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City Council votes unanimously to advance New Errol project


Over 400 attend a raucous 4-hour meeting

Before a capacity crowd of over 400 people at the VFW/Apopka Community Center on Tuesday night, the Apopka City Commission voted unanimously to move the Signature H Property Group's New Errol project to the next stage of its approval.

The audience was verbal, raucous, passionate, engaged and clearly had sway over the City Commission.

In a process that took over four hours to complete, the City Council watched as City Staff and the Signature H Group gave presentations describing the project, and then listened as one attorney and 12 residents spoke during public comments.

The vast majority of the audience was in favor of the New Errol project, and many wore the t-shirts distributed by Signature H showing their support. And of the 12 public comments, most made positive remarks about the project.

“It is Signature H or it is nothing, and the vast majority of Errol, as you can see, wants this to happen,” said Barbara McLeod, an Errol resident.

“Property values are super important to me, as well as to many of you in the community, and I’m excited to see those potentially increase,” said Kellie Cox, also an Errol resident.

Dale Fenwick, also an Errol resident, and former Publisher of The Apopka Voice, expressed concerns as the final speaker.

"Like most people here tonight, I support the Errol project," he said. "However, my support is not without reservations."

His primary objection was with buffer zones at the Errol Club Villas.

"The Developer claims that the Villa Owners prefer a berm over a wall or a fence one-foot from the property line. And yet the Developer was informed during the March 14th Developmental Review Committee meeting that the City could not rely on the developer's representations because the City was not involved in the Developer’s meetings with the community."

Fenwick offered a proposal to protect the Villa owners in the form of an amendment.

"I would ask that, should you choose to approve this project, as I hope you will, that you include an Amendment that does not limit the possible Villa buffer to only the three options proposed by the Developer. That Amendment might read as follows: “Amend the motion to approve the New Errol Master Plan to require the buffer zone along the Spine Road to accommodate the historic use of the land by the Errol Club Villas Condominium Association and the Villa Owners.”

During the presentations, many details of the phasing plan were confirmed, including that before the first residential permit is issued, Signature H will dedicate the entire length of the spine road (initially built to support and divert construction traffic) from Errol Parkway to Vick Road and will be required to fully complete the first segment of the spine road from Errol Pkwy to Golf Course Drive. Signature H will also be required to commence construction of the golf course prior to any residential permits being issued. In addition, a bond will be posted by Signature H for the completion of the second phase of the spine road from Golf Course Drive to Vick Road and for the completion of the community park.

“One of the key aspects of getting this project where it is today was getting feedback directly from members of the community,” said Helmut Wyzisk III, vice president of Signature H Property Group.

Wyzisk referenced over 130 meetings Signature H had with residents over the two year period. Then he reminded everyone about the promises Signature H had made to them.

“I look at this crowd and see Errol residents, I see future golfers, I see future waterpark attendees, and I see individuals that don’t want to leave their home, but stay here and age in place at a resort-style assisted living facility. But this isn’t unconditional love and support, this is conditional support. We made commitments to these residents that we’re ready to be held to.“

Commissioner Doug Bankson was pleased with those commitments but left Signature H with a warning.

"It's a unique situation to sit on this side of the table. Someone said I'm not liking your job right now. I alluded to this at our last meeting... I have a daughter and you're wanting to date her and I am the dad who has to say 'wait a minute you drive a van'. So we have to work through those situations and I have to say one of the biggest issues was the spine road and you clarified it for me. I'd like a compromise on the buffer situation. And all I can say is don't break their heart."

Commissioner Diane Velazquez was impressed with Signature H and moved by the audience.

"This is been a very long process for many of us up here on the Council. Two years in the making. Speaking with residents and getting emails and texts and hours I have spent with Signature H going over the project was important, but listening to the public comments was the most impactful to me. You as the community and the residents have spoken. This is what you want. And what we are up here to do is to give you what you want."

Commissioner Kyle Becker has been the most skeptical of the New Errol project. In fact, he was the lone dissenting vote at the August City Council meeting on New Errol. However, he too was moved by the audience of Errol residents.

"Clearly, the support is there. And I'm not ready to put on my Staghorn T-Shirt just yet, but I'm sure you all didn't bring an extra large-tall either, so you probably don't have my size. That's not to say there hasn't been forward progress. Really what this all predicates on is a buttoned-up Developer's Agreement which we have not seen that, a final version I should say. We saw a version today, but my thing is we need to see a Developer's Agreement that puts in there all the firm requirements that have been addressed to these people. Because their stories that they have told tonight need to be taken into account. If you all screw this up, you're screwing up a lot of people who put a lot of confidence in what you're doing. I'm not against this project. I asked tough questions because tough questions need to be asked."

Mayor Joe Kilsheimer closed the Council discussion by pointing out what was good about the project.

“I’ve always been very impressed with the level of commitment I’ve seen from Signature H. They have invested a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in this. I think when you take a step back and look at this from a larger perspective, the first thing that needs to be said about the Errol project is it’s a redevelopment project. It’s taking an existing piece of ground with more than 2,000 existing property owners and taking a bad situation with the golf course and the clubhouse and trying to imagine something and make it better. In my opinion, it cannot be perfect, because there are too many variables in play. But there's the old saying that you shouldn't let the pursuit of perfect become the enemy of good. This is a good project, and it’s a good, well thought-out, well-negotiated, well-presented plan. It's not going to make everyone happy. But from the larger perspective, it is going to move the Errol community forward, it will create amenities for the younger residents of Errol, and it will create a better future for the city of Apopka as a whole."

The second hearing before the City Council will be on Wednesday, April 11th at 5:30 PM again at the VFW/Apopka Community Center.


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