By Reggie Connell, Managing Editor
“Hope rises like a phoenix from the ashes of shattered dreams.”
It had all the signs of a deal gone wrong, but out of the ashes, a phoenix in the form of Rock Springs Ridge Homeowners Association President Gary McSweeney arose with the good news of an agreement pulled out of the jaws of disappointment.
McSweeney spoke before the Apopka City Council at their Wednesday meeting.
"We had a meeting today with the Golf Group developer and owner of the golf course lands," said McSweeney. "The HOA and that group put together a declaration of intent. It's a 7-point document that outlines our understanding of what our agreement is. Based upon your review, we will react to that and to give you confidence in the majority agreement of the residents... we're prepared to rent out the Amphitheater, and in one evening have you speak, and have tables to sign up. It will be a hub of activity."
"You won't have to rent it," said Nelson. "During the week, we're fine. You tell me when. The sooner the better."
"I think the residents will be very favorable to this agreement," said McSweeney. "It is what it is. If there are any changes, we're all here to work together. And I have to say that this has been a long-time issue with RSR and the City, and even with the developer. It's a three-way partnership to make it work. And much of it, if not all of it, has to do with the mayor. He gave us an opportunity to voice ourselves... to voice even our opposition to what is being proposed in an effort to get to the bottom of every major aspect of this so that we are comfortable and the Golf Group is comfortable. And that's a hard thing to do. It's a real tribute to Apopka... to the leadership to let that happen."
But Commissioner Diane Velazquez, a resident of Rock Springs, wanted to make certain a majority of the residents were in agreement.
"Were the residents sent a letter asking if they were interested in the purchase of the golf course?" Velazquez asked McSweeney.
"I'm not sure what you mean," McSweeney replied.
"I know that was asked a few times in HOA meetings," said Velazquez. "And I know what you're saying, but I get contacted behind the scenes all the time by residents who are not on board. I'm assuring them that at some point the HOA is going to send this survey to each household to see if they are interested in purchasing this defunct golf course."
"We will be doing that in the next two weeks," said McSweeney. "We are hopeful to have our meeting at the Amphitheater two weeks from Tuesday (August 3rd). Putting out information on our collective thoughts of what we are doing. We hope to get the rates from your agency. We just put the package together today so we are in more of a fixed mode... so we will make everyone aware of what this agreement is."
"I know what you're saying," said Velazquez. "But before you present that to the households, will you ask them if they are interested? Because what you're saying is you're going to send them this package as if we are moving forward."
"We can certainly do that," said McSweeney. "Our intention was to have a vote of RSR residents in two weeks. It shows their affirmation before you would even vote on it."
"So in two weeks you're going to have this event and all the residents who want to do it are going to come out, and the ones that don't aren't going to show."
Nelson also wanted to make it clear what was being voted on at the City Council level.
"I think we need to distinguish between what's best for the City and what's best for the RSR people," he said. "I think our decision will be to let RSR have the ability to do what they want to do. I'm not here to mandate what RSR does - period. That's for the RSR residents to do. I want to give RSR the opportunity to buy the golf course, and that's all I want to give them."
McSweeney remained confident in the RSR consensus for moving forward based on the previous meeting at the Amphitheater.
"I think this whole process when the mayor made his presentation and you were all on stage, there was a significant 500, 600, 700 people outcry."
But Commissioner Kyle Becker wanted to make certain the RSR residents were fully educated on what they would be voting on.
"That should not be indicative of people that were in dissent," said Becker. "To Commissioner Velazquez's point, whenever you survey your neighborhood, it's not a binary yes or no, but a binary yes or no with facts to support it. If I'm voting yes I need to know some financial facts to support it. This is the obligation I'm going to have as a resident of RSR. If that doesn't go out, that's a miss, because I don't want to get up on any stage in the future if people in RSR have not been educated on that topic."
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