A great man once said to never tell him the odds, but we’re sorry to inform you that the odds of winning the Powerball are 1 in 292,201,338.00, and nobody beat them this time around.
The Powerball numbers announced during Saturday night’s drawing were 24, 25, 52, 60, 66, and 05. With no winning grand prize ticket, the pot for the multistate lottery is now at $750 million, swollen with the hopes and dreams of millions who purchase tickets for the biweekly drawings. The jackpot is the fourth-largest in U.S. history and the biggest Powerball total so far this year.
While a player must match all six winning numbers to win the grand prize, some Saturday drawing winners matched enough to earn a mere $2 million or $1 million dollar prize.
In December, David Johnson of Brooklyn bought the winner Powerball ticket for a $298.3 million.
Last year, a secretive Mega Millions player won a jackpot worth $1.5 billion, and kept everyone in suspense as they waited until the last minute to come forward. The person received a one-time payout of $878 million, the largest ever awarded to a single lottery player.
The lottery overlords know that these giant jackpots lure ticket buyers, and have tweaked their games in recent years to lower the odds and help the grand prize climbs to tantalizing heights. Hoping to be the next lucky exception, scores will purchase tickets for the next Powerball drawing, which occurs on March 27.
Groveland spent years wallowing in the muck of incompetent government, community discord and looney lawsuits.
Everybody was suing everybody else and controversy was the order of the day in city government. The single biggest mess involved a guy who fabricated his military service and medals but won an election anyway and sat as mayor until he was tossed out because he was a convicted felon and not eligible to hold office in the first place.
A former city manager ignored the City Council and began running the city as his own little fiefdom, spending far more time stirring trouble than getting anything done. The police chief used a city credit card to stay in motels because he lived several hours away. Sometimes, a now-deceased council member would carry on at meetings about the devil being at work in Groveland.
It was tempting to wonder whether he was right.
Over the last year or so, however, a professional city manager came to town and started building a team of professional employees. The lawsuits over the felon-mayor got thrown out of court, a new police chief was hired and council meetings became more like government and less like the TV show “Survivor.”
And now, Groveland has gotten its reward for behaving like a good little city: A business is coming to town that is expected to employ as many as 520 people when it gets up to speed after a 2021 opening.
The nation’s largest grocery retailer, Kroger, has joined forces with British online grocery retailer Ocado to build a 375,000-square-foot, robot-powered customer fulfillment center at U.S. Highway 27 and American Way adjacent to the Christopher C. Ford Industrial Park on the north side of the city limits.
Kroger, which invested $248 million in Ocado last year, considered a piece of property in the unincorporated area of Lake County, 10 feet from the one on which it finally settled, Groveland City Council member Mike Radzik said. He said he believes the company chose to be in Groveland because the city pledged to help Kroger get the warehouse operating within two years.
“We displayed that type of cooperation and assistance they wanted,” Radzik said. “What really sold them on the city was the response time to questions — the fact that our permitting has been streamlined, and we gave assurances that we’d meet their two-year construction window.”
Kroger and Ocado are expected to spend $125 million in the building and its technology, and in return, Groveland is putting up $1.4 million in incentives and the county is providing a property tax rebate.
The companies estimate the area around the industrial park near U.S. 27 and State Road 19 will see $67 million of investment in restaurants, retail and places for employees to live.
Wow. If it’s half that much, it’s a blessing for Lake County, which rarely attracts the kind of companies that bring the number of jobs that Kroger is estimating.
Radzik said the companies’ plan is to use robots to fetch grocery items in the warehouse, which will be packed and sent to consumers within a 4½-hour driving time from Groveland. That would include a big swipe of Florida, taking in Orlando, the Tampa-St. Petersburg area and Jacksonville.
The robots, square-shaped stout little dudes, glide across the top of a football-field sized grid with bins underneath. They’re manipulated by an air-traffic control system so they don’t crash into one another.
They are battery-operated and zip around at a top speed of 4.4 yards per second. They take themselves to charging stations to “top up” their batteries when needed. After bringing items to packing stations, either another robot or a live human packs the items for delivery.
Want to watch the robots work? Check out a video from an Ocado warehouse in Andover, United Kingdom, at bit.ly/2rI3wmD. Ocado, an online grocer, did $1.9 billion in sales in 2018 using warehouses like the one in Andover.
The companies have an interest in having groceries delivered in autonomously driven vehicles. That might be a few years away.
For now, this is a lovely plum for Groveland to have plucked. Though the company has not stated how much employees might be paid, it’s for certain that Lake will still be desperate for jobs outside government and home construction when this warehouse opens. Nice go, Groveland.
