Quick reminder that the Art & Wine Stroll of Celebration is on February 18 from 5 to 9pm on Market St. There will be art, wine, and live musical performances.
I received an email earlier this evening with some questions about Celebration. Instead of replying directly, I thought I’d share my answers here, as they may interest other people.
The gist of the email was that the sender has visited the Disney area and Celebration a few times, and is doing preliminary research on escaping the Garden State to warmer climes.
We moved to Celebration from Chester County, PA — Lionville, if you want to be pretty specific. Our 4bd house sat on 3/4 of an acre, surrounded by trees, and only 6 miles from work. Here in Celebration, we have a 3bd house with around the same square footage inside, but a postage stamp for a yard. This is what we signed up for. We were willing to trade private outdoor area for public, and 4 seasons for an oppressive summer that lasts 7 months.
It might not be for everyone. Remember, when you visit here, you’re in Vacation Mode: no work responsibilities, looser scheduling, probably eating out more than normal, and so on. If you live here, you have all the same life crap you did back home, and you’re adding tourist drivers to the equation.
I’m not trying to scare people away. The opposite, in fact. I want people to move here, but with realistic expectations about what life is like. All that said, allow me to answer some of this reader’s specific questions, and add some of my own observations.
Do houses in Celebration have basements? No. Basements are not common in Florida because of the high water table and sandy soil. Even though I spent 30+ years in Florida before I moved to Pennsylvania, moving back was troublesome because we were moving from a basement house to a non-basement one. We unloaded extra junk on Craigslist before moving down, but we still struggle with having a “junky” garage from stuff that would’ve been stashed in the corner of a basement up North.
How bad is it dealing with the Covenants? We’ve found the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions quite reasonable here in Celebration. Most kinds of changes to the outside of your home need to be approved by the Architecture Review Committee (ARC). We built a fence last year. Upon request, a member of ARC visited our house before we submitted our plans and gave us pointers and advice for making a successful application. What kind of fence? Will it enclose your yard? Can you provide a sketch? Ok, thanks, we’ll let you know after the committee meeting. No big deal. To me, it’s an acceptable trade-off to living next to a pink house with a shoddy above-ground pool and overgrown grass.
What are Association Fees like? What’s covered? We pay around $830/yr (billed quarterly) to the Homeowners Association. That allows access to the parks, any of the HOA pools (North Village, South Village, East Village, Lakeside Park downtown), tennis courts, basketball courts, and more. The HOA (formally known as the Celebration Residential Owners Association, or CROA) also hosts great events for residents during the year (see here for a list). Garbage collection is not covered by HOA dues; we pay around $250/yr for that.
If you’re moving from the Northeast, then remember: Florida does not have any State Income Tax. Nor am I aware of any Local Income Tax. You won’t need to buy heating oil, either.
This press release was issued by Clarion Partners today regarding their acquisition of the Water Tower Shoppes for $18.3 million. The release also indicates that a Publix grocery store will anchor the plaza.
A grocery store on “this side” of 192 will be more convenient for NEV owners and bike riders than the current Publix at Xentury City.
John Baker of JB Creative sent a press release about a new movie about Celebration. John is a filmmaker and Celebration resident.
From the press release:
Celebration is a thriving, diverse and multi-cultural community, set against the backdrop of picturesque homes and public buildings, architecture, nature and scenery.
But to outsiders who visit the town, or read about us in international news reports, there is a common misconception that we live in a pre-fabricated neighborhood, overshadowed by the ominous Walt Disney World and conditioned to live by the rules and regulations of a strict governing home owner’s association.
The Town That Disney Built is a new documentary film that celebrates and honors the Celebration community, with the simple aim: “To document and celebrate the day-to-day lives and times of the residents of Celebration – and to give the community at large a glimpse inside our town, to see what Celebration is truly like – and cut through the mystique, the drama and the misconceptions that exist about our community.”
For more information, and to order, visit www.thetownthatdisneybuilt.com.
Our homeowners association, CROA, recently completed a community-wide inspection of covenant violations, followed by mailed letters to each owner who had a violation. Some of the owners took to the Front Porch to air their displeasure. I noticed a few interesting behaviors.
Some people acknowledged that they had clear violations but wanted to air grievances anyway. “Yes, I know the yard looks like crap but my something was something and the other thing was happening and…”
Others tried to deflect, as if the HOA only had a limited number of citations to hand out and why was I picked when there are worse houses on the block? “Sure, our porch handrail is a rotted-out eyesore, but WHAT ABOUT THE VACANT HOUSE NEXT DOOR? WHY WEREN’T THEY CITED?”
The people who had a legitimate beef were the ones who have had long-term modifications who weren’t cited before. For example, a non-conforming path to the mailbox. I don’t think these people should necessarily be exempt, but they should be given plenty of time to make the corrections without penalty.
For the record, we were cited for our mailbox, which seems like the default citation if nothing else can be found. In our case, the mailbox is probably borderline, so I’ll fix it without grumbling too much. Of course, I live next door to an abandoned home that looks like hell…
This was posted on the internal Celebration message board regarding the proposed library for Celebration. The author has allowed this to be posted here, as it may interest those that don’t frequent or have access to that board:
The library System in Osceola is funded with a dedicated millage rate of .50 mil per 1000.00 of Property tax value. The money generated is to provide for the library system only and could not be used for other activities (i.e. roads, parks, code enforcement, etc). The library millage rate is to be added to the total (aggregate) millage rate for the county and published for the citizens to evaluate.
Before 2008, when the commissioners needed more flexibility in spending for the county, they would reduce the library millage (because it was restricted) and place that portion of the millage as an increase in the general millage rate. This would have the effect of increasing the money available to spend on other projects without having to raise the overall county rate. However it came at a cost…with the library millage being reduced, the library system will have less money for operating the library system. The Commissioners could then say they did not raise your overall millage rate, but with the reduction in library millage, the commissioners would have more money to put in other services. Commissioner Harford feels this is clearly wrong, and the millage rate that was approved by the voting public in this county (.5 millage rate for library services) and that is what we should be using to fund the library. We are currently at .256 millage rate for the Library system.
That being said here is the what you can do:
Send e-mail or call the other county commissioners and let them know you want full funding for the library system, having the .5 mill restored to fund the library system. This will have an effect on the overall millage rate and you must be willing to see the increase in the overall millage or when the rate is restored, the money will come from other services provided by the general millage rate. Let them know also that you do not want the library hours reduced or services limited.
Attend the workshop on July 25th when they discuss the library options.
If no funding is changed possible different scenarios include the West Osceola (Celebration) branch could be delayed, or moved to another temporary site until economy gets better then build the branch. In all scenarios a reduction in hours and services is listed as an option.If this is an important issue to you, please contact the number or e-mails below. You don’t need to contact Commissioner Harford, other than if you wish to thank him for pushing for this to move forward.
Main Number 407-742-2000
Commissioner John “Q” Quiñones
• Vice Chairman, Commissioner District 2
Commissioner Brandon Arrington
• Chairman, Commissioner District 3
Commissioner Frank Attkisson
• Commissioner District 4
Commissioner Fred Hawkins, Jr.
• Commissioner District 5
With the tenant shuffle happening at the Water Tower Plaza and the dubious status of the new library branch, Celebration faces the possibility of having no library until action is taken. The next-nearest branch appears to be about 10 miles away, or probably 20 minutes at least with traffic.