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Windermere Observer Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 2 months ago

Lake Down development raises compatibility, environmental concerns

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A proposed development project on a property along Lake Down has residents concerned over its compatibility with the area and potential environmental impacts.
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

A proposed development could bring up to a dozen new homes to an 18-acre property along Lake Down, but current plans propose fitting those homes on three to four acres of land.

County leaders held a community meeting Tuesday, Aug. 13, at Chain of Lakes Middle School regarding the rezoning of an 18.16-acre property from Country Estate District (RC-E) and Country Estate Cluster District (R-CE-C) to Planned Development (PD). The property is located on 9508 Windy Ridge Road, which is near Gotha and the town of Windermere. About 5 acres of the property are located in Lake Down, and the remaining 13 acres are upland and developable.

Applicant Jim Hall of Hall Development Services represented the property owner at the meeting. He said the original plans called for developing up to 14 homes on the property because they originally thought there were 14 upland acres on the property, but a later study revealed there are 13 upland acres.

“Your basic development right in the state of Florida is not zoning … it’s this thing called (the) ‘future land-use (designation),’” Hall said. “For this property and every one on this side of Lake Down — north of Lake Down — (the future land-use designation) is called rural settlement, and it allows one house per one dry acre.”

The subject property already has an existing 50,000-square-foot home on it that would retain nine to 10 acres, leaving three to four acres for the 12 proposed new homes

The property’s future land-use designation of rural settlement 1/1 allows for up to 13 homes on the property because of the 13 upland acres of land on it. However, only up to 12 new homes would be built — if the rezoning request and develop site plans are approved — on the property, because a 50,000-square-foot home already exists on it. Additionally, the existing home would retain nine to 10 acres of the overall property — meaning the 12 new homes would be built on three to four acres of the property, Hall said.

“There will be no lakefront lots,” Hall said. “There will be no lake access to the new homes. The existing house will keep its dock and its boat … (but) the new houses aren’t lakefront.” 

Hall added that the proposed new homes would have central water and individual septic tanks. He also said the homes would be premium, high-priced homes. Current plans for the development propose building the homes on lots that are 50 feet wide and 6,000 square feet in area. The new homes are proposed to be built on the eastern portion of the property. Additionally, waivers from the Orange County Code to reduce the required amount of open space, recreation space and setbacks are being requested, as well as a waiver to increase the impervious surface area. 

“The square footage of a house relates to a price point, but it isn’t the only factor in the price point and there are many other factors,” Hall said. “The owner of this property has built multimillion-dollar townhomes in Hobe Sound and Jupiter, and these (proposed homes) would be detached, single-family houses. The model he uses there (in Hobe Sound and Jupiter) is the model that he’s using here, and we expect the price point to be over $1 million per house.” 

Area residents raised concerns over the compatibility and consistency of the proposed development with the existing development in the area, and also voiced concerns over the environmental impacts of the septic systems needed for the homes. One of those residents was Dale Lesesky.

“The main owner wants (most) of the property,” Lesesky said. “So if he puts a retention basin in there, where is the runoff for the septic tanks going? In the retention basin, or is it going into Lake Down? … Environmentally, it doesn’t make sense.”

County Planner Steven Thorp said he does see some “friction” with the proposed plans and the existing development in the area, and added the county will be addressing that with the property owner.

“Right now, I do see some friction with the request considering what is developed around here,” Thorp said. “That is something we do want to see the applicant try to address if he wants to move forward with this, and that’s something the Planning and Zoning Commission and County Commissioners, also, take into consideration. From a staff standpoint, we have to take a look at it for whether or not it meets code and whether it meets the intent of the comprehensive plan.”

Eric Gutierrez is a staff writer with the West Orange Times & Observer and the West Orange Observer. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a double major in Journalism and Political Science. Contact Eric at...

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