A testy Leesburg City Commission approved a project Monday night allowing a 260-home neighborhood near larger houses on Silver Lake Road after one speaker called the city embarrassing.
Several residents of the scenic drive spoke out against the project with a variety of concerns. Kathy Hattaway, who represented the developer, agreed to make several changes to the project in an effort to make the residents happy. She said the developer would cut out six lots, widen the lots closest to the Silver Lake homes and add a cul-de-sac that would prevent traffic from traveling into the nearby gated Silver Lake Meadows. That would leave the only access to the new development on Clark Road off County Road 44.
City Manager Al Minner said Lake County also appears willing to close North Silver Lake Drive if the residents made that request. Concerns about traffic in that area have been expressed by residents numerous times and Minner reiterated it would be a decision eventually made at the county level if it was so desired.
Chuck Hill, who identified himself as a member of the 1993 Silver Lake LLC, raised the ire of several commissioners when he blasted Leesburg and made the suggestion that the Silver Lake area is the only “nice section of town.” He added that it’s inappropriate to have tract houses butting up against older, historical homes.
“There’s a reason we have zoning in America,” he said. “It’s so things like this don’t happen.”
Hill said he drives around Leesburg and hasn’t been able to find any other nice housing areas. He added that he’s not proud of the city in any way.
“We go to Mount Dora every night for dinner,” he said. “I know people that won’t come to work on appliances at my house because I said my house is in Leesburg. Leesburg does not have a good reputation.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Jay Hurley quickly fired back at Hill, saying the “arrogance” of the idea that the only nice houses are in Silver Lake is “stupid.”
“You’re talking to the wrong guy,” he snapped. “I’ve been fighting in this city ’88 and I’m damn proud of Leesburg. So don’t start on me to say that we don’t have anything.”
Hurley also challenged Hill on his statement about issues with finding someone to repair his appliances.
“If your appliance guy won’t come, you need a better appliance guy,” he said. “I understand your point and I appreciate it, but we don’t have go down to a condescending level.”
“It’s not condescending,” Hill answered. “It’s a fact.”
At that point, Mayor Elise Dennison had heard enough.
“This is not an argument and it’s not a debate,” she told Hill. “If you cannot control yourself, please sit down.”
Commissioner John Christian then said he was ready to vote on the project.
“I love Leesburg,” he said. “I’m born and raised and there’s a lot of beautiful places in Leesburg.”
“I do, too,” Dennison added. “That’s where I’m living.”
With that, commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the housing project. Commissioner Dan Robuck III, who owns property in the Silver Lake area, abstained from the hearing and the vote.