandon all amendments and approve DRI 2021-15 that would basically grant the Tri-County Villages contingent approval to build anything in the Villages and areas located within The Town of Lady Lake City Limits. Of course, to be built to conform to planning and zoning parameters as required.

Verbatim Definition:  Development of Regional Impact, (DRI); “Any development which, because of its character, magnitude, or location, would have a substantial effect, upon the health, safety, or welfare of citizens of more than one county”.

According to the DRI verbatim definition as written, with the Planning & Zoning Commissioners’ counsel’s determination that all ADO’s items were in order, the Planning & Zoning Commissioners of The Town of Lady Lake approved the Tri-County Villages drafted DRI 2021-15 for abandonment of existing DRI based on petitioning procedures and bricks and mortar. 

Vernacular Definition: Development of Regional Impact, (DRI); “Any process that creates growth, progress, positive changes or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social, and demographic components which, because of a distinguished future and nature, great size and extent, would have considerable size and worth as a change due to an action and cause to historic values, existing business operations, employment opportunities and tax implications”.

There is no change in the legal verbatim definition of the DRI as the State of Florida drafted and local governments approved.   The vernacular definition only applies a meaning to the words giving some clarity as to what is asked by the ADO to DRI 2021-15 as petition by the Tri-County Villages to make go away. 

The Town of Lady Lake Commissioners Board is asked to vote to and approve the ADO to the DRI since the Planning & Zoning Commissioners already approved the ADO to DRI.  The Town of Lady Lake Counsel instructed The Town of Lady Lake Commissioners Board as, “If approval for ADO to DRI is not grated to Tri-County Villages, a law suit will be filed against The Town of Lady Lake”.

The Town of Lady Lake Commissioners Board can approve the ADO to DRI “with conditions”.  There are precedents in past amendments to the DRI that included conditions.  In this particular instance to illustrate a few, there are some preponderant issues.

There are certain portions of The Town of Lady Lake that are designed and built for particular purpose that include residential, commercial, and business activities. How will the abandonment of the DRI affect these places?

The population of The Town of Lady Lake, Fruitland Park, Belleview, Water Oak, etc. frequent / frequented  facilities located in the Villages.  How will the abandonment of the DRI affect these people?

Existing commercial businesses and restaurants located within the Town of Lady Lake inside the Villages property lines are not experiencing the volume of customer patronage since the abandonment of the Town Center.  How will the abandonment of the DRI help these businesses?

The Town of Lady Lake was very sensitive to historic values for trees and other nostalgic issues that changed or impacted the landscape.  What affect will the abandonment of the DRI have on any historic value of The Town of Lady Lake?

What happens to employment opportunities and tax structure if abandonment of DRI is approved?

Undoubtedly The Villages has provided one of the best places for people to live and retire. Most of the residents bought into the lifestyle as portrayed and offered. The residents by living in The Villages and witnessing expansion to build-outs and living the lifestyle built a trust in The Villages. Everything The Villages does is excellent. However, when the lifestyle is altered or change by The Villages, there is animosity building lacking definition and requires resident comforting.

The Villages via Tri-County Villages is asking for a free hand to do anything they perceive as an improvement to enhance and revitalize the entire area located within the Town of Lady Lake. Tri-County Villages, absence of any publicized business plan, is not providing details what is planned to make the area in discussion better. What is planned and how will changes affect residents is the question.

Jim Cipollone is a resident of The Villages.

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