Seminole County residents who live in an unincorporated neighborhood just outside of Oviedo are angry about plans to build an affordable housing apartment complex nearby.
The site, on the northeast corner of Beasley Road and Alafaya Trail, was originally designated for an assisted living facility. But developers are asking Seminole County commissioners to consider rezoning the area to allow them to build a multifamily complex of 92 to 99 units that would house about 300 people.
Residents of the surrounding neighborhood oppose the rezoning, arguing that apartments would contribute too much traffic, lower property values and set a precedent for other multifamily complexes to be built in the area.
“We’re not opposed to the property being sold,” Mike Bianco said. “We want it to be developed as something, but we want it to be developed as something that makes sense with our rural lifestyle.”
Guang Zheng Zou lives directly across from the lot and said the issue isn’t with low-income housing, but rather with the number of multifamily units that would be built on the 4.5-acre lot.
“There’s lots of better places to fit these affordable homes than to just squeeze them in here, which to me is like you’re putting more chickens in the cage without expanding the cage,” Zou said. “It just makes no sense.”
Residents have started a petition opposing the complex, which they plan to present to Seminole County commissioners when they discuss the issue on April 9.
A staff summary in favor of the zoning amendment states that while the complex is higher-density than surrounding areas, the public facility capacity is able to support it. The summary also states that the proposed complex would have a minimal effect on traffic in the area.
Lea and Randy Rader are concerned about the high number of residents in an apartment complex contributing to the frustrating and often dangerous traffic on Alafaya Trail.
“With the assisted living possibility or the professional office building, that would fit in very well because you’re talking about businesses that are only open from 9 to 9, or 8 to 5. They’re closed in the evening and they’re not open on the weekends,” Randy Rader said. “Where if you’ve got multi-family in there, you’ve got people coming and going all hours of the day.”
Lea Rader said a rental community just wouldn’t fit in with the surrounding single-family homes and office space.
“We feel that affordable housing is needed in parts of our county, but to sandwich in a 92 to 99-unit [complex], it’s mind-boggling to me that that would even be a thought,” she said. “I don’t care what kind of housing it is, it’s not compatible here.”
Residents are also concerned about the developer, Atlantic Housing Partners, and its intentions in building affordable housing.
Winter Park-based Atlantic Housing Partners has built more than 180 affordable housing complexes across multiple states, several of which have caused rifts in local communities. The company has faced criticism in the past for tacking on expensive fees for parking and storage, and for profiting off of tax breaks designated for low-income housing non-profit organizations.
“They’re making a tremendous amount of money off of people’s inconvenience,” Randy Rader said. “All they’re worried about is the amount of millions they’re gonna make off of it. They don’t care what happens to the surrounding communities because in 15 years, they’ll be gone.”
Scott Culp, executive vice president of Atlantic Housing partners, said the company is just trying to meet the high demands for low-income rental communities. The Orlando metro area was recently found to be the worst place in the nation for affordable housing.
“We like to be a part of that solution by building quality, affordable work-force housing, and that’s what we’re proposing in this location,” he said.
Culp said Atlantic Housing has been working with the residents to figure out solutions to their concerns, including requesting the entrance and exit to be on Alafaya Trail instead of Beasley Road, where it was originally planned.
“I know it’s a very difficult subject for the residents nearby and it’s always difficult when you see something that’s been the woods in your backyard being developed,” Culp said. “And we’re trying to be sensitive to that and do what we can.”
Atlantic Housing Partners has sued local governments when its plans were not approved. In 2009, it filed a lawsuit against the city of Oviedo, claiming it forced the company to build owner-occupied townhomes at the Covington Club development instead of low-income housing. A judge ruled in favor of the city, but the council decided to remove the owner-occupied requirement to allow for low-income rentals anyway.
When the developer proposed a similar subsidized housing complex be built on the North Causeway in New Smyrna Beach in 2013, hundreds of residents protested. The city council voted against the complex and Atlantic Housing filed a federal discrimination lawsuit, claiming they violated Fair Housing Acts.
Residents in the Beasley Road neighborhood hope Seminole County commissioners vote against the rezoning.
“We bought in this area to have a rural feel and single-family residential homes,” Bianco said. “And the zoning that’s being proposed and variance upon variance are stretching the rules until they’re ready to break.”
Sometimes it’s an accident, and other times I’ve got places to be.
It’s an action I’ve seen others do so many times that it seems inconsequential. I think so little about it that I actually stopped what I was doing to consider the weight of the action when I was asked if running a parking lot stop sign is legally enforceable.
