When it comes to local government, there are lots of armchair quarterbacks and second-guessers. In the end, there are only seven elected representatives in Mount Dora serving their community--one mayor and six council members--that have the final say on decisions. City residents can opt to have greater impact because three of those seats will have open elections this year and the qualifying period is just around the corner. In recent elections, many Mount Dora City Council candidates ran without opposition, so there’s no time like the present to throw your hat in the ring. Here’s some timely information for Mount Dora residents interested in serving in their community: 1. What are the requirements to run for City Council? A candidate must be an eligible voter in Mount Dora for no less than 12 consecutive months prior to filing for candidacy. Paperwork must be filed by the end of the qualifying period which is August 12 at noon.
2. What education and experience is required to run for City Council? There is no particular experience or education required. 3. What and when is the qualifying period? The qualifying period is the timeframe to turn in the paperwork, also referred to as “the packet.” The qualifying period for the November 8, 2022 city election begins at noon on August 8 and ends on August 12 at noon. In other words, all of the paperwork must be completed and turned into the City Clerk at City Hall by that date and time. View and download the packet with complete instructions and forms here.
4. What are the three city council seats up for election? Council seats for District 2(includes Country Club of Mount Dora), and District 3 (including Lake Gertrude and Eudora Road areas), plus an at-large council seat (includes entire city). View district map below (click to enlarge) or download PDF.
5. What is the difference between ”district” council members and “at-large” council members? District candidates are elected by voters residing in that defined district (see district map). At-large council members are elected by all the voters throughout the City. Additionally, the at-large city council seat and the mayoral seat allow candidates to live anywhere within the City limits. District council members are required to live in their specific district. (See district below) Mount Dora City Council has five district council members and one at-large, plus the Mayor which is an at-large seat.
6. How long are the terms? All city council terms are four years. 7. How much money do candidates typically raise for a campaign? Historically, that can vary greatly depending on the district, the number of candidates vying for the same seat and the effectiveness of a candidate's campaign strategy. The ballpark range for the specific district seats this year may be $2,000 to $5,000. The mayor seat and at-large council seat require additional money to reach more voters in a larger geographic area, so the ballpark amount is likely $8,000 for a two-person race. 8. How much are the council members and mayor compensated? Approximately $6,000 and $10,000 respectively. 9. Where do I turn in my completed paperwork packet? City Clerk’s office located on the second floor of CIty Hall at 510 N. Baker Street.
10. There is no time like the present to get involved. You can download the candidate packet below.
By Marc Crail Mount Dora Vice Mayor and District 4 representative Here are several items from the June 21 Mount Dora City Council Meeting that you might be interested in hearing about. You probably are already aware that what follows comes from me and not on behalf of City Council as a whole.
We heard an interesting presentation on a new business called Olde Mount Dora Carriage Company. Two Mount Dora residents are planning to offer electric carriage tours and carriage ride dinners throughout downtown. Their vehicles have all the charm of a traditional carriage but without the horse. Instead they are electric powered. They plan to begin testing their concept in the next few months. It sounds like fun to me.
If you are looking for a convenient place to park for FREE just a few blocks from downtown, use the parking lot across the street from the First United Methodist Church on 5th Ave. We renewed our 10 year lease with the church. Feel free to park there anytime except for major festival weekends.
We took the first step in the process of setting the Fire Services Special Assessment for the upcoming budget year. We will discuss the proposed amount of that fee which is currently pegged at $209 for homes. This fee can only be used to pay for fire related capital items such as fire trucks and our new fire stations.
The cost of everything seems to be going up these days. We authorized the purchase of up to 600 new water meters before a July 1 price increase. They are getting hard to find with a lead time of 4-20 weeks. If we decide to buy all 600, we will save about $45,000.
We approved the final reading to annex 154 acres of property owned by the Lake County Water Authority into the City. We want to help ensure that this ecologically fragile land is protected from future development.
If you didn't have a chance to experience the Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday you missed out. Fun, food and fellowship were all there in abundance. It was a hot day and wet for a few minutes but plan on attending next year.
While this next item wasn't a part of the City Council meeting, it was included in the City Manager's Report. Close to 300 Lakes of Mount Dora residents met Tuesday 6/21 to hear an update on the proposed traffic light at the intersection of Lakes of Mount Dora Blvd. and SR 44. The project has been approved and design work is now underway. FDOT is streamlining what is normally a 3 year long process into 6-8 months because of significant safety concerns. Design should be completed by early fall and they hope that the traffic signal will be installed shortly after the new signal going in at 44 and Britt Rd. With supply concerns, FDOT is doing "early ordering" of items with long lead times. Our meeting was encouraging to say the least!
