Straw-ballot wording approved over protests from Villagers
COURTESY : Daily Commercial
By Bill Koch
Published August 22, 2006


THE VILLAGES - Despite pleas by Villagers to make ballot wording clearer, the Village Center Community Development District board approved a straw-ballot proposal at an emergency meeting Monday.

If it gets on the November ballot and is passed by voters in The Villages, the proposal would allow the formation of a special board, called an authority, that would take over many of the functions of the Village Center Community Development District board.

The VCCDD board has to have ballot wording approved first by county attorneys in Marion, Lake and Sumter. The commissions in the three counties must approve the wording by Sept. 5, the deadline to get it on the Nov. 7 ballot. The commissions of Lake and Sumter, whose attorneys earlier had no objection to proposed ballot wording, are scheduled to decide today. Marion's commission is expected to decide Sept. 5.

If the referendum makes the ballot, voters will choose between two options.

Villagers were able to persuade the Village Center board to add wording to the first option, which now reads: "1) I like the way Amenity Programs, Facilities and Services are currently being provided by the Village Center Community Development District and would prefer they continue to be operated as they are now."

The other option reads: "2) I prefer to change the way that Amenity Programs, Facilities and Services are being provided north of County Road 466 by having Village Community Development Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, Lake County (representing Villages areas which are located in Lady Lake and Lake County which are not within a Community Development District), and Village Center Community Development District, pursuant to an interlocal agreement, provide a separate administrative entity to have operational and management control of Amenity Programs, Facilities and Services."

Villagers at Monday's meeting argued that the longer and more legalistic wording in option two complicates the issue.

Joe Gorman, president of the community's Property Owners' Association, said the ballot vote won't accurately reflect the intent of voters, since few will understand the wording.

"Why not take the opportunity to be as clear and concise as possible?" he said. "Who the hell knows what an interlocal agreement is?"

But the less wordy option one also drew fire from some Villagers, who said it doesn't go into enough detail.

Richard Lambrecht, board chairman of Village Community Development District 4 in Marion County, and others had insisted option one include specific wording noting that the developer, as the majority landowner in the commercial-based Center District, chose Village Center board supervisors. Supervisors on that board are employees, contractors or associates of the developer.

"It's going to help people understand," Lambrecht said. "Do what the developer (in a May letter to the board) told you to do - give us a chance."

Gary Moyer, a Village Center board supervisor and vice president of development for The Villages, said they had few choices with their wording. The attorney for Marion County had objected to the ballot's previous wording, saying it was not explicit enough.

"We have to work in a bigger environment than The Villages," Moyer said.

Moyer said the danger in changing the wording is that it may lose its legal authority or color the argument to one side.

"This is consensus building, not advocacy," Moyer said. "It's just that simple."

"Sir, you're being inflexible," Gorman responded. "Let's not start with something that's defective from the start."

Moyer said state statutes prohibited the board from including the words "developer," "residential" or "commercial" in the ballot wording.