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ORLANDO-Elected officials in Seminole County, Central Florida’s most affluent community, are on the hot seat as they prepare to make a final vote Tuesday on an estimated $50 million townhouse/retail/office development in which Commissioner Randalph C. “Randy” Morris is a principal and majority stockholder.

Commissioners approved the 180-unit, 19.2-acre project April 9 but the revised master plan has enlarged the venture in southeast Seminole County, 10 miles from Downtown Orlando at Tuskawilla Road and Aloma Avenue.

Critics charge Morris allegedly violated the state’s Sunshine Law by discussing the project by phone with fellow commissioner Grant Maloy prior to the initial 4-0 unanimous vote. Morris didn’t vote. He has been elected three times since 1994 and is considered one of the most apopular vote-getters in Central Florida.

Morris couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline. But staffers in the county’s planning department tell GlobeSt.com the commissioner had inquired about the project’s progress periodically but always insisted he wanted to be treated as a citizen and not as an elected official.

That approach isn’t washing with critics of Morris who holds several key positions on county, regional and state real estate organizations including the chairmanship of the influential East Central Florida Regional Council based in Winter Park, FL.

“His talks with county staffers on the project was, at the very least, inappropriate,” a resident of nearby Bear Creek subdivision tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “As a commissioner, he should have known that even asking about his project to county staffers, just before it was coming up for a vote, would set off bells and whistles.”

That’s the impression Barbara Petersen, president, First Amendment Foundation, Tallahassee, FL, has of the incident.

She says Morris could have avoided most of the controversy by mailing commissioners his intention not to vote on his own project instead of discussing the venture by phone with another commissioner, according to a published report.

Morris and Jim Stelling, another Aloma Green principal, are contracting to buy 19.2 acres at an undisclosed price from an unidentified seller.

Fifteen acres would be allocated for townhomes and sold to Beazer Homes Corp. for $2.3 million or $153,333 per acre ($3.52 per sf), according to information provided to prospective investors in the Aloma Green project.

The remaining 4.2 acres are allocated for commercial development and are appraised at $2 million or $476,190 per acre ($10.93 per sf).

That tract could have a market value of $3.5 million or $833,333 per acre ($19.10 per sf) after the townhomes component was developed and all infrastructure was in place, the information to investors projects.

Stelling’s name on the project is also controversial since he is chairman of the Seminole County Republican Executive Committee and is the lead promoter of Aloma Green.

Stelling doesn’t deny lobbying for the project to commissioners, according to a published report. Stelling couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline.

The original master plan for Aloma Green that commissioners approved April 9 called for 65 townhomes on 8.8 acres. Commercial and office components would sit on 4.5 acres.

The project’s master plan commissioners will be voting on Tuesday shows 180 townhomes on 14 acres with retail and office on three acres.

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