Our quote of the day comes by way of Father Nathan Monk of Welsh Church. "At the end of the day, I'd rather be excluded for those I include, than be included for those I exclude!"
Thanks to the opportunity you have provide me to serve as your District 4 Council Rep. and Vice-Mayor.
By Marc Crail Mount Dora Vice Mayor and District 4 representative
By Marc Crail Mount Dora District 4 Representative & Vice-Mayor I've selected some action items from the meeting agenda to tell you about and I'll also talk about several discussion items and presentations that were also significant. Let's begin with the action items. Please keep in mind that I'm reporting as an individual, not on behalf of City Council in any official capacity.
The Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization is responsible for creating a list of urgently needed road related projects each year. The MPO is made up of representatives from the cities and county governments. We approved our support of their 2022 List of Priority Projects last night. Two of the top seven will be very impactful to Mount Dora residents. This list will be sent along to the State for consideration. Priority Project #3 is the road widening of SR 44 B between 441 (Publix store) and the Circle K gas station on the corner of SR 44 and 44 B. This project is projected to cost about $24 M.
The second project has a price tag of more than $22 M. It is widening US Rt 441 between the Publix plaza (Donnelly St.) to just north of SR 46 where the new flyover is located.
Please keep in mind that various funding sources come into play and even these top priorities may not be funded for a few years.
By a 5-2 vote (Rolfson & Gunther voted no) Council approved the final reading of an Ordinance pertaining to placing the contentious downtown building heights Charter Amendment on the November ballot. I voted to put it on the ballot although I adamantly believe that this isn't something that should be in the City's Charter. Please educate yourself on the cons and pros of this ballot issue.
We approved a preliminary plat for a 125 unit townhome development called Villages of Loch Leven. These will be homes, not apartments to be located off SR 44 and Meadenhall Blvd.
We approved the first reading of a request from the Lake County Water Authority to have their 153.79 acre preserve called Wolf Branch Sink located off of Robie Ave. annexed into Mount Dora. This property will be protected from future development by a conservation easement and unified under one title if it is finally approved at our next meeting.
In addition to the agenda items above, we heard two proclamations involving Juneteenth holiday marking the end of slavery and LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. I'm proud that Mount Dora is in the forefront of celebrating and including all of our citizens.
Several residents spoke about the positive contributions of Police Chief Brett Meade who resigned last week. He hasn't yet publicly spoken about his reason(s) for resigning.
Former Mount Dora Mayor, Nick Girone and County Commissioner, Leslie Campione have teamed up to try to convince FDOT to reduce the speed limit on SR 44 between Rt 439 and the Circle K station at the intersection of 44 and 44 B from the current 55 mph to 45 mph until the proposed traffic lights at Britt Rd. and Lakes of Mount Dora Blvd. are completed. City Council agreed to write a letter of support for that speed limit reduction.
Speaking of traffic lights, Lakes of Mount Dora residents are encouraged to attend a meeting with FDOT officials on Tuesday June 21 at 3:00 p.m. in the LoMD social hall. We held a similar meeting with FDOT about three months ago. There have been some recent developments that will be announced. Please plan to attend!
My quote for today comes from "Skopelosnews". I think it sounds as if it could have been written about those of us who live, work and play in Mount Dora. We are very fortunate indeed.
"We live in paradise and we fight over unimportant matters. We live in paradise and we are impatient. We live in paradise and are in a hurry. We live in paradise and we don't realize it half the time. This is paradise!
By Marc Crail Mount Dora District 4 Representative & Vice-Mayor
On June 1, Mount Dora Police Chief Brett Meade abruptly quit, leaving residents and city leaders stunned and saddened. Last month, the City’s police department received media scrutiny due to a use-of-force incident that occurred in September 2021 and was captured on an officer’s body camera footage. The incident received no internal investigation last year and the Department took no disciplinary actions, according to the City.
Due to a Channel 9 television reporter’s request for the body camera footage on May 9, the City Manager, Mayor and council members became aware of the seven-month-old incident. According to documents, City Manager Patrick Comiskey, who was hired in October 2021 as the City’s top administrator who supervises the Chief of Police and other City departments, wanted an independent third-party investigation. Independent reviews can be done when there is conflict of interest if the investigation is done internally, according the Florida statute. In this case, a perceived conflict of interest could derive from the lack of an internal investigation over the six months preceding the media exposing the incident. City documents show Meade repeatedly sought for the belated investigation to be handled internally.
