It was the last question of the evening at an impromptu Candidate Forum held last Thursday night in the backroom of the Taverna Italiano Restaurant at Rock Springs Ridge. "Would you vote to rezone the Rock Springs Ridge golf course and allow residential and commercial development to occur?"
The question was asked by Mary Bilbray, a resident of Pines of Weikiva. Bilbray had organized the forum with the idea that it would be a townhall format allowing Apopka residents to personally ask questions of the candidates.
The turnout was very light, probably because, according to Bilbray, she began to organize and promote the meeting on Wednesday morning. Some of those invited did not know of the event until Thursday. Sam Ruth, the incumbent candidate for Seat #3 told The Apopka Voice that he learned the event was on at 2:00 PM on Thursday.
Ruth's opponent, Doug Bankson, was in attendance as was Kyle Becker, who is running for Seat #4 against incumbent Bill Arrowsmith. Arrowsmith did not attend the event. In a conversation with The Apopka Voice Arrowsmith expressed concerns that it would be a violation of the Florida Sunshine Law should he and Ruth, both elected officials, be together in an unofficial meeting discussing issues relating to the City of Apopka.
In addition to the four candidates in the April 12 run-off election, Bilbray also invited former candidates Young Kim and Alice Nolan. Nolan was invited an hour before the start of the 8:00 PM event and was unable to make the necessary arrangements to attend.
Bilbray asked the candidates present a series of targeted questions. She indicated that she was asking questions that her friends and neighbors were asking her. The questions ranged from, "What can be done to increase home values," to "How can we attract more business to Apopka." The conversation also included a discussion of alleged coordination of the various campaigns (all candidates denied any such efforts).
There was also a discussion about Christine Moore's ongoing role in the Ruth and Becker campaigns. "I have not spoken to her since she left (my campaign)," said Ruth. "I have talked to her 2 or 3 times since March 15th," said Becker. "She advises me on which neighborhoods to focus on. She does not control my content," he continued.
Bilbray asked Bankson questions about the John Land Apopka Community Trust. Bankson reminded everyone that he was on the board of the trust but was not an officer. He acknowledged that the trust stumbled during its startup but now has a website to inform the public as to the trust's purpose and activities.
The final question of the night pertained to the future of the Rock Springs Ridge golf course. Bankson, Becker, and Ruth all said they would not support rezoning the golf course to allow residential and/or commercial development. The Apopka Voice asked Arrowsmith the same question on Friday morning. "I would not vote for rezoning unless a super-majority of the Rock Springs Ridge homeowners voted in favor of rezoning at a referendum," was Arrowsmith's response.
Bibray plans to stream a video of the event on the internet soon.
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