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RSR board throws shade, but The Apopka Voice readers shine a light


Last week, the Rock Springs Ridge Homeowners Association board used its monthly meeting and social media to throw a little shade our way. It's not the first time we've been attacked, and it probably won't be the last, but it does give us an opportunity to answer some of the questions posed and respond to some of their accusations.

But first and foremost, we want to thank many of our readers and The Apopka Critic Facebook page for their support. It meant a lot to us to see your positive posts and comments. Thank you. 

Before we respond, here is a little history about The Apopka Voice. We exist to tell the story of Apopka in a timely and objective manner. We are, however, a discerning news site. We do not look for the sensational, just the newsworthy subjects that are important to Apopkans. We strive to look at the facts and report accordingly, no matter the consequences. And this story was no different.

Our very first article about the RSR board and its pursuit of the golf course lands came in April of 2021 when Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson announced a proposed three-way swap involving two city-owned properties on Harmon Road appraised for $2.1 million, but later offers were made by developers for over $6 million.

The Apopka Voice was cautiously optimistic about the three-way swap between RSR and the Golf Group but had no issue with the deal until the gopher tortoise lands became a part of the negotiation.

It was in September of 2021 that we urged the board to abandon the idea of utilizing the gopher tortoise lands as part of this deal.

It was Mark Twain who said: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Last week, the RSR board took that philosophy into its monthly meeting and on social media to pound The Apopka Voice. There were several questions and threats made by the board and a couple of their supporters that The Apopka Voice would like to respond to. Here are a few of the questions and statements made last week:

"Do we know who is leaking information to The Apopka Voice? Is there an option to censure homeowners who sabotage the efforts of the board? The state should also be contacted about the disclosure of the letter from FWC to The Voice."

Confidential Sources

Since our launch in 2015, The Apopka Voice has utilized confidential sources in rare instances to advance an investigative-type article. When there is no other option, we will allow a person we know and trust that has pertinent information to go off the record. But when we do, the subject is always labeled as a confidential source in the article, and we explain as much as we can about why the source may be knowledgeable on the subject.

For example:

"A source inside City Hall who wishes to remain anonymous and who has knowledge of the subject" would be an identifier we would use to label and describe a source."

We also take the extra step of confirming the source's information with other on-the-record sources if possible.

You may have noticed we haven't used any phrases or examples like that in the articles we published about RSR or the HOA board. That's because there are no confidential sources, leaks, or anonymous board members telling us anything we don't already know. Everything The Apopka Voice has published came from public comments at HOA meetings, posts on social media, and emails to me from board members who also cc'ed the rest of the board.

"[There are] a lot of political tricks at play here. It appears the minority is attempting to control the message and go against the will of the majority."

We aren't playing politics. We simply don't believe the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission should release a 20-year-old environmental easement, risking the well-being of the gopher tortoise inhabitants, so that a private company can build homes on it. That's our opinion and why we write editorials, marking them as such, all of which you'll find in our "Opinion" section located on our top-of-page navigation bar.

If the board were serious about this plan, why wouldn't they have filed an application with the FWC to rescind the environmental easement on the gopher tortoise lands after the September 2021 letter it received from the FWC explaining what changing an easement required? Why are they just now taking the steps to complete the application?

"I believe the timing of this inquiry by Reggie Connell with [The]  Apopka Voice is not a mere coincidence. I asked him how he obtained this FWC letter addressed to me. He was vague, stating the letter is considered public  record."

Allies at FWC

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is a state entity with a large budget and staff. The Apopka Voice has no allies at the FWC and holds no influence over their decisions. In fact, I'm guessing they are probably annoyed at the number of public records requests we have made. But the FWC is bound by laws about releasing documents like the site visit report and the letter from the FWC telling the board to stop marketing the gopher tortoise lands for development.

"The problem is he [The Apopka Voice] is causing damage. His cronies are our "NO" residents, and they have a sweet campaign going to try to destroy this transaction. I believe this is why the city walked away from Harmon. There was so much bad publicity as he confused Apopka residents into thinking the city was giving us Harmon, not that we were paying for it."

