The topic of annexing the southern unincorporated portion of Apopka into the City has been an ongoing discussion for many years. It has also been a topic in many of our elected officials’ campaigns while running for office, mine included. This week the City hosted a workshop that allowed a few preliminary conversations to take place. This workshop was mostly department heads presenting the cost of annexing this portion of Apopka and how the residents’ services may change between Orange County and the City of Apopka. While the department heads presented, the Council was able to ask clarifying questions, provide potential alternatives and expound on their thoughts on how best to move forward.
The question that loomed at the end of the workshop was whether the residents in unincorporated Apopka had the desire to be annexed. If the residents within that geographic area are not interested in being annexed into the City, then there is no need for any additional conversation or fact-finding. While at the workshop there were a few residents that spoke up about annexing, some in favor and some not in favor. To better assess the desire of the community the Council went on to discuss how best to get an effective concise answer from the residents.
The two solutions that Council settled on were mailing out a survey that stated financial costs and hoping the residents responded or hiring an independent third-party facilitator to meet with the residents. This facilitator would hold multiple open forum meetings throughout the community on varying dates to allow as many options as possible for residents to attend. The facilitator would then note what the residents stated at each forum and then present their findings back to the Council. From there, the Council could decide whether we move forward with the annexation vote from the residents or if the data shows that the residents are not interested in being annexed.
From my experience, mailings will only be responded to by a limited number of people and would not provide the detailed information that is needed for this process. Additionally, providing the cost of annexing before we know if the residents want to be annexed is premature. The cost becomes an irrelevant factor if the residents don’t want to be annexed. Providing a facilitator for the community to meet with and explain how they feel is a far superior option to understanding the true desire of the community. The facilitator would also be able to meet with current City of Apopka residents to get their pulse on the topic. In addition, meeting with Orange County to get their thoughts and facts on the annexation would be valuable as well. With all the stakeholders responses, we (the Council) would be able to make an educated and non-emotional decision as to if we proceed with putting this to a vote within the community.
There will be costs associated with annexation and a few possible unintended consequences as well. The costs have already been presented, albeit untimely. One cost that was not discussed in detail is the intrinsic value or pride residents may feel to be an official part of the community they have worked in, shop in and go to church in. A few unintended consequences may include code enforcement liens, increased property values (once properties are improved to meet City of Apopka code) which will increase taxes and decrease affordability, additional requirements to switch from septic to sewer that will be costly and potential for others.
Overall, this process will take many conversations, planning and additional workshops. Implementing an independent third-party facilitator will ensure this process is handled properly and with no emotion. My ask is that residents participate in this process and reach out to each of the Commissioners and Mayor to discuss and explain how you feel about annexation. We, the Council, serve at the pleasure of ALL of the residents of Apopka and I look forward to engaging more with residents throughout this process.
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All residents of the area should be surveyed not just registered voters. Then they can be informed of that final decision a year later will be in the hands of registered citizens.
Give them the opportunity to register. Survey all residents.
Friday, December 2, 2022 Report this