Officials balk at 20-year deal that gives power to Developer’s hand-picked board

Article Courtesy of The Villages News
By Meta Minton  
Published June 16, 2019


Community Development District 7 supervisors were bitterly divided on a 20-year agreement that some said gives too much power to a small Developer-run board and keeps that authority out of the hands of residents.

CDD 7 Supervisor Bill VonDohlen at Thursday’s meeting outlined his objections to the document officially known as the Third Amended and Restated Interlocal Governmental Agreement for Maintenance of Project Wide Improvements.

Other CDDs have approved – with little discussion – the same document. However, VonDohlen had clearly bored down into the details of the document prior to the meeting.

First, he objected to the length of the agreement.

“It’s going to go until I am 99. That’s a long time for an agreement,” VonDohlen said.

More importantly, he objected to the Project Wide Advisory Committee being subservient to the Sumter Landing Community Development District.

PWAC, which currently includes representation from CDDs 5 through 11, as well as the Brownwood Community Development District, acts as an advisory committee with the final authority resting with the SLCDD Board.

“I think PWAC should replace Sumter Landing as making the final decision,” VonDohlen said.

CDD 7 Supervisor Jerry Vicenti, who serves on PWAC, zeroed in on VonDohlen’s point.

“I agree wholeheartedly when you talk about the authority. I strongly agree with you that the authority PWAC has right now is limited,” Vicenti said.

He said the SLCDD Board has all the power and that was a deliberate decision.

Vicenti said former District Manager Janet Tutt set up PWAC as an advisory committee “on purpose” so the SLCDD Board would keep control. He pointed out that the SLCDD Board members are not elected by the residents.

“What really gets my goat is that you can’t vote them in. You can’t vote them out. Some of them don’t even live in The Villages,” he said.

The members of the SLCDD Board are:

  • Michael Berning, who lives at Glen Hollow Farms at the Morse family compound on County Road 466.

  • Joseph Nisbett, long tied through Acorn Investments to the operation of country clubs in The Villages. He lives in Orlando.

  • Brad Brown, who for many years headed The Villages Insurance.

  • Gerry Lachnicht of Sabal Trust Company.

  • Randy McDaniel, head of the Villages Charter School. He lives in Oxford Oaks.

“Ninety-nine point nine percent of people in The Villages don’t understand that the minority rules. It’s a dictatorship,” Vicente said.

He feared locking in that arrangement for another two decades.

CDD 7 supervisors flirted with the idea of tabling the agreement until a future meeting.

However, attorney Kevin Stone, representing CDDs 12 and 13, said that would be the equivalent of holding his clients “hostage.”

“Can they continue to put money into the Project Wide fund to support your aging infrastructure when their newer infrastructure might not enjoy the same support?” Stone asked the CDD 7 Board.

He said the CDD 12 Board was scheduled to meet later that same morning and approve a budget that included $1.7 million for PWAC.

Stone suggested that CDD 7’s stonewalling on the agreement could derail CDD 12’s budget approval process.

“To table this thing about adding two districts doesn’t make any sense,” said CDD 7 Supervisor Dennis Broedlin.

The vote was 3-2 for approval of the interlocal agreement with Vicenti and VonDohlen voting against it and Broedlin, Mark Gallo and Ron McMahon voting in favor of it.