As part of our Ask Orlando feature, Pete asked:
“Are the stop signs in parking lots legal? It seems like they need to be removed if not. At the Publix lot in Avalon most don’t even slow down.”
I thought this would be an easy answer to find online.
Many lawyer Q & A forums suggest these private property stop signs are not legally enforceable.
And that’s “technically” true, but not that simple.
I asked the Florida Highway Patrol spokeswoman, Lt. Kim Montes, if that was true. Offhand, she couldn’t confirm. But after a quick chat with FHP’s legal team, she had an answer for me.
Stop signs are legally referred to as traffic control devices. The penalty for failing to obey a traffic control device is three points on your license and a $164 fine.
If you come across one on private property, such as a parking lot or homeowners association neighborhood, they are usually nonenforceable.
However, they can be.
If private-property owners are angry enough with the lack of discipline on their property, they can reach out to a local law enforcement agency and arrange an agreement allowing officers to ticket drivers for not stopping.
After a written agreement, it’s taken to the clerk of courts for record keeping.
This does not include stop signs leading into a roadway. Even if the sign is on private property, if the traffic control device is for a major roadway, it is enforceable.
The key is that an officer needs to be aware of the agreement in order to write a citation.
You might be thinking: “Ah ha! A loophole to continue my carefree ways.”
But there’s still half an article left, so you know it’s not that simple.
“If someone ran a sign and caused a crash, based on the circumstances, an officer might just instead issue a careless-driving fine,” Montes said. “It’s easier to prove. ‘Careless driving’ is a catchall for not driving safely. It’s [about] the same amount of points, and the same fine as failing to adhere to a traffic control device — just easier to prove.”
The penalty in that case would be four points added to your license for a crash, plus that $164 fine.
So there you have it. If you run a stop sign, you could still pay the price for it.
But there was another part of Pete’s question that intrigued me: “At the Publix lot in Avalon most don’t even slow down.”
The Publix parking lot, located on Avalon Park Boulevard, has 20 nonenforceable stop signs.
I sat for an hour at the front of the store and looked toward the eight signs governing the pace of traffic. In that time I saw 132 cars pass; 72 of them fail to stop at one or more signs.
I can’t blame them all. When I entered the parking lot I accidentally ran the first stop sign — it snuck up on me.
Some drivers sped up and ran all eight signs to cut across the next street. The plaza divides Avalon Park Boulevard into two one-way roads. So the only way to get to the other side of the road is to cut through the parking lot, or drive a half mile in either direction to where the roads meet again.
The Publix in Avalon Park does seem to have a lot of drivers willing to skip the signs. However, 60 drivers stopped at all eight signs.
That’s more than I expected.
Still, knowing that running a stop sign on private property at Publix can cost me $164 just because I was in a hurry to buy milk might be enough for me to tap that brake a little harder.
Editor’s note: This story is part of Ask Orlando, a new feature in which we ask readers to ask questions, we hunt down the answers and report back. If you have a question you’d like us to report on, you can fill out the form below, or head to OrlandoSentinel.com/AskOrlando.
Almost nothing compares to the whooshing sounds of a collection of hot air balloons being prepped for flight on a still morning as the sun is rising.
But in Ocala this weekend, something else joined the balloons in the air — larceny.
The night before Saturday’s festival, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office “received word from the Bloomington Police Department in Indiana…that a hot air balloon stolen out of their jurisdiction was spotted at The Villages Hot Air Balloon Festival being held at the Florida Horse Park,” officials said in a Facebook posting.
Deputies went to the park and were able to confirm that one of the big balloons was the one reported stolen some 900 miles away.
According to officials, the owner of the stolen balloon isn’t interested in pressing charges but just wants the lighter-than-air balloon returned.
The balloon was towed from the festival grounds so it can returned to Indiana.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office says it has recovered a lot of stolen property during its 175 years of existence, but finding a stolen hot air balloon is a first.
A Southern California company is voluntarily recalling whole avocados over possible listeria contamination.
Henry Avocado, a grower and distributor based near San Diego, said Saturday that the recall covers conventional and organic avocados grown and packed in California. The company says they were sold in bulk across California, Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina and New Hampshire.
There have been no reports of any illnesses associated with the avocados.
The company says it issued the voluntary recall after a routine inspection of its packing plant revealed samples that tested positive for listeria.
The company says avocados imported from Mexico and distributed by Henry are not being recalled and are safe.
Listeria is a bacteria that can cause fever and diarrhea, and more dangerous complications in pregnant women.