Showdown must go on

March 7 was the long-awaited showdown between cable-television giant Time Warner Communications and residents of an Orange County neighborhood concerned that the cable provider was bullying its way into their neighborhood (The bully next door, Jan. 31).

Time Warner was caught constructing a 5,000-square-foot building, retention pond and parking spaces on what should have been an unmanned antenna site adjacent to the Lakemont Heights neighborhood. When residents complained, the county placed a stop-work order on the building until a hearing could determine the fate of the 11-acre site.

But when it came time for the March 7 hearing, Time Warner was nowhere to be found. The company sent a letter via its attorney, saying it wanted "an opportunity to complete modifications to address homeowners' concerns."

Time Warner's no-show complicates an already complex problem. Lakemont Heights, including the Time Warner property, will be annexed into Winter Park March 31, meaning that Winter Park officials will inherit the zoning problem.

"Now we're stuck with this mess," says Jeff Briggs, a Winter Park senior planner. Briggs says Time Warner will have to re-submit for a building permit and undergo hearings to address resident complaints. "I don't know that anything happens on the land till we get an application to do something. `Time Warner is` stuck in the mud. As long as they want to stay in the mud, that's fine."

Lakemont Heights neighbors speculated that Time Warner put off the hearing so that it could bully Winter Park's smaller government into accepting its application. Some even said that Time Warner wanted to change venues because it didn't want the negative publicity the hearing would likely cause. The county's Board of Zoning Adjustment hearings are aired on the Orange County government access channel.

"That had nothing to do with it," says Time Warner spokeswoman Diane Pickett. "The attorney's letter speaks for itself. The reason we withdrew the application is that we listened to what the neighbors had to say. We're working on solutions and we ran out of time."

Lakemont Heights residents are now considering whether to fight the annexation of their 72 homes and the Time Warner property until their problems are addressed at the county level. They have scheduled talks with County Commis-sioner Ted Edwards and Winter Park officials -- in part to determine if anything has been negotiated without the community's knowledge.

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