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Windermere Observer Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016 1 year ago

Development irks Watermark residents

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When Watermark residents purchased their homes less than two years ago, some didn’t know about incoming surrounding development already approved.
by: Jennifer Nesslar Reporter

HORIZON WEST The Watermark community is the beginning of Horizon West’s Village F.

 Many residents, who have lived there fewer than two years, have expressed concern about incoming development, which they say they didn’t know about until after they purchased their homes. 

Of top concern is an apartment project adjacent to the community. The zoning was approved in 2008, but many residents say they didn’t know about the apartments, including Christa Gill, who signed the contract for her Watermark home in August 2015. 

“About 90% of us were never told,” Gill said, referencing a poll in Watermark’s Facebook group. “When we were going through the contract portion, our sales person explained that the houses can’t have anything less than a one-year lease. No vacation rentals. I specifically told her I did not want to live near apartments or town homes. So now we’re finding out there’s going to be 340 apartments. We had no clue.”

Orange County District 1 Commissioner S. Scott Boyd hosted a meeting for those residents to discuss concerns and talk about the concept of the Village Center, the next piece of development in Village F. 

“A lot of you now have moved in, and as (the apartment) project was moving forward, I think it came as a shock to a number of the residents who bought in the area,” Boyd told residents. “What I heard, you all had met with some of the sales folks and maybe with a couple of home builders, and they were giving you different information than what you currently have. That’s not the first time I heard that. As involved as they are out here, their sales team should be well educated on everything that’s going on.”

Boyd told them he reached out to Meritage Homes, the Watermark builder, who assured him they were educated about Horizon West happenings. 

Meritage Homes emphasized its communication with homebuyers. 

“At Meritage, our goal is always complete homebuyer satisfaction, and we strive to achieve it every day through energy-efficient homes built with high quality materials and masterful creativity,” Brian Kittle, division president of Meritage Homes, said in a prepared statement. “However, we have no control over adjacent land use. In an effort to always be transparent with our buyers, this fact is included in the contract that each buyer signs when purchasing their home. Additionally, since the opening of Watermark, our marketing collateral has shown ‘Future Village Center’ development in that area.”

PROPOSED VILLAGE CENTER PLANS

The applicant of the village center — a project entirely separate from the apartments — seeks to make a change to the planned development determination request, which gives instructions on the layout of buildings with Village F.

Commercial development in Horizon West is encouraged to front major roadways to create a pedestrian-friendly experience. However, Seidel Road, the major road in Village F, is slated to become a four-lane road. Therefore, the applicant proposed that instead of pushing the development close to Seidel Road, the buildings should go along an internal Main Street within the village center, to push the buildings closer to the new Main Street and create a more walkable area. 

To do this, the applicant asked for seven waivers from county code. It went to the County Commission Aug. 2, but Boyd asked to delay it to a community meeting. 

For now, the plan is conceptual. Kathy Hattaway, president of HCi, represented the property owner, which according to county staff, is Compass Rose Corp., a subsidiary of Walt Disney World. 

 

Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].

 

WHAT’S NEXT

The request returns to the Board of Orange County Commissioners on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

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