Pressure on the City of Apopka

I have no sway over City administration. And in every article published, I made it clear RSR was paying for the Harmon Road property and that it was a three-way trade. My contention was the Harmon properties were worth more than $2.1 million, which was later proven by the real estate market when two developers offered over $6 million for the two tracts.

I certainly can't get into the minds and motivations of Mayor Bryan Nelson or City Attorney Michael Rodriguez, but I doubt they walked away from the three-way trade because of pressure from The Apopka Voice. Nelson and Rodriguez made their reasoning very clear at the November 2021 workshop.

"Reggie- what is your solution? [It's] easy to sit back and point fingers at a lot of hard work that the HOA board is putting in to make this happen."

A simple idea to purchase the golf course lands

It's a fair question. And although I'm neither a real estate expert nor a member of the RSR board, I do have one simple idea to move forward.

Abandon the idea of swapping the gopher tortoise land with the Golf Group for the golf course lands. Make an offer on the property you are pursuing, as hundreds of other buyers have done on closed golf course lands, commercial properties, and residential homes over the course of human history. There is no need for complex deals that require so many moving parts.

As you say, the Golf Group is an aggressive company that can threaten to build homes in RSR, but you have leverage in your corner as well.

  • The golf course has been closed for almost ten years;
  • There are no other buyers interested in the property;
  • The Golf Group has sold other closed golf course lands;
  • The City Council has shown no signs of approving any changes that would allow the Golf group to build on the golf course lands successfully;

Use the leverage that RSR possesses and make a fair offer for the golf course lands. I looked at multiple other purchases of comparable land from closed golf courses in central Florida, and I think $3 million would be a good place to start. That's also the amount the Golf Group paid for the RSR golf course. Yes, it's possible the Golf Group will not accept your first offer, but at least a more conventional negotiation can begin to start the process of getting your golf course back that doesn't involve displacing a threatened species or relying on the FWC to make an unlikely decision in order for your plan to be successful.

"Good Morning Supporters,
The companies above [four of our advertising partners were listed with links to their sites] advertise and support The Apopka Voice, Reggie Connell. If they are made aware of his damaging opinion posts that divide our community and city, they may not want to advertise and support him... If he loses advertisers, then he will see our strength and know we can hold him accountable. You can be anonymous on the "contact us" form or even a phone call."


The RSR HOA board has threatened city commissioners, is suing a former HOA president, and now turns its attention to The Apopka Voice with threats of retribution and unfounded accusations. The board's hope, I assume, is that if they apply pressure, we will stop publishing articles that are critical of their campaign.  

You can contact our advertisers and make your case to them, but they are a savvy group of small business owners and will probably consider the source before they abandon their business plans because the RSR board says so. But even if all of them leave, or we get twice as many advertisers because of the board's attack, we will still publish articles that shine a light on what's important to residents in Apopka - including RSR.

The board can continue to hide behind its perceived majority of residents who support its plan or point to the applause it receives at meetings as proof they are doing things right, but that's not the metrics on which this issue will be judged.

The FWC will not count the votes in the last election or the claps received at a meeting. They will review the application, determine if it's in the best interest of the gopher tortoises to be moved, and make its decision - which will most likely put this board back to square one.

But as for The Apopka Voice, our duty is to our readers, including RSR residents, and to the truth. Thanks again, Apopka, for your continued support.

Rock Springs Ridge, Gopher Tortoise, Environmental Easement, The Apopka Voice, Apopka Critic, Opinion, Rock Springs Ridge Golf Course, The Golf Group


8 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • MamaMia

    I don't know if I am up late, or up early, as my world has been turned upside down from this horrible skin cancer ordeal, and this ugly facial wound. I am so far down, not sure where up is anymore. Things can sure change fast in life. So RSR HOA is suing a former HOA president? That is news to me. I don't live out there in RSR, but can't help but hear of their continuing saga. Don't know that person, I am certain, at least, don't think so, but I wonder what that is all about, as an Apopka citizen? I would hate to see the tortoises removed from the conservation easement. I also know that there are residents who would like to see their golf course restored where they could enjoy golf, and I know there are residents who don't want to pay for expensive assessments put on by the HOA board for upkeep of the conservation tortoise easement. It is a headache, I understand. I don't know what will be the end result, as there are so many powerful entities in play. It just seems that the Apopka City Council meetings have been more and more about RSR, almost like the city hall meetings are the RSR HOA meetings. I don't think it is a good thing having three city commissioners representing all of us COA residents "at large representation", as opposed to "districting representation" on our City of Apopka council. It is not the commissioners fault though, it just worked out that way, when they got elected to office. I don't think it was a conspiracy? I don't think...lol

