Windermere town leaders resume boathouse discussions

New lease terms and reallocation highlighted the Nov. 29 workshop.

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  • | 9:25 a.m. December 1, 2021
  • Southwest Orange
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Windermere Town Council held a workshop Nov. 29 to attempt to settle the ongoing boathouse lease debate. 

Terms of a new agreement, repair costs and the process for reallocating the boathouses were among the issues discussed during the meeting.

The previous workshop, held Oct. 25, ended with Town Council voting down a new 20-year lease agreement for existing occupants. 

“It was decided that we would have discussion about an alternative,” Windermere Mayor Jim O’Brien said at the start of the Nov. 29 workshop. “This conversation initially began eight or nine years ago. … It’s a challenging conversation and a difficult conversation, but it is not a new conversation. We just happen to be the six folks here at the expiration of the current lease.”

The workshop began with public comments, including Windermere resident Judy Black’s proposition for Town Council to have right of first refusal to purchase boathouses when current occupants vacate; and Windermere Historic Preservation Board chairman George Poelker’s request for Town Council to consider offering new leases to boathouse occupants of fewer than four years.

Town Manager Robert Smith presented a repair estimate of $35,000 for all five boathouses. Council members were in agreement to preserve the 100-year-old structures.

“My No. 1 goal is to make sure these (boathouses) don’t get torn down and that we keep them as part of our history,” Council Member Bill Martini said. “This is quintessential Windermere charm and character in these structures.” 

Martini also recommended higher lease rates to recoup the cost of repairs, and to keep pace with other facilities offering access to the Butler Chain of Lakes.

According to current lease recommendations, the first three slips, located in boathouses 1 through 3, each would lease for $150 per month. Four smaller slips, in boathouses 4 and 5, each would lease for $125 per month. However, the rates were based on occupants footing the bill for all repairs and insurance.

“I thought that was a fair offer for the current lessees going forward,” Martini said. “If we’re going to possibly open them up (to new lessees), we should take a look at that; especially in light of the fact that we may be doing a lot of repairs to put (the boathouses) back in relatively pristine condition.” 

Martini also cited significantly higher boathouse lease rates at Bay Hill and Orange County Sportsman’s Club as justification for an increase. A monthly rate of at least $200 for the three, single-slip boathouses, with a proportionate increase for the double-slip boathouses, was proposed.

Poelker’s suggestion of special consideration for recent boathouse lessees was briefly discussed but did not seem possible. 

“I don’t see how we can do that without causing great consternation with the boathouse owners (who) have had them for 60 years or so,” Martini said. 

The proposed reallocation plan would call for the town to advertise a lottery with an outside entity chosen to randomize and pick the winners. All applicants would be required to show proof of residency and pay an entry fee equal to at least three months rent. The fee would be non-refundable for lottery winners, who also would have no more than five days to sign their lease contract. 

“I only want serious people engaged,” O’Brien said. 

The terms will be part of Windermere’s next Town Council meeting, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14.



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