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Master Plan calls for $5.7 mil facilities expansion

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If the new parking area plan is approved by the community, 150 spaces will be added at the atrium area for cars and there will also be 40 more places to park golf carts. Parking will be “straight” instead of angle.

By PENNY FLETCHER

To serve food or not to serve food, that is the question. It is one of two main things that must be settled by a community vote May 21-22 in Sun City Center.

The other issue is whether to approve a one-time parking lot project that will cost $882,000 or do the parking lot piece-meal over the years as facilities are expanded.

The Community Association Board and those working on the expansion project committee say they hope residents see the value of completing the parking lot all in one step before construction of any buildings.

“We already have the money,” said David Floyd, who heads the three-person committee in charge of the details for expansion. “If we do the parking lot and lighting right at the beginning we won’t have to keep disrupting activities in the atrium area.”

A civil engineer has already been paid to locate all the underground utilities in the parking lot and atrium area that would be affected.
Advantages of completing parking lot changes first include seeing that water properly drains away from buildings into a newly-planned retention pond and having the parking area finished all at once, including new cost-effective LED lighting and county-mandated landscaping, before construction of any new buildings takes place.

If the new parking area plan is approved by the community, 150 spaces will be added at the atrium area for cars and there will also be 40 more places to park golf carts. Parking will be “straight” instead of angle.

Although many questions were asked, no major objections to this were offered by residents at the meeting. One resident did remind people to consider that there may be more difficulty in “straight” parking than angle parking.

The total cost for the entire expansion project, including parking lot and all buildings is $5,700,000 in today’s costs. There is a chance that costs of concrete, wood, and other construction materials (and also labor) will change in the coming months and years as new pieces of the whole are added.

All the parking lot money, however, (the $882K) is already in the bank.

The funding for this project and others on the drawing board is being collected from the $1,500 fee for each home resold within the community.

“People who buy new homes pay this fee through their developer,” Floyd said. This fee is charged as an impact fee on new people moving into a community that will impact roads and facilities there.

“Several years ago, it was voted that resales pay this fee also,” Floyd said.

This is so that the Capital Fund will be large enough to build facilities that will accommodate a larger population as time goes on.

Community Association President Ed Barnes explained that much of the money for the project is already in hand.

“We’ve put a great deal into this,” he said to the assembled group. “We have plans for many things, but we need a vote on the parking and the café.” This is because the Sun City Center Bylaws say that whenever projects cost more than certain amounts specified in the documents, votes of membership must be taken.

About $350 to $400 thousand a year goes into the Capital Fund from the resale fee, Floyd said.

The vote will be held May 21 and 22 which gives them a choice of a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Fifty percent of the 10,400 active members of the association will have to approve the things on the referendum ballot in order for them to occur.

Anyone who needs further explanation of the project in its entirety may visit the community association office and view the plans or speak to a board member.

Once the parking lot course is set, the next order of business will be a café-style meeting place where people can gather and talk. Options for this will also be on this May’s ballot.

A café was approved by a community vote in 2004 but there was no funding to build it.

Now, Barnes says they have the money but the board is not certain which direction the community wants to take.

If coffee and light food orders- like pastries, sandwiches and soups- are served, there will be a dues hike of $4 to $6 per person to pay for it.

Vending machines have also been considered, Floyd said. But any “food” option, even coffee, will have costs attached.

A non-food type café where people bring their own food and beverages would not involve a raise in association dues or a change in any BYOB policies.

Some residents asked why Kings Point was able to have not only food service in its cafes, but also had a liquor license.

“Kings Point has a different type management,” Barnes explained. Barnes and other board members talked not only to Kings Point but also to other developments in the area including the new 55-and-up community, Valencia Lakes, on U.S. 301, about how they handle their food and beverages and what kind of money they must make to support them.

“Everyone was very kind in sharing information,” Barnes said. “We found that in Kings Point the liquor sales from the liquor license held by the South Clubhouse is reported as one with the food sales from the North Clubhouse so it is feasible there.”

This is different from Sun City Center. State rules for liquor licenses say that a certain percentage of profits must be from food sales where ever there is a liquor license, and from surveys taken, Sun City Center’s resident-owned and dues structured association would not support this.

Besides this, when there is a liquor license, state laws say people are not allowed to bring their own to events. They must purchase all alcoholic beverages from the person or business licensed. That would put an end to all “bring your own bottle” events at the atrium.

“And there are costs you can’t always see,” Barnes explained. “It’s more than just hiring staff.”

The Projects Committee, made up of Floyd, Chuck Collett and Howie Griffin, say much of the project will be “pay as you go” over the next few years as money continues to come into the Capital Fund. Final expansion plans call for about 15 years of expansion.

Everything being considered was the result of community surveys and reports made by the Blue Ribbon Committee, and the Long Range Planning Committee, and is in accordance with Sun City Center’s “Master Plan.”

After the 2013 portion of the construction (parking lot and café), the schedule of projects shows several more. They include a new Welcome Center and Library addition to occur in 2014; a Security Patrol and Samaritan’s Services building and Nature Trail after those things are completed, followed by the construction of a multi-purpose building, a new theater and reconstruction of the Rollins Theatre.

A timeline and break-downs of all the costs for each project are available from the Community Association but are not included as part of this story.

The portion to be voted upon in May, however (which includes any and all 2013 construction proposed) is as follows: Costs for the parking lot (total $882K) are broken down as: Parking area, $597,000; landscaping and irrigation, $100,000; lighting, $50,000; design and permitting, $75,000; and a contingency fund of $60,000.

The parking lot project, if passed as is, would be done during the summer months when snowbirds are up North, Barnes said.

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