OCOEE With possibly as few as five Ocoee City Commission meetings to make an impact, there was one particular concern newly appointed District 3 Commissioner Angel de la Portilla wished to raise most during his first meeting as commissioner Jan. 5.
"One of the big concerns that residents in (my) area have is the property on the corner of Maguire (Road) and (State Road) 50, the old Colony Plaza property," de la Portilla said.
In 2007, city personnel demolished the Colony Plaza at the southwest corner of that intersection, he said. Most recently, a BP gas station occupied that land, with a shuttered convenience shack and shells of tall roofs bearing faded BP letterin all that remains. De la Portilla said the parcel was meant to be a mixed-use development, but a lack of progress has affected the city's perception.
"It's sort of a gateway to the city for people that are coming from the west -- from Winter Garden and Lake County," he said. "The intersection ... is the first thing they see."
It can often be a last impression of Ocoee, too, he said, such as en route to Windermere while heading south.
Litigation involving timeshare purchasers of that property and the landowner has gone on for years while the corner has been vacant, de la Portilla said.
"I think that's a big eyesore," he said. "I'm only going to be here for maybe 60 days ... I'd like for some solutions to be presented ... on what can we do to bring this matter to a closure."
City Manager Robert Frank said the city had authority to demolish the Colony Plaza based on health and safety issues, but that likely would not apply with a little former gas station. The property owner has always responded to warnings to cut grass and perform upkeep once city officials request it, but now might be the time to serve a code violation notice, Frank said.
Past proposals have not fit the property overlay, such as a suburban Walgreens proposal that would work if it were more urban, he said.
Mayor Rusty Johnson said the owner had said at certain points he would level that property, but the perception among city officials is that he is looking for the city to pick up the tab -- to give in.
Johnson also said this site and the Colony Plaza site technically are not the same, with the nearby Colony Plaza site needing a cleanup, as well.
District 4 Commissioner Joel Keller said the commission should examine ordinance changes to prevent future eyesores and set a time limit for dilapidated or abandoned structures to undergo meaningful refurbishment.
De la Portilla said he was not in favor of Community Redevelopment Agency money -- funded by taxes -- going toward this site, which might serve as a painful lesson for the city.
"The good news -- if there is good news -- is I think the developer is interested in developing that corner sooner rather than later," City Attorney Scott Cookson said. "It may not be an issue a year from now."
De la Portilla and Cookson agreed city officials should meet with the developer soon to discuss the future of this property.
IN OTHER NEWS
- Jack Chambless, an Oakland resident who coaches Legacy Charter School's fledgling baseball program, proposed a fundraising partnership between his team and the city to support Ocoee Little League. The commission agreed unanimously to post funds on the condition of no application to the city's grant program in this matter. As a followup to its last meeting, the commission also unanimously approved a $17,975.88 purchase of scoreboards for its youth football and baseball fields at Central Park and Sorenson Fields.
- Human Relations Diversity Board member Bill Maxwell reported the decision to delay Ocoee World Fest until 2017, giving the group volunteering to create it more time. Officials will address this issue at the next commission meeting, as well.
- Commissioners all voted in favor of two software agreements at least $35,000 apiece. The first is a software support and maintenance agreement with Clear Village Inc. at an annual cost of $35,000 with up to five annual renewals. The other is a $36,671 deal with Vermont Systems Inc. for a three-phase multi-year software implementation for the Parks & Recreation Department.
- Two items related to the Bluford Avenue Stormwater and Utility Improvement Project got complete commission approval: $925,000 for replacements and upgrades -- mostly for preliminary construction -- and various construction services, a bid package and ground survey with Barnes, Ferland and Associates.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].