Lake County Developments

Developer pulls plug on the mixed-use project on U.S. 441 in Mount Dora

Developer Timothy Green withdrew his application for Mount Dora Groves, which would have spanned both sides of U.S. 441 next to the Country Club of Mount Dora.

A proposal for mixed-use community that would have added hundreds of homes, apartments and commercial uses near the Country Club of Mount Dora fell apart after facing intense opposition from residents.

At a city council meeting in January, the attorney for the project, Cecilia Bonifay of Akerman, pulled the plug on three applications from a company affiliated with Tampa-based Bering Homes that would have allowed the development to go forward as early as 2023.


Bering principals Chad O’Brien and Ronald Rakunas had applied to the City of Mount Dora for a large-scale comprehensive plan amendment for 224.6 acres to allow for the mixed-use development on U.S. 441 to include 100,000 square feet of commercial and 776 single-and multifamily residential low/medium and high-density residential units with a maximum height of 65 feet.

The development, Mount Dora Groves, was on land that is currently abandoned orange groves, vacant land and vacant apartment buildings. The application package submitted by Green Consulting Group included a request for annexation, Future Land Use Map (FLUM) and rezoning application for a Planned Unit Development.

The Mount Dora Groves site plan split the project into different pods for commercial, residential and multifamily sections.

The development plan had included a single-family gated community called the Lakefront Neighborhood with 38 lots, each with private docks on Loch Leven, and public parks. The PUD also would have included a 360-unit build-to-rent neighborhood with one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas and square footage from 742 to 1,254 sq. ft. Amenities included a clubhouse, fitness center, pool, spa, outdoor BBQ area and dog parks. The developer also promises butterfly gardens.

The Mount Dora City Council had approved a measure for annexation of the property in December, but the council delayed the votes for the FLUM amendment and PUD zoning until a public workshop could be held. Green warned the city in December that the continuance “would result in a withdrawal of the annexation petition request,” and it was at that workshop that things apparently began to fall apart.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner James Honich, who opposed the project, told those in attendance at the community workshop that the development was about “more houses, more money,” and that the community workshop was little more than a “developer’s sales meeting.”

The problem is that the Planning and Zoning Commission is quasi-judicial, meaning that commission members are supposed to be impartial. Public comments such as Honich’s violated those quasi-judicial rules of impartiality, according to some council members.

Subsequently, the city council spent more than an hour at its January meeting discussing the development and Honich’s comments.

Honich’s statements were regarded by some council members as improper, and the council went so far as to entertain a motion to remove Honich from the Planning and Zoning Commission. The measure failed.

But after the council debate, Bonifay told the council that the applications were being withdrawn.

“We are withdrawing all three pending applications before the city council so there is no need for further action,” Bonifay told the council. “There is really nothing pending. What has been abundantly clear during your discussion of the past hour or more is truly indicative of why my client will not go forward in the City of Mount Dora.”


Bonifay told the council that her client “cannot get a fair and equitable and unbiased decision.” She added that numerous misstatements about the project further engendered public opposition.

Bonifay was unavailable for further comment.

Meanwhile, Vershurn Ford, the city’s public information officer, told GrowthSpotter that the “applicant has not provided the city with any changes or new proposals.” He added that “no other developer has formally filed any development or annexation requests.”

The properties are owned by the Simpson Family Partnership LTD, of Mount Dora, with Robert L. Simpson, agent, and Mount Dora Groves, Inc., Mark R Simpson, president.

But public opposition to the development was intense, and after Honich’s comments, it became apparent that the project had run into headwinds.

Ford said the “applicant’s counsel cited concerns with the development and overall density” from the public brought about the withdrawal.


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