Here is a brief timeline of events that preceded Meade's resignation on June 1. The timeline is taken from public records.
SEPTEMBER 21, 2021: Mount Dora Police body camera captured a use-of-force incident that appears to show an officer forcefully ram a non-violent man’s head into a police car. The incident happened in the Dollar Store parking lot on U.S. 441.
MAY 9, 2022: A reporter from Channel 9 News made a public record request for the body camera footage of the incident. That request is how the Mount Dora City Manager, Mayor and City Council became aware of the incident that occurred over six months prior. (see body cam video and news story here) MAY 9, 2022, evening: According to an email, Comiskey spoke with Deputy Chief Mike Gibson to advise that an outside agency should review the use-of-force incident, as well as perform any resulting internal investigations their review might deem necessary.
MAY 11, 9:53 a.m.: Comiskey, who was hired by Mount Dora's previous Mayor and City Council, instructed Meade to seek an outside review of the case from State law enforcement and expressed it was imperative this case be reviewed by an outside agency. The email also directed Meade to set up a training class on the use of force and de-escalation and have each officer participate in it over the next 90 days, as well as set up a multi-day use-of-force and de-escalation training program for each officer to go through on an annual basis beginning next fiscal year. Gibson had advised Comiskey that other law enforcement agencies do this, according to the email. Comiskey also sought cost estimates from Meade for that training and the cost for officers to undertake the annual State-required training for annual certification.
MAY 11, 9:38pm: Mount Dora City Attorney Sherry Sutphen advised Comiskey that she reviewed new 2020 legislation regarding Florida Statutes, Section 112.533(1)(b) and provided her legal interpretation.
MAY 12: An internal investigation was opened and pending a request for an independent external review.
In a memo, Sutphen advised Comiskey that he had the legal authority to authorize the outside investigation pursuant to City of Mount Dora City Charter, Article V, Section 19. which states "the City Manager is the Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Mount Dora and shall be responsible to the City Council for the administration of all City affairs placed in his charge."
Sutphen wrote, "The City of Mount Dora Police Department is a department within the City which has been placed under the charge of the City Manager. The position of Police Chief is not a separate Charter office within the City. As such, the City Manager is considered the head of the agency for purposes of Florida Statutes, Section 112.533, as well as for any and all other matters related to the Police Department."
MAY 16 morning: Sutphen spoke to the City of Kissimmee City Attorney and later reported to Comiskey via email that they were interested in entering into an agreement with the City of Mount Dora to conduct reciprocal internal investigations under Florida statute in the event of conflict of interest. She advised the City Manager that he had signature authority under Resolution 2017-150.
MAY 18: In a letter to Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Comiskey sought their assistance to determine if the use-of-force incident should involve an internal affairs investigation on the officer; and if so, requested their investigator perform the investigation and provide the City with findings. “It is my opinion the content of the video should be reviewed from an outside party trained in police investigations and level of conduct. I also want the investigator to review the action or inaction of Corporal (name withheld by Mount Dora Buzz), who was also on the scene; and if he/she deem warranted, perform an internal investigation on him. It may appear the city has a conflict in reviewing the case since it was aired on the regional news and warrants the review of an outside agency,” Comiskey also stated in the letter.
MAY 19, 5:39 p.m.: Comiskey advised Meade that he was working on securing an outside agency to perform a review of the September 21 event which was aired on Channel 9 in May.
MAY 19, 6:06 p.m.: In an email to Comiskey, Meade re-stated his opinion that an external administrative investigation was not a legal option and asked for a meeting with Comiskey and whomever was advising him.
The City Manager, Mayor, City Council members, and members of City staff rely on the City Attorney Sutphen for legal opinions who is the person hired to provide them.
MAY 25, 6:22 p.m. Sutphen advised Comiskey that the City of Kissimmee Police Chief had no concerns with the concept of an agreement to conduct an independent investigation in conflict situations.
MAY 26, 3:11 p.m.: In an email, Comiskey reiterated to Meade that the City Manager was working on securing an outside agency to review the use of force in two cases.
MAY 27: In a memo to Comiskey, Meade provided his interpretation of the Florida statute relevant to the matter. Meade stated that the investigation would be conducted internally, rather than the independent investigation sought by Comiskey.
