Nelson announces potential workshop on annexation of southern Apopka for May/June; but be wary of the outcome
By Reggie Connell, Editor
It’s going to be a busy two weeks for the Apopka City Council. On April 26, four of its members will be sworn in. Then, on May 4, the new Council will hold its first meeting with new member Nick Nesta seated in seat #4.
And while it may not be on his priority agenda, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson thinks the timing for a South Apopka annexation workshop would be late May or early June before the beginning of the workshops on the budget of the city of Apopka for the fiscal year 2022-23.
“If we want to do it, we’ll probably have to do it before we have big budgets,” Nelson said. “So it will probably be in May or June. Probably either the second meeting in May or June.”
In an interview with Apopka’s voiceNelson said he would follow the will of the Council, although he was skeptical of annexation.
“I’m not leading the charge on that,” he said. “But obviously if I get enough interest and they [the Council] want me to come forward with at least a presentation of the good, the bad and the ugly; so we absolutely will.”
“Everyone we hear about who wants South Apopka annexed is people from North Apopka. I haven’t heard anyone come to me from South Apopka and say, ‘Hey, we want to be annexed’. So for us spend a minimum of three million dollars on a band that doesn’t care anyway… does that make much sense?”
–Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson
Nelson has asked his staff to estimate the cost of annexing South Apopka, but he thinks those residents might want more than the estimate covers.
“The back of the napkin number, and we spent more than the back of the napkin on it, but we found $3 million a year. but they [South Apopka residents] are not looking for profitable services. They want better services. So what’s the number? How much is it going to cost? It’s just a matter of where and how you pay for it.”
He is also not convinced that Apopka residents will want to pay the tax increase.
“I’m happy to take it, but at the end of the day, if $3 million gets you equal, what kind of services do they think we’ll provide on top of that?” Nelson asked. you know, $3 million is a 20% tax increase. So everyone in North Apopka gets a 20% tax increase and everyone in South Apopka gets a 20% tax increase. So, the guy who lives in Rock Springs Ridge… does he want to pay 20% more taxes to support the annexation of South Apopka?”
He is also not convinced that South Apopka wants to be annexed.
“The other part that nobody talks about is…does Orange County South Apopka want us? Because that comes with a lot tougher code enforcement. And there’s a lot of people who will tell you they like to have structures in the back of their house or in their yard.And when we [City of Apopka] come in, we’re probably going to be a little more aggressive in how we deal with these things. And so, we don’t want to spend a lot of money, time, or effort on this if people who quote ‘want to be annexed’ don’t.”
“When Apopka’s voice asked if it cost $10 million to annex South Apopka, would I annex? I said yes…and I stand by that because I don’t think you can put a price on human life.”
–Commissioner Alexander H. Smith
Nelson believes that most talk of annexing South Apopka comes from areas outside of South Apopka.
“All of the people we hear about who want southern Apopka annexed are people from northern Apopka,” he said. “I haven’t heard anyone come to me from South Apopka Orange County and say, ‘Hey, we want to be annexed’. So for us to spend at least three million dollars on a group that don’t care anyway… does that make much sense?”
As mayor of Apopka, Nelson believes it’s important to weigh everything with tax scales, no matter how emotional the subject matter may be.
“Everyone wants to paint me as making this decision a financial decision,” Nelson said. “I mean, it’s really a financial decision. We can talk about the socio-economic part of the equation, but it’s still…at the end of the day, the economy plays a role, and how much it’s going to cost. play in everything we do here. We’ve been successful because we’ve pinched some pennies.
But members of the city council officially oppose this tax-only, transactional approach; no more than Commissioner Alexander H. Smith.
“When Apopka’s voice asked me if it cost $10 million to annex South Apopka, would I annex? I said yes … and I stand by that because I don’t think you can put a price on human life,” Smith said at a Feb. 15 meeting on the annexation of South Apopka. “It’s the right thing to do. The town of Apopka has benefited greatly from the residents who live in southern Apopka. Some of them are suffering financially, spiritually, and health-wise because of their contribution to Apopka. That’s what you should do.”
Commissioner Diane Velazquez thinks it’s time for South Apopka to take their rightful place as residents of Apopka. She said the annexation of South Apopka should be a priority for the next city council.
“I think one of the priorities is annexation and a status workshop for South Apopka,” Velazquez said at the city commission forum. “That’s one of the questions we hear all the time. We should finally approach South Apopka as one because with the new district right now all of Apopka will be in one district so it’s time for our city to really sit down and address the South side of Apopka which is not part of our city.”
Incoming City Commissioner Nick Nesta has made the South Apopka annexation discussion part of his campaign platform. He too wants to see this as a priority within the city council.
“First and foremost, we need to come up with a plan and have full support at the board level, a holistic approach to getting out there and raising awareness,” Nesta said. “We have a lot of campaign momentum. Everyone’s campaign has touched on this to some degree. I don’t want to lose that momentum. Let’s have these conversations and then get it on the ballot.”
But while open to a workshop or presentation, Nelson believes the cooperation between Apopka and Orange County when it comes to South Apopka has never been better.
“I think our commitment to working together between Orange County and Apopka is much better today than it was five years ago,” he said. “Our police and the sheriff’s department are working well together. Firefighters are probably working better than ever together. We’re trying to find ways to partner up, you know, on the roads. We’re trying to work together on the paving and the roads that are City/County. So I think from that perspective we were doing as well as ever.”