I've selected a few items from our December 21 City Council meeting to share with you. My Christmas present to you is that I'm going to keep it short tonight!
Please keep in mind that I'm not sending this out on behalf of City Council. It comes only from me.
The Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has representatives from the cities in our two counties and also from both County Commissions. One of their responsibilities is to prioritize needed transportation projects for funding. We heard a report from our MPO. Several high priority projects are in or near Mount Dora. Once the priority list has been finalized I'll let you know what roadway projects in our area will be forthcoming.
Two meeting are on tap regarding the potential Simpson Groves development on US Rt. 441 that I told you about two weeks ago. There will be a public presentation and Q & A on Monday January 10th at 6:00 in the Community Building. The project will come back before City Council at our January 18th 6:00 p.m. meeting. You are welcome to attend and participate in either or both of these meetings.
We got some very good news regarding some grants that Mount Dora will be receiving to help offset the costs of projects including a "Baffle Box" near Lake Gertrude. A baffle box helps maintain good water quality by filtering runoff water before that water runs into the lake.
After an long discussion Council voted 5-2 (Bryant and Stile voted no) to reduce a fine for uncut grass and litter on an empty lot located at 1209 Jackson St. to $5,000. The new property owner plans to immediately proceed with the construction of a new single family home there. In my opinion, that new house will be an asset to the neighborhood and produce property tax revenue for decades to come.
During our second meeting of the evening (Northeast Community Redevelopment Agency Board Meeting) we learned that Habitat for Humanity has raised $90,000 to match a like amount from the NECRA to renovate and upgrade 6 homes in the neighborhood. That's good news from my point of view.
I'd like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2022. My quote for you today comes from our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge who has strong ties to Mount Dora. "To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."
Our December 7th. City Council meeting began at 5:30 and didn't wrap up until well after 11:00 p.m. As usual, I selected a few key items to tell you about. Please keep in mind that I'm reporting to you as one individual and not on behalf of city council as a whole.
We adopted a resolution to utilize Florida's state revolving loan fund to borrow $12 million to update our 40 year-old Wastewater Plant #1. This state financing option will allow us to borrow the needed money with practically no interest. We will also be pursuing a grant from St. Johns River Management District to help lower the cost of these much needed renovations to our taxpayers.
The bulk of our marathon meeting involved consideration of a proposed 224.56 acre development on either side of Route 441 between the Publix at Loch Leven plaza and the Country Club of Mount Dora. Most of this property is currently orange groves and it is currently outside of our Mount Dora city limits in unincorporated Lake County. The owners have decided to sell their property and they have selected a buyer who will develop it. The proposal is for about 18 acres of Commercial development on the south side of 441 and several types of residential options ranging from single family to high density on the vast majority of the property. This project would be one of the biggest expansions of property and residents in recent Mount Dora history.
There were two items on our agenda involving this property. The first one was a first reading to approve annexation into Mount Dora. The second item was another first reading of a "Transmittal Hearing Ordinance".
It seems likely to me that either or both of these items could be reconsidered at a future City Council meeting so I'm going to try to give you the facts of each one without offering my personal opinion that could violate my Sunshine Law obligations. I also want to say that boiling down several hours of community members' comments and council members' discussion into a couple of paragraphs is nearly impossible but I'll give it a try.
On the proposal to annex the 224.56 acres into Mount Dora, the motion, after much discussion was approved. The rational for annexation is that if the property is in Mount Dora, our ability to control the plans for future development would be enhanced.
The second item dealing with the Transmittal Hearing ultimately failed with Mr. Gunther and Mr. Rolfson voting in favor and the other five members voting against it. The majority expressed their interest in delaying approval for Transmittal for a for a month or two so that council would have some time to hold a work session discussion and a public meeting.
When the second (Transmittal) issued failed, the property owner's representative said that his client would no longer be requesting annexation.
It seems likely to me that we will all be hearing much more on this topic in the future.
The other big item on our agenda was a report by our City Attorney on the status of the building height initiative demands by a citizens' group. After hearing her report and lots of good discussion, a motion was approved by a 4-3 vote (Gunther, Rolfson and I voted no) to have our staff draft language for an ordinance to propose placing a Charter Amendment on the November 2022 ballot that would limit building heights in the downtown historic district to a maximum 35' and 25' near the lakeshore with some possible exceptions that would be recommended by our Building Height Review Committee that has been formed and has begun meeting.
Council will also craft a "moratorium" that will preclude any taller buildings being approved in the historic downtown area until the November vote.
I believe that our community needs to get this issue resolved and I think that this compromise will afford citizens with varying opinions the opportunity to get some closure.
I've got a quote for you today from Paulo Coelho who said, "The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion."
Thanks for allowing me to be one of your representatives on Mount Dora City Council.
Months after the departure of Mount Dora’s previous City Manager Robin Hayes, a new City Manager is finally in place.
