DR. PHILLIPS — On Oct. 1, Southwest Middle School hosted the latest community meeting on Majorca Place, a parcel with about 6.5 developable acres on which VHB Inc. seeks approval for a six-story, 325-unit luxury apartment complex called Rialto II.
It would supplement Rialto I, an adjacent property northwest of the intersection of Sand Lake and Turkey Lake roads. The Board of County Commissioner approved transmittal of the project July 28.
But several dozen residents attending this meeting applauded fellow locals who spoke against the project, mainly citing traffic congestion dating back more than a decade — and due to worsen in what Orange County Transportation Planning Manager Renzo Nastasi called a painful two-year widening project. That will start July 1 and make Sand Lake Road six lanes from John Young Parkway to Turkey Lake Road and Interstate 4, he said, about 3 miles.
But no improvements west, north or south from the Majorca Place intersection are scheduled yet, District 1 Orange County Commissioner S. Scott Boyd said. A study involving this area and stretching up Apopka-Vineland Road is underway, he said.
“This stuff takes a while to happen,” Boyd said. “I wish I could fund $45 million into a new interchange — would love to do that.”
Nastasi said plans for a Sand Lake Road-Interstate 4 interchange revamp exist, but the next phase of Interstate 4 improvements is about 15 years away, he said. He reminded residents state law forbids denial of a zoned project based on transportation, although local resident Jim Pasquinelli said Rialto II would not fit present commercial zoning of the parcel.
“You can improve all these roads to death,” Pasquinelli said. “The amount of development that’s occurring (in this area) is ridiculous in how landlocked Dr. Phillips is and a sense of community that we’re losing. … And then you’re saying let’s wait 10 or 15 years (for other road improvements)? At what point in time do our opinions become valued? All we want is low-impact businesses that serve the community, which we are underserved in, because we can’t get out of the community.”
Local resident Jeffrey Yorinks said waiting years for traffic relief would put it at a standstill.
“I have watched an ambulance try to get by and (get stuck),” Yorinks said. “You want it to get there on time or people die, and it’s not going to happen the way it is.”
With other area expansions in the works, traffic of hundreds of residents in one location from Rialto II has to be an issue, he said.
“There is nothing this developer can do to alleviate the amount of traffic that 600 cars a day going in and out are going to create at that intersection,” he said. “None of the lights are properly synchronized; they have never been.”
Another concern was exceeding capacity in local public schools, including Dr. Phillips High School, barely a mile north on Turkey Lake Road. Erika Hughes, VHB senior community planner, said 140 students would be the estimated total for Rialto II. A resident said that would result in locals paying for seven added learning cottages at their elementary schools to accommodate overflow, opposing a mentality of changing infrastructure before accepting development.
Boyd said officials had been examining the Dr. Phillips Park area of Apopka-Vineland Road to relieve Dr. Phillips High, but “nothing is happening on that.”
Local Planning Agency Hearing
WHEN: 9 a.m. Dec. 17
Board of County Commissioners Final Public Hearing
WHEN: 2 p.m. Jan. 26
Both meetings will be in the BCC Chambers at the County Administrative Center, 201 S. Rosalind Ave., Orlando.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].