Despite the threat of another lawsuit, a split Lady Lake Commission on Monday rejected a request from The Villages for apartments at Spanish Springs Town Square.
An overflow crowd of residents showed up at Lady Lake Town Hall in an impassioned attempt to block The Villages from winning approval for seven age-restricted apartments at the former home of Katie Belle’s in the Van Patten House at the square.
Town officials had been under the impression that Villages Vice President Marty Dzuro would attend Monday night’s meeting to answer any questions about the proposal for the apartments.
However, Dzuro was a no show.
The Villages representative of record was Lee Clymer of engineering firm Clymer Farner Barley. Clymer had few answers and demanded the commission move ahead and vote on the site plan which had been submitted by The Villages.
Mayor Jim Rietz called for tabling the vote on the apartments until The Villages could accommodate the commission by sending an empowered representative for a meeting.
“The Developer should be embarrassed they don’t have a representative here tonight,” the mayor said.
However, commissioners, still feeling the sting of a lawsuit last year by The Villages, seemed fearful of another round in court with Florida’s Friendliest Hometown. The town attorney indicated that The Villages would have to ask for the continuance – not the other way around.
It appeared that The Villages had cleverly manipulated the chess board, forcing the commission to vote on the apartments, which meet the town’s land development regulations. Town staff had recommended for approval of the apartments.
However, the outpouring of opposition to the apartments, and fears about the demise of Spanish Springs, prompted three commissioners – Mayor Rietz, Paul Hannan and Ed Freeman – to take a stand against The Villages.
Commissioners Ruth Kussard and Tony Holden voted in favor of the apartments and were in the minority.
The mayor said he wants to see a definitive plan from the Developer for Spanish Springs.
“I want to see a seven-year comprehensive plan for Spanish Springs to have enough information to know where the Developer is going,” Rietz said.