The Maitland Town Center development agreement's future will be decided on Nov. 22.
The agreement has been frozen since March, when developer Bob Reese filed Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection to halt a foreclosure auction for the former Winn-Dixie and Royal Plaza — parcels at the heart of the mixed-use project.
At an Oct. 27 hearing, Maitland got back the right to terminate the $400 million agreement with Maitland Downtown Property Owner LLC, formerly Brossier Co. The order from the judge says that Maitland City Council can start the termination process as early as its Nov. 22 meeting.
"The judge wants the city to get released from this and be able to move on," Maitland resident Jere Pile said. "He wants Reese to move on as well."
City Councilman Phil Bonus put an item on Monday's meeting agenda to take a straw poll, which would document where the commissioners stand in regards to the agreement. Mayor Doug Kinson blocked the item.
"My very distinct concern is unnecessarily opening up the city to further legal actions," Kinson said.
But Bonus argued that an order from the judge said that City Council can discuss whether or not it wants to declare the agreement in default and may also pass non-binding legislation regarding it. City Attorney Cliff Shepard said the city's bankruptcy attorney, Roy Kobert, also said it was OK that the Council discuss it.
A straw vote or a non-binding resolution would show "whether we intend to tell the citizens it's time to terminate Reese's [development agreement]," Bonus said. "There are businessmen and women waiting in the community to find out if we are going to do that."
Kinson argued that the most recent order did not include the ability to discuss the agreement before the Nov. 22 meeting. "It's inappropriate when we know we're going to make a decision on it in two weeks," he said.
Deal not done
On Oct. 25, Reese's lawyer, Frank Wolffe, told City Council that the sale of the $8.3 million mortgage from Mercantile Bank to Reese's "Texas investors" was completed. As of Nov. 8, City Attorney Shepard said Wolffe confirmed that the "money was not paid and the deal is not consummated."
It is unknown who the investors are. Nothing is filed in court about them.
Transcripts of depositions taken in the bankruptcy case of Reese and the investors should be released by Nov. 15, Shepard said. Council will be able to use that information to influence its decision on the agreement's viability.
Shepard said the transcripts are being redacted — and in some instances changed — by the developer. "As of this morning, much to their dismay, the redacted transcripts were unrecognizable," he said. "There have been complete changes in testimony."
City hall site plan approved
Also at Monday's City Council meeting, the site plan for the new city hall was approved unanimously. The design and height of the building were tweaked so it is not overpowered by the new fire station, which will be built adjacent to city hall on Independence Lane and Packwood Avenue. The city should break ground on the fire station next month and on city hall in April.
"Somewhere before Christmas, we hope we have a city hall in our stocking," ACi architect John Cunningham said.
Ordinance to fight 'pill mills'
Maitland staff is drafting an ordinance that will regulate pharmacies' distribution of powerful pain medications, including Oxycodone and Methadone. Police Chief Doug Ball told Council on Oct. 25 that he's seen a significant increase in people from other cities and states using Lamar's Pharmacy on Highway 17-92 to obtain medications for illegal distribution. The city will also send a letter to Gov.-elect Rick Scott urging more regulation at the state level.
The Orange County Commission is looking at similar legislation. It had a workshop Tuesday to discuss enacting a moratorium on the construction of "pill mills" — pain management clinics that have a track record of laxly prescribing strong medications — in the county.