Comiskey, a seasoned city manager with over 20 years of experience took over the position on November 15, 2021. Comiskey’s most recent appointments were as the top administrator to the City of Cambridge, Maryland, from 2018 to 2021, the City of Thomaston, Georgia, from 2002 to 2016, and the City of Wellsburg, West Virginia, from 1998 to 2002. In addition, Comiskey served as the Director of Purchasing and Personnel, and then as the Director of Personnel at the City of Clarksburg, West Virginia, from 1993 to 1998. Prior to working in local government, he was the District Executive for the Boy Scouts of America in Clarksburg/Parkersburg, West Virginia. Comiskey earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Florida, Bachelor of Science in Business with a concentration in Accounting from Middle Georgia State University and Master of Public Administration from West Virginia University. Additionally, he is an Eagle Scout and a Certified Purchasing Manager.
Patrick resides in Mount Dora with his wife, Jane, a native Floridian, and their dog, Weaver. He enjoys hiking with Weaver, reading and learning American and Irish history, exploring places with Jane, and spending time with friends and family. ] “The family and I are extremely excited to join the Mount Dora Community. I am confident that Mount Dora’s best years lie ahead of us,” said Comiskey. “We have a great team here and I’m excited to build upon that team as we continue to serve the residents of this great city.”
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ABOVE: From left is Mayor Crissy Stile and Council Members Nate Walker and John Cataldo.
Known for its festivals, quaint downtown and mossy oaks, little Mount Dora woke up in November to some big changes. For years, the city’s residents have predominantly been represented by active retirees, willing to give their time and experience to serve their city. The result was a cohesive council, but one that didn’t reflect the increasing diversity of Mount Dora or cultivate new ideas.
Fast forward to this year’s non-partisan election, and the result was extraordinary, not only for the large margins of victory, but also the dramatic change to the City Council's demographics. Three much younger representatives earned seats on the council and the trio also work full time.
Meet the new faces of Mount Dora City Council:
CRISSY STILE, MAYOR Crissy Stile, 45, moved to Central Florida in 1994 to attend Stetson University, after growing up in the small town of Fishkill, New York. She graduated from Stetson in 1998 with a B.A. in Accounting and continued to earn her MBA in 1999. After working for several large companies in accounting, budgeting and treasury, Stile knew she wanted to follow in her parents' footsteps and establish her own business. Today, she’s the owner/operator of Barrel of Books and Games, which has been open for over a decade in downtown Mount Dora. Stile loves the outdoors and tends to a community garden to grow food for the clients of Lake Cares Food Pantry, where she volunteers. She's also an avid cyclist, a rising pickleball player, a partner in programs with the W.T. Bland Library, a book club organizer, and a strong proponent of green initiatives. In the 15 years Stile has lived in Mount Dora, she has become involved in almost every aspect of the City. The new mayor, who won with almost 59 percent of the vote, lives in the Pinecrest neighborhood with her partner of 15 years, Elena, a registered nurse, and their three rescue dogs, Gracie, Toby and Brin. Stile stated the most important thing in her life is her family. She is the middle child of five and was raised by, she claims, the best parents in the world.
“The only promise I make is to always consider the thoughts and concerns of all residents and work as hard as possible to be a responsible voice to our taxpayers,” said Stile, who previously served on Mount Dora City Council from 2018 to 2020.
JOHN CATALDO, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT 1 John Cataldo, 57, is passionate about helping people. Thoughtful growth, progress and historic preservation will be among the priorities of his term on Mount Dora City Council. Together with his partner Arthur Natale, John has been a resident and business owner in Downtown Mount Dora for sixteen years, operating the award-winning Adora Inn. The two turned their 105-year-old building into a boutique, hotel-style bed and breakfast. Since then, they have been hosting travelers coming to Mount Dora from all over the world. John was born and raised in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, the youngest of seven children. Having a mother who was a terrific cook, he always loved food and chose to attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, and graduated in 1985. John’s educational experience opened the door for a successful 35-year career in the hospitality and tourism industry.
Having served on the Economic Advisory Committee and Planning & Zoning Commission, John, who won with nearly 64% of the vote, hopes his experience and dedication will help address the concerns of District 1 and guide Mount Dora’s growth in a positive direction.
NATE WALKER, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT 5 A lifelong resident of Mount Dora, Nate Walker, 47, is the first councilmember to represent the newly created District 5. He is a graduate of Mount Dora High School and has worked in the telecommunications industry for 25 years. Walker and his wife Sheree have been married for 20 years and have six children and three grandchildren: Kyson, Kyla and Kinsley. Walker has a long history of advocating for the Northeast Community and is passionate about working with and serving the community in various capacities. He has served on both the Northeast CRA Advisory and Charter Review Committees, and is Chairman of the Steward Board at Bethel I.F.M. Church. “I’m honored to be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve the city that I love, and I’m excited about the future of Mount Dora. I look forward to listening to the residents, working with fellow council members and staff to make Mount Dora someplace special,” said Walker.
MARC CRAIL, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT 4 Although Marc Crail isn't one of the three new faces on council representing the demographic shift, it’s important to note that he ran unopposed in the election and will serve again as Mount Dora City Council representative for District 4, which includes Lakes of Mount Dora. Crail brings along his years of experience on the council and as a former teacher and School Superintendent to benefit the city.