During its June 12 meeting, the Windermere Town Council received a status update on negotiation efforts pertaining to the 4th Corner annexation initiative.
The 4th Corner — the northwest corner of Conroy-Windermere Road and Apopka Vineland Road that remains undeveloped — has been a significant source of discussion as of late.
The 43-acre corner first took the spotlight when Tavistock Development Company introduced plans during a community meeting that proved to be largely unpopular with locals.
Those plans included 23 single-family units; 200 condo/townhome units; an 80-unit independent-living facility; a 120-bed assisted-living facility; a 25,000-square-foot medical clinic; 40,000 square feet of professional office space; and 84,000 square feet of retail space.
But to create a conceptual plan more palatable to the surrounding community, Tavistock has since scrapped those plans and cut ties with its previous designer. The company now aims to create plans featuring less intense development.
“I don’t want to get into negotiation tactics, but I think our leverage is strong. And I think we would benefit from continuing negotiations.”
“They should have a plan, a much lighter plan than what was submitted previously for us to take a look at as well as the county, prior to them holding any public hearings or community meetings,” Windermere Town Manager Robert Smith said while addressing council members.
However, town leaders do not plan to take any chances with the corner’s development and have taken a more active role in its future rather than leave it in the hands of Orange County commissioners.
The Windermere council previously directed town staff to explore the feasibility of annexing the corner into the town, which also would provide a boon to the town with an increased tax-revenue base.
Smith informed town leaders that, based on his initial impression of conversations with Tavistock representatives, negotiations are going well. If discussions continue to move forward, there is a possibility Tavistock would agree to voluntarily annex into the town, he said.
“I don’t want to get into negotiation tactics, but I think our leverage is strong,” he said. “And I think we would benefit from continuing negotiations.”
Smith also added that judging from initial discussions with Orange County, the county will object to any annexation that may take place — voluntary or not. A voluntary annexation would be preferable for the town because it would avoid the bureaucratic hassle and lengthy one-year process required to involuntarily annex the corner.
“I’d only be on board with (involuntary annexation) if it was the last option."
Part of that process would require a referendum to allow registered voters to approve or deny the annexation. To comply with statutory requirements, the town also would need to extend the proposed annexation area to the north to Ron Denn Lane and the Down Acres subdivision, adding 28 homes of which the town did not initially intend to annex.
Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn is said to have met with the property owners of 14 of the total 28 parcels required for involuntary annexation. Twelve of the 14 stated they would vote for annexation, and two said they would probably vote for annexation but wanted more information, Bruhn said.
Regardless of statutory requirements, some council members still expressed hesitation with the idea of an involuntary annexation.
“As I said in our last public meeting, I have a problem with dragging someone in screaming and hollering and kicking into the town,” said Council Member Bob McKinley. “I would much rather see all of us sit down and negotiate about bringing them into the town. ... Yes, I want to control what goes into that fourth corner, but there is a proper way to do it and I don’t think that circumventing the negotiation process is the way to do it.”
Council Member Chris Sapp held a similar view.
“I’d only be on board with (involuntary annexation) if it was the last option,” he said.
Smith said he will be able to indicate whether or not negotiations with Tavistock are progressing forward or headed south by the town’s next council meeting on Tuesday, July 10. The council ultimately passed a motion to table further discussion until that meeting.