MAY 31, 8:45 a.m.: Via email, Meade sent his position statement and opinion regarding the investigation to Comiskey. Meade interpreted the Florida statute and a 1997 Attorney General Opinion (AGO) to mean that the investigation must be done internally under him. Meade stated he was proceeding with the internal probe and would inform the City Manager of its findings.
The AGO supplied was written prior to a 2020 change in the statute and Mount Dora City Attorney’s legal opinion differed from Meade’s. Comiskey, the Chief's superior, relies on the legal opinions and interpretations of the City Attorney, who is hired to provide them.
MAY 31, 7:45 p.m.: In a response email, Comiskey stated. "I appreciate the attached information you provided. If you have any additional support documentation for your position, please bring it by and I will review it. However, under no circumstances are you to begin an IA investigation regarding Officers (names withheld by Mount Dora Buzz). I am working on securing an outside investigator to review the events of the night in question and to determine if an IA is needed; and if so, to conduct it. The outside agency will also review the results of the other IA’s your staff is currently conducting. As I have advised you, this is being done for the good of the agency, yourself, and the officers in question." Comiskey also informs Meade that if he disregards that directive, he will be subject to termination.
JUNE 1, morning: Four individuals (two residents and two City employees) informed Comiskey that Meade was discussing internal personnel matters of Mount Dora Police Department and City government with residents and business operators, according to the City's Public Information Officer.
JUNE 1, 11:10 a.m.: Comiskey emailed Meade to cease and desist the behavior or face disciplinary action, including possible termination.
Mount Dora Buzz asked the City to provide the specific policy that Meade’s behavior violated, but that information was never provided.
JUNE 1, 11:31 a.m.: In an email, Meade responded that he was writing his letter of resignation and would have it to Comiskey by that afternoon, which he did.
JUNE 2: In an email to Sutphen and members of City staff, Comiskey advised of the acceptance of Meade’s resignation and expressed appreciation for his service. He also stated, “We are in the process of trying to secure an outside agency to review the events from the Dollar Store parking lot of last September and advise what, if any, actions should occur and if any internal affairs investigations are recommended. We are also asking the same agency to review the results of a case currently in process and advise if they concur with the findings and the way in which it was conducted. Said reviews and possible investigations may present information, findings, or recommendations that make us uncomfortable; however, we have to do what is best for the community, as well as fair to city workers.”
JUNE 3: A reciprocal internal investigation agreement was formed between the City of Mount Dora and the City of Kissimmee.
Mount Dora Buzz requested additional public records, but they were not provided. Mount Dora Buzz opted to withhold the names of the Mount Dora Police Officer and Corporal from the September 21, 2022 incident pending the outcome of the outside investigation. However, that information is public record.
It was a big and controversial undertaking. Less than a decade ago, Mount Dora taxpayers invested in their downtown sidewalks to make the area more pedestrian-friendly while upgrading its underground infrastructure. The 2014 phase of the massive project widened the downtown sidewalks along Donnelly Street by removing angled or “head-in” parking spaces and replacing them with fewer parallel spaces, as well as removing the brick flower planters, considered by City staff to be hazardous obstacles for pedestrians at the time.
Fast forward to today -- downtown Mount Dora’s sidewalks are anything but pedestrian-friendly due to lax code enforcement and inadequate ordinances. The City’s code prohibits obstructing public sidewalks, yet not long after the widening project was completed, the proliferation of retailers’ sales tables, clothing racks and merchandise carts conspicuously obstructing the public sidewalks began.
This daily practice, along with the growing number of t-shirts and dish towels hanging outside shops, has transformed some previously charming blocks of downtown into a sprawling sidewalk sale subsidized by the City's taxpayers.
One stretch of sidewalk on Donnelly between Fourth Avenue and Third Avenue is frequently littered with large retail tables, garden stakes, and other items for sale forcing pedestrians to walk single-file on a sidewalk intended for at least two pedestrians to be able to walk abreast. Additionally, large cement blocks a retailer uses to hold merchandise by day are left out overnight, creating potential tripping hazards that have existed for several months.
Code enforcement has also been lax in handling the groupings of bulky sandwich boards crowding the sidewalks in front of buildings that have multiple tenants. The City’s code allows for those buildings to have only one sandwich board that lists all of its tenants, but due to lack of enforcement for years, groups of pedestrians are impeded until others walk past.
