More changes to ballot question
COURTESY : Daily Commercial
By Bill Koch
Published August 24, 2006


BUSHNELL - After weeks of finagling over words and legalities, the Village Center Community Development District was finally able to settle on suitable wording for a straw ballot late Tuesday.

The nonbinding referendum, which is expected to go on the Nov. 7 ballot, would ask voters in The Villages if they wanted to change the way supervisors are elected to the commercial-based Village Center board, one of the two main governing bodies in the community.

The Lake County Commission objected to wording in the second of two ballot options, saying the 80-word sentence needed to be chopped by at least five words. Lake's board also insisted on a "yes" or "no" ballot question.

The Marion County Commission earlier insisted on a longer draft of the second question to better reflect provisions of Florida Statute 163.

Sumter County commissioners late Tuesday asked Gary Moyer, a Village Center supervisor and vice president of development for The Villages, if he could include the Village Center acronym - VCCDD - in the title to the ballot questions, which proponents of the change said would make it more recognizable.

"This starts the process that gets this down the road," Moyer said, indicating he might not be able to make the title change.

Moyer said he feared missing the Sept. 5 deadline if the Sumter Commission demanded wording changes. Marion County Attorney Gordon Johnston told Villages officials on Wednesday he had no objections to Lake's wording change, said Villages Center District Manager Janet Tutt.

The revision reads: "Vote 'yes' if you like the way Amenity Programs, Facilities and Services are currently being provided by the Village Center District and would prefer they continue to be operated as they are now. Vote 'no' if you would prefer to change the way Amenity Programs, Facilities and Services are being provided north of County Road 466 by creating a separate Administrative entity by interlocal agreement among the numbered districts, Lake County and Village Center District."

Sumter County Attorney Randall Thornton summarized the ballot question: "Do they like it the way it is or do they want to make a change?"

Joe Gorman, president of The Villages' Property Owners' Association, said he thinks most Villagers would vote to change the way Village Center supervisors are chosen. Under state Statute 190, they are chosen by the majority landowner in the district, which in the two commercial-based districts is the developer. Supervisors are contractors, employees or associates of the developer and most don't live in The Villages.

But Gorman said he was worried about confusion over the "yes" and "no" vote. A majority of "no" votes would pass the referendum.

"You have to have something that's clear," he said. "I'm just amazed at the lack of understanding of this issue. The knee-jerk reaction is to hell with it."

Commissioner Dick Hoffman scoffed at objections to the ballot wording, saying Villagers were capable of understanding complicated questions.

"I have no problem understanding this," he said. "This is as plain as day."

The Marion County Commission is expected to decide on the wording Sept. 5. The Village Center board must ratify the new wording at its regular monthly meeting Sept. 1.