Lauren Ritchie posts “refreshing” Fruitland Park item at OrlandoSentinel.com

From The Orlando Sentinel Lake Edition, February 5, 2014, by veteran columnist Lauren Ritchie:

City creates charter committee

How refreshing to be able to write that the city of Fruitland Park is doing something that not only won’t get it sued but may turn out to be helpful.

The city recently approved 1,972 homes that the Villages retirement community wants to build on 760 acres inside city limits. Another 1,200 homes are already approved around the site.

That means the little town of 4,000 could very quickly get 5,000 or 6,000 new residents whose culture and viewpoints are vastly different than those of the people who live there today.

What the city has done is appoint a charter review committee, and one of its main missions is to decide whether the city needs to switch from citywide to at least some single-member district elections.

That didn’t totally solve the culture clash when the Villages overwhelmed the town of Lady Lake just to the north, but it helped.

One of the committee’s members is Steve Fussell who, with his wife, operates the Fruitland Park Café and who also writes the website FruitlandParkNews.org. He said it’s already clear that the committee favors some type of single-member district structure. He said he plans to research the options and present a chart of how other cities do it at an upcoming meeting.

The committee is being chaired by a Villages executive who grew up in Fruitland Park, Fussell said, and its vice-chair is a 28-year-old hair stylist and mother of two. That’s a good mix of viewpoints to start the discussion.

Some carefully chosen single-member-district plan would help preserve a sense of history in Fruitland Park and make sure that the needs and wants of long-time citizens have a voice when onslaught of retirees comes.

Image of Lauren Ritchie

Orlando Sentinel columnist Lauren Ritchie

Editor’s Note: Lauren Ritchie, left, has detailed Fruitland Park’s most painful episodes tirelessly and consistently at the Orlando Sentinel and promises more to come. She rarely focuses on subtleties—the irony and humor and shared sense of pathos that help make bearable the evolution of stale and stinky political feuds into modern, transparent examples of good local government. This time she did. 

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