Ironically, the 2014 streetscape project also installed new downtown wayfinding signs on street corners that were intended to help visitors locate downtown businesses and allow for the sandwich boards to be phased out. The City never followed through with phasing out the duplicate signage, but rather increased the number of sandwich boards and wayfinding signs allowed on the poles. These actions, combined with other signage codes that aren't enforced, resulted in the current proliferation of advertising signage downtown as well as the crowded sidewalks. Interestingly, it was only about a decade ago when sandwich boards weren't permitted at all in downtown Mount Dora.
At a time when the effect of increasing downtown building heights has been debated at City Hall, leaders and staff have turned a blind eye to an issue already negatively impacting downtown’s character. Although codes are intended to protect the aesthetics and safety of an area, Mount Dora’s clearly visible exterior code violations are only enforced when a complaint occurs, according to the City. This reactive policy, coupled with City staff’s practice of informing violators of the identity of the complainer, discouraged people from reporting hazards and caused obvious violations to snowball over several years.
Code enforcement policies don't need to be heavy-handed in order to be effective. Mount Dora could opt for a steady, proactive approach, in which business owners are first educated about the codes and then given ample time to correct any violations before they are cited. This approach could produce a safer and more charming environment, as well as promote goodwill among the downtown business community and provide the pedestrian- friendly sidewalks that taxpayers were sold eight years ago.
Mount Dora City Council held its second in a series of budget workshops on May 23rd.
We build our city's budget following several guiding principles. These include; Maintaining our City's infrastructure, Maintaining the public's safety, Compliance with all federal, state and local laws, and Retaining employees by providing competitive pay and benefits.
Two increased service levels will be considered for the upcoming budget year.
1. There is a proposal to hire a part time arborist at the cost of about $30,000 to continue to improve our efforts to take down dangerous or diseased trees on city property and to properly replace them.
2. There is a proposal to add a street sweeping machine dedicated to the downtown CRA area at a cost of about $210,000 and hiring a 20 hour per week street sweeper operator to run it. This new street sweeper would be paid for by the CRA and not included in the general fund budget.
FYI, our millage rate for the city over the past 10 years has ranged from a low of 5.6667 mills in 2013 and 2014 to a high of 6.3000 mills in 2018. For the past 2 years our millage has been set at 5.9603 partially because of our receiving supplemental Federal Cares Act Funds in 2020 and America Rescue Plan funds in 2021.
We don't yet have figures from Lake County for this year but we think that our Gross Taxable Values will increase by about 5%. We should have the actual increase figure within the next month.
The elephant in the room this year is inflation. Through April, the CPI, or inflation rate is up 8.3% year over year. We expect that trend to continue.
Due to growth we may need to add a Senior Planner and possibly 3 part time police dispatchers but nothing has been decided yet.
We will continue to meet over the next several months to develop a budget that will meet our guiding principles mentioned above while at the same time protecting our citizens from big tax increases. It's always a juggling act. You can count on lots of discussion of the data moving forward.
I forgot to include a quote to my last report and I apologize. To make it up to you, I've got 2 budget related quotes today.
The first is by Phil Gramm. "Balancing the budget is like going to heaven. Everybody wants to do it, but nobody wants to do what you need to to get there."
The second quote is from Dave Ramsey. "A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went."
The May 17 Mount Dora City Council Meeting had several items that I think you might be interested in hearing about. I've selected a few of them. Please keep in mind that what follows comes only from me and may not represent City Council as a whole.
In the "you learn something new every day" department, we discussed and approved a recommendation presented by our Police Chief to shift enforcement of animal control violations to Lake County. Our city animal control officer fields well over 1,000 calls a year. Mount Dora is the only city in Lake County that provides these services to our residents including assistance removing a snake from your garage, etc. We will continue to provide those services. The change involves transferring enforcement of violations over to the County. In the past 18 months or so there have been 13 cases that were investigated, 6 of those cases resulted in citations being issued for things like dangerous dogs. This change makes sense to me. It was approved 7-0.
If you have a budget for your household you undoubtedly understand the need for periodically amending and updating it. Sometimes you need to shift more money into one category by taking some funds out of another. Occasionally, you might receive unanticipated revenue that can be added in along the way. In our case, Federal COVID funding has provided us with money that needs to be allocated while unusually high project cost inflation has required us to adjust our figures to cover higher project costs. Approving mid-year budget amendments became necessary. Adjustments are needed every budget year but even more so this year.
