At one time or another, everyone has done it. Circling and circling and then jockeying for a precious parking space in the heart of historic downtown Mount Dora. Although snowbird season creates the most significant parking challenges, off-season can still be difficult. There are 720 public parking spaces downtown; yet if all the restaurants are full, there is a shortage of 200 spaces, according to city officials. The increase in restaurants in the downtown core has contributed to the shortage, because they are exempt from providing customer parking that eateries in other parts of the city are required to provide. Additionally, restaurants typically have more staff and longer customer-stays than their retail counterparts. The City of Mount Dora is considering a mix of short- and long-term options to remedy the shortage. At an April 27 workshop, Mount Dora City Council was presented with a proposal for an expansive, 60-foot tall, four-level parking garage downtown with lawn bowling and a clubhouse on the fifth level. The structure, conceived and proposed by City Manager Robin Hayes, had 596 parking spaces and would incorporate the site of the existing garage on Donnelly Street and extend across Charles Street and include valuable city property on Edgerton Court that is currently leased by the lawn bowling club. The proposed two-block garage exceeded the 35-foot downtown building height maximum which residents have passionately fought to preserve. Councilmembers Mark Slaby and Laurie Tillet acknowledged the need for a parking garage, but were sharply critical of the size and location of the proposed project because it was drastically out of scale and character for the city’s historic downtown. That design and location has since been permanently taken off the table, according to city spokesperson, Lisa McDonald.
4-level parking garage with lawn bowling on 5th level proposed in April for downtown.
Other parking options include leasing or purchasing a lot from First Presbyterian Church at East Sixth Avenue and Alexander Street, as well as time-limit parking. A pilot program for parking shuttles, modeled after the successful one in Stuart, Florida, was introduced to Mount Dora last year by Tillet. The electric shuttles were utilized during Mount Dora’s festivals and upon budget approval, the city may acquire similar shuttles to transport visitors from parking lots in other parts of the city into downtown. The new vehicles will take three months for delivery after the manufacturer is given the green light. There have been efforts to encourage owners and employees of downtown restaurants and stores to park outside the downtown core or in the parking garage to allow more spaces for customers, but compliance is voluntary and deficient. Parking alternatives will continue to be explored by city staff and the issue will be re-examined by the City Council before October.
Mount Dora Police are investigating an armed robbery that happened at the Dollar General at 3850 State Road 19A at approximately 9:55 p.m. on May 20.
Police responded to a report of an armed robber that entered after all the customers had left. There were two employees in the store at the time of the robbery.
A man dressed in all black and wearing a face mask entered the store after all the customers had left and jumped over the counter and pointed a black and silver semi-automatic handgun at the clerk while demanding money. There were two employees in the store. The clerk was unable to open the safe and was ordered to lay on the floor while a male employee came to the front.
The suspect demanded the safe to be opened, however a timer prevented access. The suspect, described as a slim black male between 5'3" and 5'5", took cash from the register and fled the store.
Another male was seen at the front of the store with his face covered.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the search with a K9, where a scent was tracked east towards 3719 Lake Center Drive before it was lost.
Police are investigating whether this robbery is connected to the recent McDonald’s robberies. In the two most recent crimes, the suspects were black males wearing all black, demanded victims lay on the floor, sought money from a safe, used small handguns and initially fled on foot. There have been no arrests in either robbery.
Detectives are also working with other police agencies to determine if the robberies are linked to other crimes.
If anyone knows anything, they are asked to call the Mount Dora Police Department at 352-735- 7130 or Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.
The McDonald’s restaurant at 18900 US. 441 in Mount Dora was robbed at gunpoint early this morning.
The victims told police three black males, dressed in all black and wearing black masks or bandanas, came into the restaurant carrying small guns while customers were inside. The incident happened at approximately 3:30 a.m. No injuries were reported.
A manager was made to open the cash registers and a safe while customers and employees were told to lay on the floor. They were then forced to the back of the restaurant into the walk-in freezer. One of the victims reported having a gun placed against her back while being shoved into the freezer. The victims were locked in the freezer for approximately 10 minutes during which time they attempted to call 911 but there was no service.
The thieves threatened to shoot a pregnant employee if she didn't hurry. They made off with a bag of cash, the register drawers, and cell phones.
As the robbery was in progress, a driver pulled into the drive-thru. A suspect reportedly pointed a gun at that driver, resulting in the driver leaving and immediately calling 911.
After the robbery the suspects fled on foot, a witness outside the McDonald’s said they ran southbound on Donnelly Street where a K-9 was able to track them, but lost the scent.
This is the second armed robbery at the location in recent months. The first one was February 11 at 3 a.m.
Of the three men wearing all black, one of the men was reportedly wearing Dickies and a sweater-like shirt. A witness described one of the weapons as silver and possibly a .38 or .45 caliber handgun If anyone knows anything, they are asked to call Mount Dora Police or Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.
Lake County Schools Superintendent Diane Kornegay has asked Govenor Rick Scott to veto the budget recently submitted by Florida legislators, saying it includes too little money for schools. She also asked him to veto a controversial education bill that has drawn a wave of disapproval over measures the Superintendent and other critics say will be harmful to schools.
Kornegay says in the letter that the $2.61-per-student increase in funding, which comes does little to help pay for next year’s expected growth and leaves a $1.2 million deficit with no funds to cover the cost of the projected 176 new students enrolled next year.
She also expressed concerns about the $1 million in capital funding the district would have to share with charter schools, even if they are managed by for-profit private companies, and the possible redirection of Title I funds that pay for programs in schools with the greatest needs.
