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AMSCD Popular Election Petition - Background and Q&A

AMSCD Popular Election Petition

Questions and Answers

A petition drive recently completed is the beginning of a process which, if successful, would result in the direct election of one or more members of the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District.

The following Q&A addresses some of the more frequently asked questions from new and long-time residents.

Q: What is the AMSCD?

A: The Ave Maria Stewardship Community District is a "special district" under Florida law and was created by an act of the Florida legislature. There are more than 1,000 special districts in Florida set up to deal with a wide range of special purposes. The AMSCD's purpose as defined in the act that created it is to provide "community development infrastructure" that today includes roads, bridges, stormwater and wastewarter management. Under the act, however, the AMSCD can provide other "infrastructure" services such as fire prevention and control, construction of public school buildings and security services, although the district is prohibited from establishing a law-enforcement agency. The district can borrow money and raise revenue through assessments (which it currently does) although it does not have the authority to implement ad valorem property taxes.

Q: How is the AMSCD managed?

A: The special act established a five-member board of supervisors. The board contracts for a town manager who works for a company, Special District Services, that provides management services to a number of special districts. The board also contracts with the Ave Maria Master Association to perform some services such as landscaping of district-owned property such as parks and major thoroughfares like Ave Maria Blvd. and Pope John Paul II Blvd.

Q: How are AMSCD supervisors currently chosen?

A: The special act stipulates that at its outset, the AMSCD board is elected by property owners on the basis of one vote for every acre owned or, in the case of homeowners, one vote for every parcel owned, which would include detached homes, townhomes or condominiums. Supervisors are currently elected at "landowners" meetings but because most of the 10,805 acres of Ave Maria are owned by developers, supervisors are effectively chosen by the developers.

Q: Can supervisors be directly elected?

A: Yes, but a number of things have to happen first. The special act provides for a process by which the one acre, one vote method can transition to the direct election of supervisors by registered voters if the residents wish to do so.

Q: What is the process for moving to direct election?

A: The first step is that ten percent of the registered voters in Ave Maria (currently close to 1,250) need to sign a petition that is submitted to the Collier County Supervisor of Elections asking for a town-wide referendum on whether supervisors should be directly elected. If the petition is verified by the supervisor of elections, the next meeting of the AMSCD board would then formally approve a referendum to be held either at the next general election in the county, or at a special election. If voters in the district approve the referendum, the district then has to prepare maps showing how much of the district is "urban area," which will determine the number of directly-elected seats. If the urban area is less than 25 percent of the total acreage of Ave Maria, then one seat will be directly elected. If 25-50 percent, two seats; 50-70 percent, three seats; 70-90 percent, four seats; greater than 90 percent, five seats.

Q: How long is this process?

A: That depends on how quickly the individual steps are taken. It can be six months or more before any actual election of a supervisor takes place.

Q: Who is on the board now?

A: The five members are: Thomas Peek (chair), an engineer who has been chair since the board's inception; Liesa Priddy, owner of significant land holdings east of Ave Maria; Doug Baird, an executive with the Barron Collier Companies; Jay Roth, manager of the Lutgert Insurance office in Ave Maria; Tom DiFlorio, a resident of Ave Maria. Mr. Peek, Mrs. Priddy and Mr. Baird have served on the board for the entire time it has been in existence. Mr. DiFlorio is the only board member who lives in the district.

Q: If the referendum passes, which seat (or seats) would be directly elected?

A: The special act is silent on this matter so the board would likely make this determination itself.

Q: Where is further background available?

A: The Ave Maria Stewardship Community District website, avemariastewardshipdistrictcd.org, has extensive information and links about the district's purpose, minutes of monthly meetings and emails of the current supervisors. The special act establishing Ave Maria is available on the State of Florida website here.

 

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