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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Leesburg commissioners sidestep costly lawsuit over disputed development

Leesburg commissioners have agreed to the terms of a special magistrate’s findings in the controversial Sunnyside Lake Landholding LLC and Cenizo Ventures Florida lawsuit against the city.

The proposed development is located south of U.S. Hwy 441 and west of Sunnyside Drive.

The special magistrate, Carlos Alvarez, was appointed to help resolve the dispute between the developer and Leesburg which arose in 2022 when the city denied the rezoning application to build a 159-residence subdivision. The magistrate found that the development met all legal requirements and that the city’s reliance on a the 2006 Sunnyside Task Force Study Report unfairly burdened the property owner. City staff recommended that the city adopt the special magistrate’s report. The city could have been forced to go to trial in the matter, had it not agreed to the special magistrate’s findings.

The Sunnyside Task Force Study Report which may have allowed the city to deny the development was never incorporated into Leesburg’s comprehensive plan in 2006. Commissioner James Pederson noted that none of the commissioners were serving when the city failed to enact the Sunnyside Task Force recommendations into the comprehensive plan. He also was acting as mayor and voted against the plan when it was first presented because he believes the roads are inadequate. Mayor Jimmy Burry also felt the roads were not adequate despite the traffic studies presented by the developer, but he felt the special magistrates findings would make winning in the circuit court unlikely

“We have fought this and lost. I cannot side with spending taxpayers money on something we have lost,” Burry said.

Several neighbors of the proposed subdivision spoke against the special magistrate’s recommendation which found that the proposed development would not negatively impact their homes and that the roads near the development were adequate to handle the increased traffic.

The commissioners voted unanimously this past week to adopt the special magistrate’s recommendations. The second reading of the ordinance and public hearing on the proposed Planned Unit Development is set for the April 22 commission meeting.

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