Tavares residents to decide on whether they want new performing arts center

Residents can vote on referendum during Tuesday's elections

TAVARES, Fla. – On Tuesday, Tavares residents will vote whether to give the green light to the Tavares City Council to build a new performing arts center.

The referendum on the ballot will ask voters to choose if they are "for bonds" or "against bonds" allowing the city to borrow $27 million which in turn would raise taxes for residents. 

"I'm very anxious it's been a couple of years in the making," City Administrator John Drury said. "I am looking forward to the voters sharing their opinions and making their decision on this." 

It's a plan years in the making, with Drury telling News 6 the city has been acquiring land around City Hall in the downtown district for nearly 20 years for something just like this.

"If the performing arts center passes, it will have a rippling effect on the business community, the entertainment district and the quality of life that the city can offer," Drury added, basically summarizing the referendum that will be on ballots on Tuesdays. 

The referendum on the ballot reads:

To enhance quality of life and improve economic conditions by designing, permitting and constructing a Performing Arts Center and associated parking garage in the City of Tavares, shall the City issue bonds not exceeding in principal amount $27 million at an interest rate of not exceeding the legal maximum and maturing over 20 years or less, by levying ad valorem taxes in an amount sufficient to repay such bonds?

The proposed 10,000-square-foot performing arts center would be located behind Tavares City Hall on Rockingham Avenue.

The center would feature a theater that can sit up to 800 people, a smaller theater for around 120 guests, space for rooftop performances and a parking garage for up to 600 vehicles.

It's something Craig Williamson, owner of both the Bru Tap House and BTW restaurant would love to see just a few feet away from his businesses. 

"I hope that it passes," Willamson said. "I think it will help me for advertising, it will draw more people into town who may not come down here on a regular basis and hopefully bring more foot traffic down here."

However, not everyone is planning on voting yes. 

"I'm voting against it," said Richard Roof, a retired homeowner around the corner from the proposed site. 

Roof said he's on a fixed income, and doesn't believe the city should be going into debt for a performing arts center and asking taxpayers to pay for it through property taxes. 

"It's not that I'm against the arts," Roof said. "I'm against the city putting that kind of money of our taxes toward such a very expensive venue."

The City Administrator responded.

"There are some people that don't want taxes to go into it," Drury said. "I think the reality is every performing arts center in the United States of America has public funds supporting them, they are not self-sufficient. They don't make money, they are a quality of life attribute to a community, like a park, library or ball fields." 

The city of Tavares has an information sheet on the proposal as well as a tax calculator, into which residents can enter their address to see how much the project, if passed, will cost them. 

Residents can head to the city's webpage for more information on the proposed performing arts center.

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