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Apopka City Council

Nelson announces proposed deal between RSR Homeowners Association and the Golf Group

Rock Springs Ridge trading gopher tortoise conservation area for golf course lands


Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson announced during the Mayor's Report section of the March 2nd City Council meeting a prospective land swap between the Homeowners Association of Rock Springs Ridge, and the Golf Group (owners of the defunct RSR Golf Course). According to Nelson, the HOA will trade a 51-acre parcel of land on Kelly Park Road known as the gopher tortoise conservation area to the Golf Group, in exchange for the RSR golf course lands.

There is currently a conservation easement on the Kelly Park property by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to protect the gopher tortoises.

"We had a meeting with the Golf Group and with the HOA, and I think they've come to somewhat of an agreement," Nelson said. "That's obviously always subject to change. I just wanted to let everybody know."

Nelson went on to describe more details of the prospective land swap.

"The Golf Group will pay the HOA $1.2 million. It'll fix their clubhouse roof, their irrigation system at the clubhouse and repave the clubhouse parking lot. They [the Golf Group] will develop the 51 acres that they're going to transfer. They will have a 200-foot buffer from Sand Wedge Loop. Obviously... the City of Apopka will help facilitate cleaning up the plan development documents so that we've got just the... what we built on the 51 acres will close down the PUD inside Rock Springs, the current Rock Springs Ridge development."

Despite some false starts over the past year by RSR and the Golf Group, Nelson had guarded optimism about the proposed trade.

"Now that, I think, is good news," he said. "The challenges still remain... the gopher tortoise relocation and how that is handled, is still to be determined. And I think probably the bigger... the more problematic area will be whether they can move the conservation easement from that 51 acres to somewhere else. So I don't say it's a done deal. I wouldn't even say it's probable but possibly somewhere between possible and probable. But I think the conservation easement is going to be the real stumbling block because the governor, who has shown his environmental creds, is going to take a hard look at this. He has to approve this. So if we can get the conservation easement moved, get the gopher tortoises moved, I think the rest of that should fall into place. So that's the update on the Rock Springs Ridge."

Commissioner Kyle Becker wondered why the City was going down this trail again.

"Can I interject for a second? Becker asked. "Why do we keep on saying 'clean up the PUD'? Because it's not our responsibility to do that. And any change to the PUD would have to be applied for by the applicants or the landowners within that PUD boundary. Correct?

"Correct," said Nelson "What we've got to do is give them the ability to build on the 51 acres... and we want to close down the ability to build any more houses on what's already currently there."

City Attorney Michael Rodriguez clarified the City's involvement in the RSR/Golf Group proposed land swap.

"It's going to depend on what is submitted but it's not going to be a city-initiated amendment," he said. "However, one of the things that the City can take into consideration is whether it's going to be a changing of the land uses in order... I mean, it's up to the HOA group, and the Golf Group if they intend to submit to change the land use of the golf course property to therefore convert it from its current residential land use to conservation or recreational land use. But all of this is all in speculation because it's all going to depend on what is submitted for staff to review and then staff to present to the Council for the vote."

"I just don't want to repeat what happened almost a year ago," said Becker. "We're making comments that the City has some sort of involvement in this and we don't at this stage."

Becker is referring to an April 2021 meeting at the Apopka Amphitheater attended by hundreds of RSR residents in which Nelson proposed a three-way swap between the City of Apopka, the RSR HOA, and the Golf Group. That deal never advanced beyond the proposal stage, but lingered for months until Rodriguez ended speculation at a November workshop.

But at this meeting, Rodriguez was again calling for Council to tap the brakes.

"It depends on determined involvement," said Rodriguez. "The City's involvement is in the final approval."

"The City's involvement is to react to an application made to the City," said Becker.

"Right, whatever is presented to the City... that's involvement," said Rodriguez. "Involvement in the actual real estate transaction? No, this is a private real estate transaction between two private parties."

"That's the point that I am making," said Becker.

"The end result of the transaction is still going to result in needing an application to be submitted to the City, in order to be processed, to be examined, to be voted upon, just like any other property owner within the city limits."

"Correct," said Becker. "I just want to be very final because people are watching this. Because we see it on a mayoral update implies that there's some sort of City-led thing going on. But as a city, we have no responsibility in this other than to accept an application for a potential change to that piece of land. Otherwise, we're not touching it."

"Correct," said Rodriguez. "The city's lone role in the matter now is receipt, review, and consideration of an application for a land-use amendment, an application for an amendment to the development agreement, site plan, master development approvals, similar to any other applicants... that's all the City is done in this manner. There's what was just earlier discussed. That's a private land transaction of which the City is not a party to."

Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson, Apopka City Commissioner Kyle Becker, Apopka City Council, RockSprings Ridge, The Golf Group


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