Over our past few meetings City Council has discussed and tweaked the language of a proposed Charter Amendment that would, if it passes, insert building height limitations into our City Charter. This has been a hot topic for the past year. We formed a committee made up of volunteers to come up with recommendations for the ballot language. We also conducted a Building Height Impact Survey to solicit the opinions of residents and business owners in the historic downtown area. There was a very good response, meaning that many people chose to participate in the survey, 153 in all. Not surprisingly, the survey results indicate that there is a fairly even divide in opinions on building heights.
By a 5-2 vote (Rolfson and Guenther voted no) council approved the first reading of an ordinance pertaining to a Charter Amendment limiting building heights. In order to make a good decision, voters will need to study the merits and decide for themselves if the City's Charter is the appropriate place for height requirements to reside. I don't think that it is. Like everyone else, I have some strong opinions on this issue but I think that the proposal deserves to be voted upon in November. A second reading on this proposal will follow at our next meeting.
We will soon begin the process of "undergrounding" the numerous electric, phone and cable lines hanging over Royellou Lane. Hopefully, by the end of 2022 those unsightly wires will be gone making the alley more attractive to residents and visitors while increasing reliability.
Our City Manager reported to City Council on the status of a warranted traffic light at the entrance to the Lakes of Mount Dora on S.R. 44. This intersection has had several traffic accidents as recently as last week. More details will be available in the next few weeks. It's good to finally se progress being made.
Thanks for allowing me to serve District 4 as your representative on Mount Dora City Council.
By Marc Crail Vice-Mayor
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, this month, click here. Discover the area's online entertainment calendar here. Also download the area's free mobile app.
I've selected several interesting presentations, discussion items and action items from our Tuesday, May 3 City Council meeting to tell you about. As always, this report comes from me and not on behalf of the entire City Council.
Our Mount Dora Electric Utility has been awarded the RP3 award by the American Public Power Association. Only 275 public power utilities out of over 2,000 have earned this award. RP3 refers to reliability. We have fewer than average outages and when we do have outages, they are repaired more quickly which makes Mount Dora Electric exceptional. The entire Department was on hand to be recognized for a dangerous job well done. In this case, small is better than big when Mount Dora is compared to much larger utilities including Duke Energy, Leesburg Electric, etc.
The long awaited new Public Works facility that will share a campus on Limit Rd. with new fire station #34 should break ground in October, subject to supply chain issues. We heard a report on the nearly final design features. Construction should take about a year. The cost will be $15.9 million. The new fire station which will be closer to Limit should also break ground, probably in August of this year.
We had a Public Hearing to review and discuss the second draft of an ordinance for a Building Height Charter Amendment that will be on the November ballot. I continue to support these building height limits but I adamantly oppose inserting building heights in our City Charter. We will all be hearing more about this ballot initiative in the upcoming months leading up to November. This was a "first reading". The second reading will presumably be at our next meeting.
There was a good deal of discussion and majority support (5-2) with members Walker and Cataldo voting no, for sending a letter to Lake County Commissioners in support of proposed legislation by Lake County designed to promote public safety by forbidding people from standing on road medians or within 4 feet of highways to solicit money, hand out literature or advertise.
This next item wasn't on the agenda and was not a part of the 5/3/22 meeting. It's an update, mostly for Lakes of Mount Dora residents that I'm inserting in this report as an update on a LoMD issue that came to my attention over the past weekend.
There are widespread concerns that LoMD developer, Medallion Home is planning to burn piles of pine trees that they will soon be cutting down in order to construct new houses. Fire Chief Rich Lower has contacted The Florida Department of Forestry which is the agency responsible for granting burn permits and monitoring burns. The City of Mount Dora does NOT have regulating authority. Like it or not, burning brush is quite common in Florida. When a developer plans to burn they must obtain a permit. Forestry has strict regulations for permit issuance including weather conditions, vegetation dryness, and required setbacks from streets and buildings. As of May 3, Medallion Home has not pulled a burn permit and according to their spokesman, options including burning are still being considered. If residents have concerns or wish to voice their opinions please contact The Florida Department of forestry.
My quote for today is compliments of William Shakespeare. "Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."
Thanks for allowing me to represent District 4 and serve as your Vice Mayor.
By Marc Crail District 4 Council Rep. and Vice Mayor The April 5 Mount Dora City Council Meeting had a rather light agenda. Please remember the what follows comes from me and not on behalf of City Council as a whole.
