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The Villages
Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Re-vote on apartments at Spanish Springs turns out favorably for The Villages

A re-vote on apartments at Spanish Springs Town Square turned out favorably Monday night for The Villages.

The Lady Lake Commission voted 3-2 to allow seven apartments at the former home of Katie Belle’s at the Van Patten House.

The commission on May 2 voted 3-2 to reject The Villages’ plan for apartments at the former home of Katie Belle’s at the Van Patten House. An overflow crowd of residents attended that meeting, making an impassioned plea to stand up to The Villages. Commissioner Ed Freeman joined Commissioner Paul Hannan and Mayor Jim Rietz in voting against the plan for the apartments. However, within days of that meeting, Commissioner Freeman contacted the town’s attorney and admitted he had misgivings about his vote, due to the likelihood of a lawsuit by The Villages.

On Monday night, Freeman officially changed his vote and sided with Commissioners Ruth Kussard and Tony Holden in voting for the apartments.

“Katie Belle’s is never coming back. I don’t think the movie theater is coming back. More apartments are coming,” Freeman said prior to the re-vote. “Spanish Springs may be dying.”

However, the two commissioners voting in opposition to the apartments showed no sign of backing down.

“The Developer is living on good will and faith created by Harold Schwartz over 30 years ago,” said Mayor James Rietz.

He said that good will is rapidly running dry.

The mayor pointed out the irony that The Villages is still using photos of Katie Belle’s to sell homes.

“The Developer continues to use an image of Katie Belle’s in an ad at the movie theater – the only one left,” Rietz said, holding up a copy of the ad. “It’ll probably be gone tomorrow.”

Commissioner Paul Hannan, a resident of the Historic Side of The Villages, complained that Commissioners Holden and Freeman, who live outside The Villages, don’t have a stake in what is happening to the square.

Bob Marion of the Village of Country Club Hills took direct aim at Freeman and urged him to stick by his original vote against the apartments.

“I think we should give them a fight,” Marion said.

Peggy Stone, who lives on Madero Drive about a half mile from the square, lamented the fact the Lady Lake Commission voted in favor of the apartments out of “fear.”



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