Las Villas residents protest disabled center
JOE SEELIGSEBRING - Many residents of Las Villas don't want a separate community for people with developmental disabilities with an assisted living component in their subdivision, located on Kenilworth Boulevard a half-mile west of Sebring High School.
Published: July 20, 2012
Published: July 20, 2012
They were surprised after the Sebring City Council approved a conceptual plan on June 3 to consider the creation of housing for the developmentally disabled of the southeastern portion of Las Villas.
The conceptual housing plan, presented by Barbara Cook, executive director of New Concepts by Visions Inc., as a modification to the Las Villas Development Plan, was approved in concept by a 4-0 vote.
Councilman John Clark was absent from the meeting.
Las Villas resident Carla Rice spoke against the proposal Tuesday and presented the council with a petition signed by 15 residents asking the council to reconsider.
"We saw a notice in the newspaper that someone had come before this council and gotten approval to start looking at possibly putting something other than residential within the boundaries of our subdivision," Rice said.
"We have a lot of concern about that. It was a planned subdivision; anyone can buy there, but it was targeted for public service workers. …"
She said there are people who have lived there since its beginning.
"It was supposed to be owner-occupied; not even allowed to be rented dwellings, from one end to the other," she said.
"To put something like this and change the zoning to allow assisted living facility for the developmentally disabled would constitute not proper use for this property."
Rice said no one spoke to the residents about the proposal.
She read the petition, which stated that the project with its training center could devalue their properties and create a "private nuisance" to subdivision residents.
One resident refused to sign the petition, Rice said after the meeting.
A few of the 15 signatures were husbands and wives, she said. There are currently 14 privately owned homes built there.
Clark, who was not there for the vote, said he was surprised because when there is a modification to a developmental plan, there is generally a request to conduct a survey of the neighborhood residents to make sure they agree.
Councilman John Griffin said when it was presented he was left with the impression they had approval from the developer and whoever else was involved.
The subdivision was foreclosed on, so the undeveloped portion is under control of a bank, Rice said.
"They are trying to sell not the houses or the lots, but the development to another developer," Rice said.
City Councilman Andrew Fells said it was his understanding they approved only the concept, so New Concepts could attract financing, and would have to come back to council.
City Attorney Bob Swaine said there were a number of things that would have to happen before the project could come to fruition. "It was basically a straw vote for lack of a better phrase."
Cook told the council she did not have a contract on the property but was meeting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the funding portion of it.
Cook said she attended a homeowner's association meeting and thought she had communicated with the community.
However, Rice said, as a foreclosure the association basically was the lending partners with a token resident member.
A new development agreement, if it ever comes up, would still need to be negotiated.