The Mount Dora City Council met on Tuesday, December 8 to discuss the lawsuit filed against Mount Dora by Medallion Home. The history of the case, that was filed against the City of Mount Dora in March of this year, was discussed. Representing the City, Attorneys Sherry Sutphen and Cliff Shepard began by introducing a Powerpoint presentation showing the chronology of events leading to the current dispute. The attorneys warned council that questions and information directly related to the City’s defense strategy on the case could only be discussed behind closed doors – not at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Attorneys discussed the process by which Mount Dora originally agreed to the PUD, including the portions that granted land to Mount Dora for public use. Those uses, according to the City’s attorneys were proposed by then-developer Pringle Homes. Pringle, in turn was granted special development rights for the land within the PUD. Those developer rights included allowances for special commercial uses, recreational uses, dock allowances, RV storage, smaller lots and reduced setbacks normally not permitted in the City’s residential zoning category.
The City was to benefit through the conveyance – made by the developer to the City – of a well site (to assist with water pressure allowing water for the densities requested), as well as a fire station site. Both the well site and the fire station were services the City anticipated it would need at, or before, the Lakes of Mount Dora’s total buildout. (Currently, 519 of the original 950 planned lots remain open and unbuilt upon.)
The proposed fire station site, considered a desired amenity by Pringle, was touted within their marketing as offering better response times for medical assistance to the retiree community. However, the current owner – Medallion Home, no longer wants either the fire facility or the well within their gated community. Medallion does, however, want to increase the number of homes within their PUD. To do that, according to the City, they want to build upon the sites that are dedicated to the City through the negotiated and previously approved PUD. Medallion purchased the Lakes of Mount Dora in 2011 for $2,328,000.
Mayor Girone spoke of the neighborhood’s desires, saying, “…overwhelmingly the vast majority of the membership” of the Lakes of Mount Dora preferred the well site and the fire substation be relocated outside of their neighborhood and that they desire the addition of community amenities, instead.
The combined parcels in question, according to both the City of Mount Dora and Medallion Home, are valued at approximately $250,000. But, Medallion says, the 2004 agreements that dedicates property within the PUD to Mount Dora is unconstitutional and the company wants the court to declare that portion of the agreement invalid. Medallion, in their lawsuit, wants the both lots – and their attorney fees for the case – paid for by the City of Mount Dora.
City attorneys stress the property in questions is a valuable City asset, offered by the developer and accepted by the City over a decade ago. The property was to be used to fulfill public needs. Those needs still need to be met, whether the services are built within or without the gated community.
The City’s attorneys say City officials have acknowledged that there are now other options available for future fire and water needs for that portion of the City, ones that didn’t exist in 2004. But, Sutphen cautioned the council, “I can also tell you though, that with all of those solutions, there is a price tag that goes along with all of those solutions that is the City’s price tag.”
Although the council clearly indicated a settlement was preferred over litigation, it remains to be seen whether Medallion will feel the same way. They have been silent lately, according to City attorneys – although, a Medallion Home attorney was in the audience at Tuesday’s meeting.
Two council members, the mayor and District Four representative Marc Crail are residents of the Lakes of Mount Dora. An audience of approximately 35 people were present for the hour-long meeting. Link to the a video of the meeting here: December 8 video recording.
Melissa DeMarco, Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)