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West Orange Times & Observer Tuesday, Jun. 16, 2015 3 years ago

Horizon West developer reduces proposal to 75 homes

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by: Zak Kerr Staff Writer/Reporter

HORIZON WEST — After original plans had raised traffic and environmental concerns, a Horizon West developer reduced the number of proposed homes for a new community by nearly 75%.

Phoenicia Development CEO Tom Harb originally had proposed building up to 284 homes on a parcel currently designated as green belt. But after he met residents May 11, his team reduced that to 75.

“We were asking for 284 homes the last time we were here, and we’d like to reduce that to 75 homes,” Jim Hall, a VHB Inc. planning director representing Harb, told residents at a second community meeting June 4.

Hall presented a rendering that showed less land within the development, citing especially that outlying strips would no longer be part of plans, reducing developed land to 41.5 net acres.

“It’s a significant drop in density,” he said. “It’s a commitment to developing it away from this community. We will work on buffers … in the zoning stage, which is the next stage if we get transmitted on June 18 as a recommendation, and as a board hearing on July 28.”

The meeting, held at Sunset Park Elementary School by Orange County officials and District 1 Commissioner S. Scott Boyd, was the second to discuss a proposed development and land-use change on a 306.8-acre property in Horizon West, with only 70.8 developable acres of uplands, according to Orange County staff reports. It is the largest wetland preservation corridor in Horizon West and marked mostly for conservation in Horizon West’s Lakeside Village Specific Area Plan.

The land use would change from uplands green belt to residential only in the developed zones, with no current conservation easement, Orange County staff said.

Entries to the property would be along its western and southern edges from the eastern side of Fiquette and Reams roads. The northern boundary almost touches a small pond behind Darchance Road, with the easternmost border along Abbotsbury Drive. Proposed developed area advances no farther north than where Fiquette Road meets Lake Hancock Road and no farther east than the westernmost segment of Darchance Road in updated plans, though.

Although residents at the meeting appreciated the developers reducing the number of homes to 75, many cited a promise of no more than 12 homes being developed on this lot — per current zoning approval — as their desire and expressed concern that someone could develop the area even further.

Hall said the difficulty in costs, labor and processing in a wetland conservation area should deter any developer from future builds from a feasibility standpoint, but some residents said there had been developers willing to do anything to build in the area.

Other concerns of residents included traffic and lane-number issues, the 20-year plan for Horizon West, conservation problems with wetlands, wildlife such as the endangered Florida panther requiring both uplands and wetlands, distrust of the developer, overdevelopment of Orange County for the sake of tax revenue, infrastructure and school planning and timing, migrating birds using the area as a resting stop, a recent EPA ruling possibly affecting the property, development causing a drain in the local economy, sidewalks and the uniqueness of the property with possibly more value to the county as a green space and park.

The state will receive proposals for viewing if transmittal advances, and if that process progresses, public hearings before the Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of County Commissioners should occur during the last three months of 2015, Orange County staff said.

Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].

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