Emma Sears Marsh (1871-1960) was a Mount Dora artist who painted well over 200 detailed watercolors of Florida wildlife nearly a century ago. The Hills and Dales Garden Club owns 245 of them. Until recently the GFWC Mount Dora Woman's Club owned 24. Recently, the Woman's Club donated their 24 paintings to the City. They are now located in the W. T. Bland Library. They will be professionally scanned and then printed and displayed for everyone to enjoy. What a wonderful gift to our city, thanks to GFWC Mount Dora Woman's Club.
April is when we celebrate Earth Day. Mount Dora's Earth Day will be this coming Saturday April 9th from 9:00-3:00 in Donnelly Park. I hope you will be able to stop by. On a related note, The Mount Dora Friends of the Environment group has been partnering with the City for 28 years. They held a recognition ceremony to honor their benefactors and volunteers who water newly planted trees and many other things to help keep Mount Dora green.
The most anticipated item on our action agenda was the report and recommendations from our Building Height Advisory Committee. This committee was made up of 13 citizens appointed by city council members and the City Manager. They have been working for the past several months to take a deep dive into the contentious building height issue in the "Building Height Impact District" which is made up of the downtown historic district and the Lake Dora shoreline. Their work has been very important but also complex and difficult. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their willingness to serve and the many hours they have spent on this project while taking fire from all sides.
In their report presented by Chairperson Lynn Tipton and Tom Pauls, they provided a map of the area involved. They also provided a "Purpose and Intent" statement. They explained their recommendations for building heights set at 35' and 25' within 100' of the lake. They came up with a series of 9 stringent tests which would need to be met in order for a property owner to get a maximum of a 5' variance. All 9 tests would need to be met in order to qualify for a variance. Getting any variance would require a "super majority" of city council votes and there are also other criteria that must be met.
The committee recommended that City Council should come up with the specific language to draft an ordinance for a Charter Amendment that would to be voted on in November.
There is also a recommendation to conduct a poll to ask merchants and residents their opinions.
Our goal is to have that work done by early June. I think that everyone in the room and probably everybody in town has her/his own opinions on this issue. The Committee worked hard to compromise in order to meet the wishes of a majority of our citizens while staying within the laws that apply to land development issues. Once the final language is worked out you can read it and decide for yourself.
If you are a customer of Mount Dora Electric utility expect a fuel cost increase. The average resident will face a $5.81 increase due to skyrocketing fuel costs. By the way, those of us who are served by Duke Energy or SECO still pay substantially more for their electricity.
Today's quote comes from Soren Kierkegard. "There are two ways to be fooled: one is to believe what isn't true, the other is to refuse to believe what is true."
Thanks for your interest in our great city! Marc Crail District 4 Council Rep. and Vice Mayor
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, this month, click here. Discover the area's online entertainment calendar here. Also download the area's free mobile app.
The Lake County School Board has agreed to ask the Board of County Commissioners to place a referendum on the November ballot asking voters to approve the continuation of a 0.75 mill tax that has been levied since 2019 to enhance school safety. The tax, approved by voters in August 2018, was the result of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act enacted by the Florida Legislature after the tragic shooting at the south Florida school by the same name. The act made significant school safety reforms and imposed upon all Florida public school boards numerous additional requirements to achieve greater safety for students and staff. The Lake County School Board determined that the funds allocated by the state were insufficient to satisfy the objectives and requirements in the act without compromising the quality of instructional and other services provided by the board. The board requested the tax and voters gave their approval. Proceeds from the tax have been used to:
Hire psychologists, social workers and counselors to help troubled students before their issues reach crisis levels;
Put a nurse in every school, which became extremely helpful during the height of the COVID pandemic;
Hire and retain school safety guardians and help cover the costs for school resource officers and deputies;
Open Lake Success Academy to provide short-term alternative educational placements and programs to address the social, emotional, behavioral, academic and mental health needs of at-risk students in grades 6-12; and
Create the Positive Alternative to School Suspension (PASS) Program to remove students with disciplinary referrals from the classroom for a period of time, while still allowing students to attend school, maintain their academic progress and learn the skills needed to manage their behaviors.
District leaders have said that without a renewal of the tax, preventative programs that enhance school safety, security and mental health services could cease to exist. If approved by voters in the November 2022 general election, the tax would be levied between July 1, 2023, and June 30, 2027, with a proportionate share going to charter schools based on enrollment.
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