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Windermere Observer Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018 10 months ago

Despite changes, proposed 81-home development still causes concern

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Lakes of Windermere residents cited traffic increase and access as problems for the 81-home Monk Property proposal.
by: Gabby Baquero News Editor

Horizon West residents expressed unease with a proposed residential development during a community meeting held Monday, Dec. 10, at Sunset Park Elementary School.

The proposed development, known as the Monk Property, would be located on 49.6 acres of land west of Duncaster Street, north of Overstreet Road and south of Little Lake Sawyer. 

Presently, the project applicant — represented by Erika Hughes, of VHB Inc. — is requesting to build 81 homes with a minimum of 50-foot lots at a density of 3.19 units per acre. 

This is a reduction from the applicant’s previous request to build 113 homes — a request which was recommended for denial by the Orange County Planning & Zoning Commission during its Sept. 20 meeting.

The applicant reduced the number of homes as a compromise, Hughes said to attendees at the Dec. 10 meeting.

DENSITY CREDITS

“We heard the concerns from the residents, and we wanted to compromise to be a good neighbor,” Hughes said. “So we reduced our request to 92 lots, and we changed our request to stay with the Estate Home District. ... Since that time, we came back and actually reduced our density down again to 81 units, which gives you a 3.2 (unit per acre) density.”

Comparably, this density is lower than the existing density of the surrounding Lakes of Windermere and Windermere Terrace neighborhoods, Hughes said. The Lakes of Windermere neighborhood is 4.52 units per acre, and Windermere Terrace has 4.44 units per acre, she said.

“Additionally, (because) we are staying with the estate home district, our lot sizes are also changed and are compatible with the Lakes of Windermere and Windermere Terrace,” Hughes said. “We also have additional stormwater for the area and a little bit more open space. So we feel like this is a great compromise compared to where we started in this process almost a year ago.”

Orange County Planner Steven Thorp explained that if the applicant remains with the Estate Home District, it is allowed up to three units per acre, which would equal a total of 76 units. However, VHB Inc. is planning to use development credits to get up to five extra units.

With the original 113-home request, VHB Inc. was trying to use development credits from a different, external project, he said. 

NEIGHBORHOOD ACCESS

Despite the lower density, several issues of concern remain for area residents, primarily the proposed access to the proposed development.

The 49-acre property is bordered by protected wetland to the west and north, the Lakes of Windermere neighborhood to the east, and a private dirt road to the south. Because of this, access to the development would need to be through the Lakes of Windermere neighborhood.

This presents a problem for Lakes of Windermere residents, who emphasized their roads already are crowded because of lack of driveway space.

“If you drive through our neighborhood, you would see that just the existing density does not work,” said Jon Johnston, president of the Lakes of Windermere Homeowners Association. “There will be, eventually, an issue where a fire truck cannot get down the street. It’s going to happen because our driveway is not deep enough for cars, so there are cars on the street.”

Johnston added that the expected increase in traffic congestion might ultimately result in even more dangerous conditions for all the children who walk to school. 

“You guys need to come out there at 7 or 10 at night, and 7 in the morning, to see what the traffic looks like,” Johnston said. “We’ve got kids going to school, and the kids cannot stay on the sidewalk, so they’re going in between the cars and stepping out onto the road. It’s just a disaster waiting to happen.”

AMENITIES USAGE

Lakes of Windermere residents also voiced concerns regarding future amenities for the project.

It’s anticipated some of the future neighbors may be tempted to use their neighborhood’s amenities — despite not paying HOA fees — if the amenities in the proposed development are smaller or inadequate. 

“This is a great improvement, and we appreciate you trying to be good neighbors … but our concern is we can’t fence off our amenities,” Johnston said. “We pay for a lot for the upkeep and maintenance of our amenities, and we’re constantly having to chase someone off the property.” 

Amenities will be included because they are required, Thorp said. But when asked for specifics, residents were told details had not yet been worked out, because the project is still in its preliminary phases. 

CONSTRUCTION TRAFFIC

Some residents also asked if it would be possible to use the private road to the south of the property for construction traffic. However, Duke Energy would need to grant permission for use of the road, which is an unlikely scenario, Thorp said.

“It would be preferable, if possible, to have the construction traffic just go through this easement instead of going through the public roads,” he said. “But that’s going to be very difficult, because power lines run through this access dirt road and Duke does not allow anything under transmission lines unless you’re crossing. You can’t go parallel.”

The revised request will go to the Orange County P&Z commission for a public hearing Jan. 17. That board’s recommendation will then go to the Orange County Board of Commissioners sometime in March, Thorp said.

Gabby is the news editor for the West Orange Times and Windermere Observer newspapers. Have a story tip? Contact her at (352) 448-5856 or at [email protected]....

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