Money for Tavares wedding pavilion seaplane docks denied

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TAVARES, Fla. —

When a new Tavares wedding pavilion is finished next year, it may be missing a major component – seaplane docks alongside the building.

The city was denied a major grant to finish the project, which some thought should have been a sure thing.

The $6 million wedding pavilion being built over Lake Dora will be finished next year, but is short $750,000 for the seaplane docks.

Lake County's Tourist Development Council refused to give up the money.

"We do have the last component of the project on hold," said city administrator John Drury.

TDC director Robert Chandler said to be eligible for a grant, the project cannot be underway, and the wedding pavilion construction clearly is.

"That was a policy issue," Chandler said.

"Enough with spending the money!" said Tavares resident Jerry Wasika in February.

Some residents like Wasika opposed the pavilion from the start, and didn't want city or county tax money spent on it.

The TDC distributes $2 million a year from a bed tax on hotel rooms.

Tavares now has two hotels near the pavilion site, and hotel guests pay the tax.

City leaders said the wedding pavilion is the perfect example of a project that attracts tourists who stay in hotels.

Some insiders complain the TDC vote was stacked against the city because its members include managers of local resorts, including the Mission Inn, whose hotels hold wedding receptions.

Chandler said the TDC board has nine members, and the city missed the "free money" in a 5-4 vote.

"There is a member from Mission Inn, but he's only one member," Chandler said.

Drury said he has no complaints, but said the TDC will collect a lot of bed taxes because of the city's new wedding pavilion.

"It will bring conferences, weddings and special events. And they all need a place to stay," Drury said.

The city will try to get the $750,000 for the seaplane docks from Florida Department of Transportation aviation office.