The City of Apopka and Taurus Southern Investments are in the final stages of completing a development agreement that has been negotiated and extended since January, Apopka Community Development Director Mark Reggentin told the City Council on Wednesday.
“The development agreement has been sent back to Taurus for their final review,” said Reggentin. “With some final changes to be sent to them next week we should be ready to go.”
“So we are on the 10-yard-line?” Mayor Joe Kilsheimer asked.
“Yes,” said Reggentin. “We are headed toward the end zone.”
During the meeting, a workshop was scheduled for Wednesday July 13th at 4pm. After the workshop, a vote is scheduled for the next City Council meeting on July 20th at 7PM.
And it became clear in the dialogue between the Council that The Highland Manor will be a major issue.
Commissioner Doug Bankson preferred to wait a week after the workshop until the City Council voted because of his concern for the status of the Manor.
“It’s not our people. It’s not our city. And I’m concerned with the issue of the house (Highland Manor). I don’t know where that stands. I don’t know if they’re going to move it. I don’t want to be cornered and make a snap decision and suddenly realize it’s over.”
“It won’t be decided on this developer’s agreement,” said Kilsheimer.
“So our hands won’t be tied?” Bankson asked.
“If we vote to accept the agreement, we will give up some control,” Kilsheimer said. “The way it’s structured they will give us notice and we will have 12 months to either move it or not.”
“Some people think it’s in its original location. It’s not. Yet it’s become a landmark because it’s been there so long,” said Bankson.
“The decision tree is this – develop or not develop,” said Kilsheimer. “Once you decide you are going to develop you have to accept the conditions that go with that decision. Because if you say to Taurus ‘we’re going to reserve the right to move the Manor at a later date’ we’re going to lose our partner. Our number one priority for the City Center is to make it successful. Because if it isn’t successful, then it’s an eyesoar and it’s a white elephant.”
“Which includes possibly moving the Manor,” added Bankson.
“It could be that they incorporate it in and make it successful,” Kilsheimer said. “But it could be that they come back and say we can’t really work it out. The demands of the marketplace are going to ultimately decide what the outcome is.”
With the idea of the Highland Manor being moved, the subject turned to the practicality of that possibility.
“Do we have contingency sites where we could move the Manor if we needed to?” Bankson asked.
“There are two or three places where we could possibly move it,” said Kilsheimer. “But we haven’t worked out any engineering plans or any kinds of costs.”
“That would be helpful, because we have to assume the Manor is going to be moved," said Commissioner Kyle Becker. "I would like to see a very high level rough estimate of how we can move it. We have to know that.”
City Administrator Glenn Irby gave a rough estimate of $200,000 for a partial moving charge, which did not include preparing the prospective site or other charges.
“I can arrange to get some pricing,” Irby said.
"But if we don’t move it we are tearing down something that has a real historical value to this city,” said Bankson.
“It’s a tough choice,” said Kilsheimer. “These are tough choices. In my opinion what you have to keep in mind is what ultimately do the residents of Apopka want. Do they want a City Center where people can come and go and have a good time with their families and eat at restaurants and shop at stores, and walk around Martin’s Pond where there will be a pedestrian walkway…or do we want what it is currently configured as?”
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