    Tuesday, March 28 Report this

  • MamaMia

    I listen to the people here in Apopka, and outside Apopka, and watch them in action at the city council meetings on You Tube, and it just seems everybody has been accused of back door deals, pocketing money, greasing palms, incompetence, keeping secrets, arrogance, self- serving, being hooked on drugs, or alcohol, sexing it up with people they shouldn't, immoral turpitude, catering to developers, even murder, etc.....whew, the City of Apopka has become the real life Peyton Place! Google that one, if you are still young ..lol. On the serious side, I look at what the tornados did to towns in Mississippi, how those towns were completely wiped out, then I look at this latest school mass shooting in Nashville, and I think, these type things could happen to our city! Would we come together then, as a community, and unite, or would we continue onward like the path of suspicion and hate that we have been seeing over and over in this city?

    Tuesday, March 28 Report this

  • MamaMia

    To be clear, I am posting about the three City of Apopka commissioners who live in Rock Springs Ridge, that represent all of us COA residents with the "at large" form of representation, instead of the "districting" form of representation we need.

    Tuesday, March 28 Report this

  • MamaMia

    Reggie, regarding the Blue Sink out there close to RSR, my husband, when he was young, used to go out there, but he is not one of those boys who went down in there. Now, he did go into the cave at Rock Springs head, and was one of the Rock Springs area boys who regularly hung out there, and dove off the cliff down between the rocks. I have seen him do that lots of times. We used to go to the beach, and would always stop back by Rock Springs, to wash the salt water off of us before going home. Later my husband, who worked for W.T.Champney, and it was Mr. Champney, who owned some land out there around the Blue Sink, leased his property to Champ Williams, to keep cattle out there. Champ Williams was a very prominent man who had exclusive rights to the concession food business out at Orlando International Airport (OIA). His whole family was involved in that business. His wife, his son, himself, and his daughter. They made millions and millions of dollars there. Long story short, they were charged with federal tax evasion. Champ died, his wife was accuitted, his son committed suicide by shooting himself under a tree on Lake Ivanhoe in Orlando, and the daughter was sent to prison. They ran the airport food concession franchise for 30 or 40 years. I don't know if the cows kept out there, ended up on the dinner plates at the airport or not, but Mr. Champney conducted business with Champ Williams, as far as some of the surrounding property around the Blue Sink. Google Champ Williams, and you can read about how a successful family business can go so very wrong. A little old history around the Blue Sink, since it is in the news here lately .....

    Tuesday, March 28 Report this

  • MamaMia

    Correction:. accquitted

    Tuesday, March 28 Report this

  • Richard

    There is no need for any of this. Leave the conversation area alone. Do not build anything near the Blue Sink natural spring. And let Miss Della Russo build her 17 houses on the golf course she owns. Done deal then. Minimal impact to the natural resources.

    Tuesday, March 28 Report this

  • MamaMia

    Anybody know how to find the South Apopka Annexation Town Hall meeting on video from yesterday, March 28, 2023, on You Tube? I have looked and looked, and can't find the video? Saw a little bit on tv, but it wasn't much of the meeting.....???

    Wednesday, March 29 Report this

  • GMC2017

    Start at $3 million to purchase the golf course?! Where is this money going to come from? Do the residents of RSR really want to be assessed these funds? Seems like selling a parcel to buy a bigger parcel makes more sense.

    Secondly, no mention of the quality of life that the tortoises currently have at the preserve. It’s been stated multiple times that the environment at the preserve is not conducive to their well-being. That seems to go unreported. I mean, God forbid anyone touch a tortoise to move it to a better location.

    Moving the tortoises to a better location is actually being good stewards of the environment. Whether or not that’s a convenient fact for the Apopka Voice to report on is yet another indication of the slanted views in these articles.

    Wednesday, April 5 Report this