“Let the voters decide.” That’s the mantra of the bevy of volunteers circulating a legal petition to place a new Mount Dora charter amendment on the ballot.
The referendum seeks to reinforce the height limit within the city’s historic district to 35 feet and 25 feet within 100 feet of the lakefront. Organizers of the initiative believe such a charter amendment is necessary to stop recurring efforts by special interest groups to bypass or change the existing building height ordinance. The petition does not oppose or prevent a parking garage.
“We hoped the City Council would put this issue on the ballot to let Mount Dora voters decide,” said Crissy Stile, a downtown business owner who is spearheading the referendum effort. “Unfortunately, the most expeditious, representative and cost-effective option wasn’t chosen by the council, so now residents are working together to put it on the ballot,” said Stile. The former city council member recently declared her candidacy for mayor after the council declined to put the charter amendment before voters.
The new petition will require approximately 1700 signatures of registered voters that live within Mount Dora’s city limits and who were registered to vote in the City by last November. Interested residents can sign the petition at Barrel of Books & Games located at 128 W. 4th Avenue in downtown Mount Dora on Wednesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. In addition, volunteers will be visiting neighborhoods within Mount Dora's city limits to gather signatures.
Below are some frequently asked questions about the petition and the answers:
F.A.Q.s 1. Does this petition and proposed charter amendment allow for a downtown parking garage? Yes. Mount Dora City Council already passed an ordinance allowing a parking garage with a maximum height of 55’. This charter amendment would not repeal any existing ordinances.
2. What is a ”City Charter?” A city's charter is the most important governing and legal document of a city. It defines a city government's organization, powers, functions and essential procedures. Federally, it is comparable to the Constitution of the U.S. The only way to change a charter once it's been adopted is by a voter referendum.
3. How would a charter amendment protect Mount Dora's Historic District more than existing ordinances which limit building heights? Ordinances can easily be changed by a vote of the City Council. Council members and/or Planning & Zoning Commission members affected by undue influence or conflicts of interest can pursue changing the ordinance. By contrast, if the charter amendment passes it could only be changed by residents that are registered voters.
4. Mount Dora has a Historic Preservation Board. Aren't their guidelines and protections enough? City Council can always vote to overturn the vote of the Historic Preservation Board (HPB), In two significant cases earlier this year, HPB rejected two submittals to increase building heights in excess of 35 feet, yet Mount Dora City Council overruled those rejections and voted to let the projects proceed.
5. The issue of increasing building heights was recently tabled. Does that mean the issue is moot? A tabled issue can be brought back for a vote at any time. Controversial issues can be tabled and then brought back after an election or at any time.
6. If this charter amendment passes, could it be overturned in the future? Yes. If the majority of voters chose to overturn it.
7. Do other historic downtowns in Florida have height restrictions for new buildings? Yes. Through various mechanisms, the historic downtowns of Fernandina Beach, Naples, Winter Garden, Dunedin, Winter Park and others have height restrictions.
8. Do charter amendments require a special election? No. If a vote by a city council places a charter amendment on the ballot with ample time, the referendum can be included on the regular election's ballot. Likewise, if ample time is given to collect and process petition signatures, the referendum can be included on the regular election's ballot.