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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020 1 month ago

New apartment project in Horizon West takes step forward

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The project would add 350 multi-family units to Avalon Road in Horizon West.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

A proposed project for 350 new apartments in Horizon West has taken a step forward.

The Orange County Board of County Commissioners approved a request at its Tuesday, Feb. 11, meeting to convert 100,000 square feet of non-residential uses and a 645-bed dormitory use to 350 multi-family residential units.

The property, located north of Old YMCA Road and west of Avalon Road, is part of the Core Academy Planned Development — originally planned to be the dormitory for a sports academy, said Planner II Nate Wicke, of the county’s Planning Division. The original plan was received back in June 2015, but the project never came to fruition, Wicke said.

Daniel O’Keefe, an attorney with Shutts & Bowen who represented the applicant for the project, explained the proposal is smaller than what is currently allowed on the property. A height of 65 feet is being proposed despite a height of 150 feet being approved earlier under the zoning. The original agreement also allowed for 441 peak hour trips; only 154 peak hour trips are being proposed with the current project, O’Keefe said.

However, the proposed project has been met with some pushback from local residents. A petition on Change.org opposing the project gathered more than 1,400 signatures as of Tuesday, Feb. 11, before the meeting. According to the petition, concerns about the project include: a change of the skyline in the area; a large increase in traffic; an increase of already low resources in the area regarding food and fuel; and the future danger of residents being too close to a major highway.

At the commission meeting, resident Edward Campodonico spoke about the influx of new cars that would add to the area’s traffic woes.

“I heard what they said that this is reducing the amount of impact,” he said. “In theory, that is correct, because that was 640 dormitories versus 350 apartments — the difference with apartments is you have residents (who) live there that have multiple cars and children (who) are going to school.

“(The) reality is this impacts a lot to our community,” he said. “This isn’t just about someone changing a golf academy to an apartment. You don’t just put 400 cars in an intersection … it’s taking us 25 minutes to drive 4 miles to school because of all the traffic on Summerlake Groves.”

Resident Ronald Tudor expressed a similar concern about the project.

“The county continues to approve residential housing but (has) not expedited the infrastructure to support this growth,” he said. “The schools are overcrowded and the students are being taught in portables. ... I hope the county can just slow up on building all for these additional places until the infrastructure is in place.”

O’Keefe said there is always some tension in a new community until infrastructure can catch up.

Before county commissioners voted on the item, District 1 Commissioner Betsy VanderLey explained her logic for voting in favor of the project.

“They’re reducing the number of units, they’re reducing the number of allowable trips, their completion ties to some of the relief schools opening,” VanderLey said.

Tim Freed is the Managing Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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