The Oakland Town Commission held its first of two budget hearings Wednesday, Sept. 9, to approve the Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget. The town is proposing a total budget of $21,460,631 and a millage rate of 6.5.
In his memo to the commission, Town Manager Steve Koontz wrote: “There is much uncertainty with the health of the U.S. economy, and this budget includes a decline in sales tax revenues from the previous year. After two years of reducing the property tax millage, the recommendation is to keep the property tax millage at 6.50 mills because of the economic uncertainty.
“It is a staff priority to continue to reduce the millage, and there should be opportunities in coming years to do so as the economy stabilizes and commercial development moves forward in the town.”
“We are committed to lowering it,” Mayor Kathy Stark said. “This year is just not the year to do so.”
In a presentation to commissioners, Town Manager Steve Koontz outlined the highlights of the 2020-21 budget.
Oakland’s budget is broken down into three funds: General, Utility and Oakland Avenue Charter School.
The General Fund is budgeted at $6,303,364. Koontz said property values increased by 17% and the reserves balance increased $650,000.
Other increases are Orange County Fire Rescue (by $120,000), employee salaries, health insurance rates, staffing support for the Oakland Nature Preserve and an operating budget for the Health West Orange Arts and Heritage Center. Changes includes an additional 1% in retirement for matching purposes and an increase to the Oakland Police Department retirement contribution.
The Impact Fees portion of the budget is $5,334,728. Expenditures include the Oakland Avenue roundabout, the development of Starr Street to West Colonial Drive, an expansion of the wastewater system at Longleaf at Oakland, improvements to Speer Park and Jake Voss Pier, and body cameras for police officers.
The Utility Fund is budgeted at $4,024,156. Koontz said this includes funding for three grant projects: conversion of septic to sewer, Lift Station 5 and extension of the force main; a 3% salary increase; an increase to health insurance rates; and funding for a water and wastewater rate study.
The charter school has a budget of $5,798,383. This includes a VPK program; the CARES Act funding; and COVID-19 expenses including staffing, nurse, janitorial and personal protective equipment supplies.
The final public hearing for the FY 2020-21 budget is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, at the Town Meeting Hall, 221 N. Arrington St.
The previous fiscal year budget was $17,317,840.
JOHNS LAKE POINT
A majority of the meeting was devoted to a discussion regarding a proposed mixed-use activity center on West Colonial Drive across from the West Orange Trail Killarney Station.
Oakland Capital Group is proposing a 16-acre project with commercial and retail, single-family residential and a senior-living facility.
The commission passed the first reading of several ordinances but expressed hesitation based on another developer’s proposal of an upscale, 242-unit apartment complex on the property last year.
The property previously was owned by Gary and Dana English, who were selling part of their land to a development company proposing to build apartments. They had hoped to get their 1928 home — in the center of the property — placed on the National Register of Historic Places and were selling the land to have funds to renovate their house.
The commission rejected the development plan last year.
The new applicant, represented by Tim Lucks, had hoped to refurbish the home and create a community center but said it is impossible because of its poor condition.
Commissioners also still were frustrated by the Longleaf at Oakland project on Oakland Avenue, which was supposed to include assisted or independent living but instead has apartments.
A lengthy presentation examined the new proposal, which would include a 6,000-square-foot sit-down restaurant, 3,500-square-foot fast-food restaurant with no drive-thru, a 5,000-square-foot walk-in bank, 20,000 square feet of retail space, a 195-bed assistant- or independent-living facility and eight single-family homes.
“What happened at Longleaf, we were looking for ALF, felt like we had that locked in, and, clearly we didn’t, but if we’re going to go down this road of ALF, I want it locked in and you can’t say, ‘Oh, I’m going to come in and build apartments,’” Stark told Lucks.
The senior facility is proposed at a height of four stories, but Lucks reassured the commission it wouldn’t look that high because the land will be regraded to a lower height to avoid the look of “a four-story building on the top of a hill.”
Lucks said the developer hopes to build a small grocery store in the retail portion.
“What I would really love to see in this town … is a Fresh Market. … I don’t know if we can do that or not. We want to build an upscale market and have it be viable.
“The people who live in this area have beautiful homes,” Lucks said. “That’s how we ended up with residential homes.
I talked to a lot of people in Deer Island, and the lakefront was their main concern.”
The commission suggested Luck produce renderings or visuals so residents could see the plan.
“I don’t know how we would do this safely if we had high traffic,” he said. “We don’t want to be responsible for putting our name on something (like) that. We don’t want the reputation.”
A traffic study was conducted, and six transportation improvements were requested of the developer.
The commission approved the annexation and rezoning from Orange County Agriculture to Oakland Planned Urban Development and designated the land as Urban Corridor.
The commission passed the second reading of three ordinances dealing with the 7.4-acre CRA-MAR Groves property at 16610 W. Colonial Drive. The approvals will allow for voluntary annexation of the land into the town, an amendment to the town’s Small-Scale Comprehensive Plan, rezoning from Orange County Agriculture and Residential to town of Oakland I-1 Industrial and a change to the land-use plan map to Industrial.
The applicant plans to build a mini-storage facility with a climate-controlled interior that emits minimal exterior noise.
The parcel is west of Fourth Street, but the bulk of the property is located south of a Florida Department of Transportation water retention area.