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Photo by: Sarah Wilson - A trio of proposals could shrink the scope of a new development to save some wetlands and possibly improve stormwater filtration.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 5 years ago

Maitland considers development option to save wetlands

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New pond option presented
by: Sarah Wilson Staff Writer

As the Maitland City Council continues to wade its way through the details of the Maitland Concourse North development, talk about wetlands seems to seep its way into every discussion.

In response to being flooded by resident complaints over the development’s proposed encroachment into wetlands along Lake Charity, engineers for the project presented a new plan to the Council on Monday that would avoid intruding on any wetlands at all. But, engineer John Martin said, it would also do less to help clean up water quality in the nearby lakes.

The new proposal is the third iteration of plans presented by the developer for the layout of its required retention pond. First, the plans had the pond enveloping 3.63 acres of low-grade wetlands. Then, after a wave of nearby residents complained, the developers scaled that back to 2.1 acres. And on Monday, they presented a third option that includes no infringement on wetlands by creating two smaller dry ponds and third smaller wet pond.

But now the Council is split between preserving the wetlands in favor of smaller ponds, or helping to potentially improve the nearby lakes’ water quality by installing a larger pond that would keep more stormwater from infiltrating the lakes. Martin said the new third pond option would maintain current water quality standards, not helping or hurting current quality levels.

Councilman Ivan Valdes said he is strongly in favor of the second pond option, sacrificing some wetlands for better lake protection.

“We either are willing to improve the water quality for 2 acres of low-quality wetlands... or we're going to dig our feet in the sand,” Valdes said. “And if we do that, we're throwing away a lot of good stuff for 2 acres.”

But Coucilwoman Bev Reponen said the two sides need to come to a compromise, complying with city building regulations and doing what’s best for the lakes. Reponen has argued that building the pond within the wetlands could go against city code.

“We both have to compromise,” she said. “The citizens count on us for upholding the rules on the books … We can't just make them disappear.”

Members of the public fell on both sides of the argument; some saying the city needs to build the bigger pond for the benefit of the lakes, while others said they were impressed by the new plans and the ability to save the wetlands.

“I love the new plan... it's a lot better than what they brought before us in the past,” said Lee Atkins, who lives along Lake Charity.

Chemist and former city councilman Jeff Flowers, on the other hand, said he felt the new plan was worse that the ones that came before it.

“Somebody needs to stand up for these lakes … These wetlands aren't going to protect them,” he said. “…Build [the pond] big enough so that it works.”

The City Council will continue its second, and final, public hearing for the Maitland Concourse North development at its meeting on Feb. 8. In addition to tackling the issue of the pond, the Council is also set to discuss whether the project fits into the residential scale and character of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The project would replace the city’s last orange grove that sits between lakes Hope, Faith and Charity and Maitland Boulevard with the pond, a 10-acre passive park, 350 multi-family luxury residential units, 150,000 square feet of retail space, and as much as 30,000 square feet of office space.

“Progress is not perfection,” said Mayor Dale McDonald. “I don't think we've done our best yet.”

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