OCOEE — Resident Martha Lopez-Anderson implored the Ocoee Commission to accelerate development efforts for downtown Ocoee in its strategic plan and engage the public in the process. The plan started with $600,000 to develop a master plan for the area around downtown Ocoee this year, with possibly no construction until next fiscal year, City Manager Robert Frank said.
“As it relates to funding, $600,000 doesn’t seem to me like it’s going to go too far with all the things that need to be done,” Lopez-Anderson said. “It’s been talked about, but I know that’s not a process that happens overnight. When will you start taking steps toward that process?”
Frank explained how Ocoee raised funding through favorable 2% rates on five-, 10- and 15-year notes and mentioned how the city could obtain millions of dollars relatively easily in next year’s budget.
“Probably sometime in the late summer, we have to start determining how we’re going to fund this — whether we want to do a bond issue, whether we want to do some low-interest note or something like that,” Frank said.
Delaying investments in Ocoee is costing its citizens money by making it less attractive for businesses to invest, Lopez-Anderson said.
“You may not be taking money out of my pocket for real-estate taxes, but you’re taking money out of my pocket with my property values,” she said. “Don’t choke. Just take action. We need to move forward.”
District 3 Commissioner Rusty Johnson said setting up a bond to prepare for construction of City Hall in the center of downtown should be a priority before setting the city budget in October. District 4 Commissioner Joel Keller said his trip that week to Tallahassee would involve procuring funds for downtown development.
District 2 Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen said residents have told the commission every year not to raise taxes, although those funds are necessary to enhance development.
“Whenever we go to put any fees in or we go to raise any budget item, we get yelled at,” Wilsen said. “I had someone yelling at me that their taxes went up $40. They didn’t acknowledge their value of their home went up. We get the negatives. I would love the residents to come out and give us some positives and work with us. You get beaten down up here, told the millage rate went up when the millage rate went down and the property rate went up. Come and support us.”
Lopez-Anderson agreed that residents should invest in their city, with Wilsen pointing to the Lakeshore Center as an example.
“The very first step, we’re waiting for this consultant to exactly tell us exactly what you’re asking us,” District 1 Commissioner John Grogan said. “He’s going to tell us which roads to actually use. I think that our biggest (issue) is probably going to be acquiring property. Some people might not want to sell us their property, so we’re going to expect some issues there. That’s the only thing I foresee with us sluggishly pushing this thing through. Other than that, once we get this first consulting … we’ll try to make dates.”
One week after the March 10 municipal elections in Orange County, Wilsen and Keller swore in for three-year terms to officially complete their re-elections to the Ocoee City Commission.
This will be the third term for Wilsen, first elected in 2009, and the fourth for Keller, first elected in 2006, with both terms scheduled to end in March 2018.
The commission unanimously voted to appoint Grogan Ocoee Mayor Pro Tem. Grogan will succeed Johnson in that role beginning April 15.
Community Relations Manager Joy Wright announced proposed recipients for Most Valuable Partnership and community grants.
For the MVP Grants for improvement projects, Admiral Pointe HOA, Roberts Rise HOA, Rotary Club of Ocoee and Sleepy Harbour HOA requested $7,500 altogether in matching grants, which the commission approved.
Eight non-profit organizations deemed benefitial to Ocoee and its residents received commission approval for $500 community grants, totaling $4,000.
The commission passed annexations of two properties: 1102 E. Silver Star Road and 112 Lee St.
The former contains four subject parcels on the west side of Second Street and the east side of Whittier Avenue, with one single-family dwelling.
The latter contains the farm of Mike Swatkowski and was rezoned to A-1 (Agriculture), consistent with adjacent Orange County properties to the south. After the approved annexation and rezone of this 5.01-acre property, Swatkowski offered to donate and install five Cathedral live oaks from his property to the city as a certified arborist.
IN OTHER NEWS
• Mayor S. Scott Vandergrift proclaimed April 16 Ocoee Arbor Day, with West Orange Seniors joining the city in a noon tree-planting ceremony and a picnic to follow. Vandergrift also proclaimed April Ocoee Water Conservation Month and a day of remembrance of the Holocaust to reflect on good treatment of all people.
• Commissioners approved a suit on behalf of the city that should result in an order of taking to acquire the final two parcels necessary to begin the Bluford Avenue Stormwater Project, estimated to begin in June.
• Federal Highway Administration funds for Ocoee will go to FDOT installing new railroad grade crossing signals at Bowness Road and North Clarke Road, each costing $3,402 in maintenance.
• First readings occurred for ordinances involving reduced road impact fees and changes to false-alarm response fees involving police and fires. Under the former, most impact fees would drop by about 25%. For the latter, proposed changes include a flat fee of $100 for fourth and subsequent false-alarm violations in a six-month period. Public hearings for these ordinances are scheduled for the next commission meeting, April 7.
• The commission appointed liaisons to various boards, with no apparent changes from 2014.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].