Westlake And Seminole Officials Meet To Resolve Differences

The Westlake City Council and Seminole Improvement District Board of Supervisors held a joint meeting on Monday, Nov. 4 to resolve some differences on land development regulations and reach an agreement on how to work together in the future.

While Ken Cassel serves as both city manager of Westlake and secretary for the Seminole Improvement District, the two boards have separate members.

At some point in the future, it is likely that the two government entities will merge. However, for now, Westlake’s council and Seminole’s board must work together, along with the city’s primary developer, Minto.

Cassel opened the meeting explaining that the goal is to air some questions that the district had about the land development regulations.

“At this point, I believe it is critical that we have this meeting together because we’re finishing on the city side some of the land development regulations,” Cassel said. “There’s some concerns that have been expressed by the district to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Cassel said that the meeting was called at the request of the Seminole Improvement District. Attorney Bob Diffenderfer, representing Seminole, said the district, the developer and city staff have been working on the land development regulations and reached differences of opinion on certain items.

“There’s really no recipe for what we’re doing here,” Diffenderfer said, explaining that the rules vary from municipality to municipality. “We’re writing the rules because there’s no other relationship of the district and the city than the contours of what we have here, so we have to look at it and see what works.”

Diffenderfer said that the Seminole Improvement District should probably be considered the City of Westlake’s public works department.

“SID has most all of the basic infrastructure of the town,” he said. “Those items are laid out in the interlocal agreement, they are spoken to in the SID pact and also spoken to in the charter in sort of an exclusionary way… speaking of non-duplication of services.”

This is important given that the Seminole Improvement District will likely be absorbed by the City of Westlake.

“At some point in time, the city is going to assume title and responsibility for all of the infrastructure of the town — water, sewer, roads, drainage and everything that goes with that,” Diffenderfer said. “Conceptually, that’s clear as can be. The problem comes when someone shows up on your doorstep and on our doorstep with an application to do something, and it’s not entirely clear which gets to say grace over it. That’s the puzzle we have been working through for the past couple of months trying to get to a set of rules that is clear to third parties.”

Diffenderfer said he is looking for an application format where there is a common form and intake system for both the city and the district.

“We are still in the process of crafting that common form of application, but that common form of application will elicit information, depending on what is being built, that the application will make it clear where it’s going and who is going to be reviewing it,” he said.

Bonding is another issue that must be worked out, Diffenderfer said, pointing out that the city and district have different requirements.

“We need to figure out a number that we can both use, so we don’t have two different requirements,” he said. “At the end of the day, SID is going to own those assets, but somebody is going to be filling out this common form of application. They need a land development permit from the city. They need approval of the zoning authority, which is the city, to do what it is they’re going to be doing.”

Diffenderfer added that bonding should not be required by both the city and the district.

“The objective here is land development regulations that will make it possible for a third party to understand our respective rights, to have a clear process solution for that and clear direction in terms of what we need from them for information, and financially, where they need to go for approvals and where they go for closeout at the end of the day,” he said.

Westlake Vice Mayor Katrina Long-Robinson asked Cassel how conflicts are resolved if they arise between the two entities.

Cassel said he represents the city in writing the land development regulations. However, since he has an understanding of both sides of the equation, he tries to make sure that neither Seminole nor Westlake are overstepping their boundaries.

“It’s a very difficult line to walk for all of us as we’re writing the land development regulations,” he said. “That’s really the purpose of this meeting because we’re getting into some areas where you get down to details.”

If an issue needs to be hammered out between the two entities, Cassel said he would turn it over to the city’s attorney and the district’s attorney to resolve it.

“They fight the issues out, they [produce] the paperwork, it comes out before the boards, the two boards together, and whichever direction the two boards come up with is the direction I make sure happens on both sides of the equation,” Cassel said.

Westlake City Attorney Pam Booker said no issues have arisen that have come to her for a legal opinion, although she and Diffenderfer have talked about the land development regulations and have different perspectives in some areas.

Diffenderfer cited the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the governing body for the land containing the Walt Disney World Resort, which has two cities within it, Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, as an example of co-management between an improvement district and municipalities.

“The Reedy Creek manager is the city manager for one, and I think the assistant Reedy Creek manager is the city manager for the other,” he said. “There is not a problem with someone doing both of those things. The issue is how your documents lay out what your respective powers are. I think it’s perfectly appropriate for Mr. Cassel to be sitting in both of those positions because he’s got distinct duties to each.”

Seminole Improvement District President Scott Massey said having one person as manager of both entities saves the cost of having a manager for each one. “We don’t have to have that full-time person, and the city doesn’t have to have that full-time person,” Massey explained.

He added that having one manager for both entities also serves as an information conduit to keep everyone on the same page.

Seminole Improvement District Supervisor Dennis Church asked if a common development application had been written for both entities, and Diffenderfer said they are working on it. “We have been going through the sum total of the various applications from both SID and the city to try to harmonize them,” he said. “This effort has made the importance of that more immediate as we tried to work through the language of the land development regulations.”

Cassel said the city’s attorney and district’s attorney will have more discussions in the next couple of weeks and will try to have all issues worked out in time for the Westlake council meeting on Dec. 9.