The City of Apopka is ready to make a move on the much anticipated Town Center. The first real steps towards making this a reality will commence this Friday January 15, 11:00 am, at the Apopka City Hall. In a rather unusual move, a workshop set up by the developers for the Commission to review a land sale agreement will be followed immediately by a vote from the Commission.The 26 page land sales agreement went up on the City website either yesterday or today. That gives the public just 2 or 3 days to review and make comment before Friday’s meeting.
First, after over 11 years in the making, why the sudden rush for a vote, on a Friday, in the middle of a workday when most people cannot attend? Mayor Kilsheimer said it was being done at the urging of the investment group, Taurus Investments. “They were very insistent”. Since when does any outside entity dictate the City of Apopka agenda or demand what or when matters come up for vote? The City of Apopka is losing $12,000,000.00 on this land deal, paying $17,000,000 in 2006 and now selling it to Taurus Investment for a paltry $5,000,000. In an open letter written today about this land sale agreement, the Mayor urged his readers to look at the long term benefits. Sure, we are losing $12,000,000.00 but it will pay off in the long-term. How long, exactly? It could take up to a year or longer before a final agreement is reached and then several years before the Center is completed. Who negotiated this sales deal anyway? We really could not get more for the land from this multi-national investment company? And which government entity will be paying for the expensive infrastructure changes that will most certainly have to be done? If it’s Apopka, there goes our long term benefits.
The Mayor also noted the sale of the land is conditioned upon successful negotiation of a development agreement within 30 days of signing the sales agreement, with the option for one 30 day extension (a total of 60 days). If the City does not like the development plans, then both parties can walk away. OK.. I must ask this question. The RFP that started this whole process was awarded to Taurus (apparently the only bidder; I wonder why only ONE bid?) in JULY of 2015. What has this group been doing for the last 5 months? And aside from Taurus being the only respondent to the RFP, what criteria was used make the award? Are we to believe this group does not have anything for the City to review before signing this deal, even preliminary plans? It’s like, hey horse, get behind this cart ok? It will all work out, don’t worry.
I urge our City Commission to exercise great care and caution when reviewing this sales agreement. Ask the tough questions, and if answers aren’t forthcoming, keep asking till you hear what you need to make a decision. Don’t be pressured or bullied by anyone into making a decision that could be contrary to the best interests of Apopka. Don’t be afraid to ask for more time; Mayor Kilsheimer is right about this: we’ve waited a long time for this town center. Done right, and Apopka could definitely be one of the crown jewels of Central Florida.. but that’s the key, it must be DONE RIGHT! No rushing, no pressure. We’ve waited 11 long years for this Town Center; let’s get this right!