Winter Garden approves inter-local agreement to annex East Winter Garden
Saturday, January 29, 2022
Jan. 31: This story has been updated to include comments from City Manager Jon Williams.
The Winter Garden City Commission Thursday approved the inter-local agreement with Orange County that would enable the city to annex the remaining 60-plus homes within the East Winter Garden enclave — with one important change.
A key part of the agreement is Orange County’s responsibility to fix the storm water drainage issues that have plagued the enclave for decades. But rather than give the county five years to fix the problem, as laid out in the agreement, the city commission amended the agreement to allow Winter Garden itself to take on the project and then bill the county for the work.
“Is it something we could do and the county reimburse us?” asked Mayor John Rees during the discussion. Community Development Director Steve Pash responded: “We’ve never approached them" [about the idea].
City officials quickly decided to approach the county with the idea before the county's Feb. 8 vote on the inter-local agreement. "We could do it much faster than they could," said City Manager Jon Williams.
"I suspect we could do it cheaper," added District 3 Commissioner Mark Maciel, who represents East Winter Garden.
Which begs the question: If the city could do it faster and cheaper, why hasn't the city gotten it done?
“It goes back to the annexation,” Williams told VoxPopuli in an interview. “Unfortunately, without the annexation occurring, we don’t have any jurisdictional control over the storm water system. It’s not permitted under the city of Winter Garden. When the annexation is complete, that’s when we have the ability to go back and have those discussions with the county about us taking over the drainage. But its’ certainly something we’re willing to entertain with the annexation. And if we can reach an agreement with the county that allows us to do the project with [county] reimbursement, we can certainly get it done much sooner than five years, providing they have acquired all the property they need [for the project.]”
Meanwhile, East Winter Garden residents had some things to say. Watch the video above.