- March 19, 2019
The city of Winter Garden invited both Oakland and Winter Garden residents to a community meeting on Thursday, Oct. 20, to discuss recent changes made by the new Oakland Park developer, Crescent Communities.
The changes caused some differences in opinion between Oakland and Winter Garden and sparked the need for a community discussion, said Winter Garden City Manager Mike Bollhoefer, who also lives in the Oakland Park community.
Bollhoefer said the developer is close to finalizing the layout of the latest phase of the development, which straddles both municipalities. There are 585 houses on the Winter Garden side and 295 on the Oakland side. Winter Garden city staff’s primary concern involved the language that opens the possibility for the developer to use a Community Development District to finance the infrastructure.
A CDD is a special type of local government created to spur economic development. Its purpose is to provide a funding mechanism for the installation, operation and maintenance of local infrastructure.
Although Crescent has not filed a CDD application yet, Winter Garden is wary because the current documents contain language that provides the developer the opportunity to apply for a CDD — an action Bollhoefer believes unwise.
A Crescent Communities representative present at the meeting, Thom Cunningham, also confirmed the developer eventually would submit an application for a CDD. However, a CDD was never part of the original agreement with the original developer, Castle & Cooke Inc.
“This (the CDD) was not part of the original agreement; this was brought in subsequent to the original agreement,” Bollhoefer said. “I would venture to say that if this were discussed at the beginning, we would not have gone any further with this.”
Bollhoefer cited academic studies, including one conducted by the LeRoy Collins Institute that raises concerns about the lack of accountability and ineffective authoritative agencies for CDD oversight. Bollhoefer emphasized his main issue with CDDs is that the developer, according to state law, has complete control for the first six years.
One main incentive behind the creation and continued use of CDDs is to transfer the (infrastructure) costs away from both local governments and developers to future residents, he said. Bollhoefer believes this creates an ethical issue, because it eliminates developers’ financial risks if the development were to somehow fail by allowing developers to place a lien on the property.
Some community members, along with Oakland Town Manager Dennis Foltz, also spoke at the meeting. Foltz clarified that there has not been any discussion about CDDs and that approval of the development agreement would not automatically approve one.
Cunningham said residents on the Winter Garden side would pay different fees than residents on the Oakland side. He said there would be an overall amenity fee of $580 per year for all residents, but Oakland residents also would pay CDD fees, while Winter Garden residents would pay HOA fees instead.
Bollhoefer expressed dissatisfaction with this revelation, stating that if the community becomes two unequal subdivisions with residents on opposite sides paying different fees, the net result would be a loss for Oakland residents.
“Let me tell you this, the people on the Oakland side, they’re getting hit with a double whammy,” Bollhoefer said. “Those people are going to be very upset when they find out that ... they’re going to pay $900 in impact fees for their infrastructure, and then pay that same infrastructure with CDD fees. ... And two, if they try to approve this without resolving the CDD issue first, we lose all our leverage in this process of making sure this community is done right.”
Near the end of the meeting, a community member inquired what would be considered the “point of no return” for Winter Garden. In other words, what might cause a dissolution of the municipalities’ collaborative attempt in connecting Oakland Park.
“If we felt that there was definitely going to be a CDD, and that it would have a negative impact, we would probably not make a recommendation to our commission, unless, of course, all the residents here on the Winter Garden side are happy with it,” Bollhoefer said. “But I have a feeling most residents are going to be concerned. ... We need to notify our commission so at least they can let the town of Oakland know we have concerns about this, and based on that, we could decide not to connect the communities.”
Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected].