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The Villages
Sunday, January 16, 2022

Sumter County Commission holds first meeting since suspension of two of its members

Gary Search 1
Gary Search
Oren Miller 1
Oren Miller

The Sumter County Commission held its first meeting since the suspension last week of two of its members.

The three-member commission was gaveled into session Tuesday night at Everglades Recreation Center by the board’s chairman, Craig Estep. The quorum was made up by Commissioners Doug Gilpin and Garry Breeden.

Commissioners Doug Gilpin Craig Estep and Garry Breeden from right at Tuesdays meeting.
Commissioners Doug Gilpin, Craig Estep and Garry Breeden, from left at head table, at Tuesday’s meeting.

Oren Miller and Gary Search were suspended from their duties as commissioners this past week by Gov. Ron DeSantis as a result of their arrests in December on felony perjury charges.

Miller attended the meeting, sitting in the audience.

County ready to crack down on adult arcades

Adult arcades in Sumter County must receive operating permits and new arcades must comply with zoning restrictions under an ordinance approved Tuesday night.

Approved by a slimmed-down, three-member board of commissioners, the ordinance is an effort to crack down on the arcades, which officials say are centers of criminal activity.

At least 16 arcade businesses were operating in Sumter County last year. During an 18-month period ending in August, they generated more than 560 police calls while sheriff’s deputies made nearly 100 arrests and executed 36 warrants. Three arcades were robbed. Most criminal activity occurred after midnight and many arcades are open 24 hours.

Operating under names such as Fantasy Entertainment Center, DreamLiners Arcade or Jack and Jill Adult Superstore, the arcades skirt state gambling laws by offering prizes for winners of video games.

The ordinance establishes operating standards for existing arcade businesses. Hours will be limited from 8 a.m. to midnight. Arcades must hire private security guards in the evenings and use video security, silent alarms and secure cash management systems. Alcohol sales are prohibited.

New arcade businesses must be in areas zoned industrial or commercial. They cannot be within 2,500 feet of schools, playgrounds, churches and day-care centers. The must be at least 1,000 feet from areas zoned for current or future residential development.

County Administrator Bradley Arnold said the county attorney and arcade attorneys worked on drafting the ordinance so that it is unlikely to be challenged.

“It is not a ban of them,” he said. “Even with the setbacks, there are still available properties for them to go.”

Residents of Lake Panasoffkee, where about a half dozen arcades are located, praised passage of the ordinance, but said they wished it would do more to crack down on existing arcades.

“It’s an absolute wild west,” said Vincent Phelps. “They are extremely deleterious.”

Diane Roth of Laka Panasoffkee spoke out at Tuesdays meeting
Diane Roth of Laka Panasoffkee spoke out at Tuesday’s meeting.

Diane Roth said she has noticed a stronger presence by sheriff’s deputies near the arcades.

“I would like to see them closed by 10 o’clock,” she said. “We do have a lot of loitering. I don’t want this in my neighborhood.”

 

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