Poinciana incorporation heard by lawmakers
By Tiffanie Reynolds
Osceola County representatives and senators took a cautious first step toward a bill on Poinciana incorporation on Friday, ending their first county legislative delegation with a public presentation on the issue.
The presentations, which lasted more than over two hours, gave opinions from residents on both sides of incorporation. Val Ramos and Keith Laytham of the group Poinciana Incorporates Now Citizens Home Organizations, or PINCHOS 2014, presented points in their revised feasibility study in support for incorporation.
Jeffery Goldmacher, chairman of Committee Opposed to Poinciana Incorporation, presented flaws in the revised feasibility study, emphasizing that Poinciana isn’t financially ready for incorporation.
As in their revised feasibility study, Ramos and Laytham said that as an incorporated city, Poinciana would be larger than many of the established cities in Osceola County, as well as more affordable under their proposed strong mayor form of government than under the current Association of Poinciana Villages Homeowners Association. The proposed city, which includes Villages One, Two and Five in Polk County and Villages Three, Seven and Eight in Osceola County, would initially provide the same services as the homeowner’s association under a mayor and five city commissioners. Services such as law enforcement, fire services, planning and zoning, garbage disposal, road maintenance and utilities would still be provided by the county, with residents only paying $120 a year under the 3 percent millage rate, if approved.
Ramos and Laytham also emphasized that incorporation was the best alternative for the future of Poinciana, as they and many other residents claim that the current homeowner’s association doesn’t respond to their concerns in the community.
“Most of the projects that you’ve see move forward here, such as the hospital, parks, etc., are actually driven by residents that get involved and try to push these projects forward. In most cases, the developer as well as the HOA are missing in action,” Ramos said to the delegation.
In his rebuttal, Goldmacher said that the submitted revised feasibility study does not meet several requirements according to state laws. They do not have marked boundaries for the prosed city, no list of city services, no list of current county zone designation applied to the area, no proposed land use characteristics of the area, or a description of future development, among other points. He also said that the study proposed a 3 percent millage rate because it’s the lowest rate that can be proposed for an incorporated city, but does not accurately reflect what residents would actually pay. Due to the lack of commercial property in Poinciana, Goldmacher claims that the millage rate would be double of what the study proposes.
“Poinciana is a lot different form the city of Kissimmee and the city of St. Cloud. There’s a lot of commercial up there, and those assessments from those commercial properties are big bucks. The commercial is keeping the millage rate down for the residents. Poinciana doesn’t have that commercial. They don’t have the industrial. They might in five to ten years, and maybe in five to ten years we can look again into becoming a city,” Goldmacher said.
While lawmakers questioned both sides, each member agreed that residents should have a chance to vote on the issue. Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, said to the audience that a bill for Poinciana incorporation has not been drafted yet, and the submitted feasibility study would not directly dictate anything in that bill. He encouraged residents of Poinciana to continue to contact them about the issue, as their input will help guide the delegation throughout the process.
“What I don’t want to see is to this fade out in the distance. That was the biggest problem in 2009,” Soto said, referring to the first resident push for incorporation.
Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St.Cloud, chair of the delegation, said that both the Department of Economic Opportunity and Department of Revenue are reviewing the revised feasibility study. With the agreement of the delegation, he proposed to wait on the department comments before moving forward. The delegation will set a date for another meeting on Poinciana incorporation once the departments comments have been submitted, and will make their final decision of putting incorporation on the 2014 ballot in their last delegation meeting in December.