“As a new Superintendent, I have great hope for Lake County Schools,” Kornegay wrote. “I'm excited about the good things already happening in our district and energized by the opportunity to improve student achievement. But these proposed changes will make the implementation of my improvement efforts much more difficult. Across the district, we are feeling disheartened and betrayed by a budget and bill that, ultimately, will cause our students to suffer.”
The letter comes on the heels of a call to action from the Florida School Boards Association, which asked members to contact their legislative delegation “to make them aware of the harmful impacts that the proposed budget will have on your school district” and to share those concerns with Govenor Scott.
“Legislators can and should make a stronger effort to support our schools,” Kornegay wrote. “A veto from you, Gov. Scott, would allow them that opportunity.
Residents' frustrated over unwanted publications littering their neighborhoods and driveways now have one less thing to worry about.
A new city ordinance requires these forms of communications to provide an 'unsubscribe' phone number for residents and businesses owners to call in order to stop delivery. The cancellation will take effect within ten days of the owner receiving a confirmation letter from the publication. If a flyer, publication or piece of advertising does not provide an unsubscribe number or if the company continues to distribute the publication, residents should call Mount Dora Code Enforcement at 352-735-7127.
Mount Dora police are investigating a burglary and vandalism at the McLin Fitness Center on the Mount Dora High School campus early Thursday.
At 3:06 this morning, police responded to a report of a suspicious incident at the campus. Upon arrival, they discovered the burglary happened at the fitness facility on 8th Avenue next to the school’s gym. No surveillance video or photos are being released at this time.
Officers discovered vandalism inside the center and theft of some items. Among the stolen goods were donated prizes for the school’s upcoming “Project Graduation” later this month. The event is a safe overnight party in the gym organized by parents to keep graduates out of harm’s way on their celebratory night. Parents worked tirelessly to secure generous raffles prizes from the community that include laptops, tablets, drones and other items for use in college. The prizes also help entice seniors to attend Project Graduation. The theft of these prizes indirectly puts more seniors in harm’s way on graduation night.
Anyone in the community who can donate replacement prizes or donations for their purchase are encouraged to drop them off at Mount Dora High School’s attendance office.
The crime is under investigation. Anyone with information should contact Mount Dora Police Department at 352-735-7130.
By Marc Crail Mount Dora City Council Member, District 4
I'm happy to give you this update on the May 2 Mount Dora City Council Meeting. I am just one of seven city council members and not its spokesman. I try to be unbiased in my reports, but what you're receiving is strictly from my perspective.
City Council meeting was fairly brief but several resolutions were passed. Let me share a few of them with you.
1. We approved a resolution to make several mid-year budget adjustments. All budgets change over time. Events such as Hurricane Matthew caused unexpected overtime pay for cleanup of debris. Sometimes expenses are lower than anticipated and money saved can be returned to the General Fund or shifted to another fund. The City Manager presented her list of mid-year fund transfers that were approved unanimously.
2. We lease a city owned building located at 1560 North Highland St. to Episcopal Children's Services at no cost so they can run a Head Start program that serves 3-4 year old children in Mount Dora. Episcopal Children's Services is obligated to maintain the building in exchange for their use of it. They have received a federal grant to replace the roof, windows, etc. and generally improve the facility. We needed to approve those renovations. Good news for Mount Dora preschoolers and good work by Episcopal Children's Services!
3. Disc Golf is a rapidly growing sport that can be enjoyed by players of any age and ability. We currently have a 9 "hole" course in town and we will be adding another nine "holes". Other Lake County cities are also building disc golf facilities. Together we will have the Lake County Disc Golf Trail. Sports tourism is a great way to increase tourism in our county and our city. Representatives from the Florida Disc Golf Foundation were on hand and expect to compete to host regional, national and possibly even world disc golf events in future years.
These were all positives as far as I'm concerned.
The quote for today is from Mother Teresa who said; "Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you."
I appreciate your interest in Mount Dora city government and I also appreciate the opportunity to serve our great town.
It’s a first for historic Mount Dora, the central Florida town that has long been identified by its quaint charm and New England vibe. Now the city has its own flag that captures its uniqueness.
The city’s recent flag contest garnered 58 creative entries. The winner was chosen by Mount Dora City Council members on April 20. Laura Varich, a local resident and a pediatric radiologist, submitted the winning design.
Good flags are simple with strong concepts and Mount Dora’s new flag is no exception. Varich’s design inspiration came over a year after she watched a TED Talk titled "Why City Flags May Be The Worst-Designed Thing You've Never Noticed" by Roman Mars. She was determined to create an effective symbol that would represent the town she loves.
“The lighthouse had to be a key element as it is the icon of our town. The curved blue background was meant to represent Lake Dora or the hills of Mount Dora,” explained Varich. “The curved yellow surface represents either the lighthouse light or one of our beautiful sunsets.”
Varich’s creative talent is well known. As an established abstract painter of landscapes and florals, her bold work sells in galleries in Mount Dora and Winter Park, as well as Mount Dora Art Festival. Her paintings are also on display during the city’s monthly Art Splash event downtown.
“I was thrilled when this competition came to our town,” said Varich, adding she was completely surprised by the council’s selection. She’s most excited about being personally associated with her new hometown for a very long time.
Varich and her husband, Peter Edelstein, and their two daughters, moved to Mount Dora from the bay area of California in 2009. It didn’t take long before she became an active member of the area’s thriving creative community.
When asked what Varich was going to do with her $250 prize money, she responded, “What prize?” indicating her efforts were truly a labor of love.
The flag will be presented at a special Flag Day ceremony on June 14.