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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2019 5 months ago

Oakland P&Z board recommends rezone approval of 242-unit apartment complex

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The Oakland Town Commission is scheduled to discuss the rezone proposal April 23.
by: Gabby Baquero News Editor

Oakland’s Planning and Zoning Board have recommended that the Town Commission approve the zoning and future land-use designation requests for a proposed apartment project.

The 11.3-acre property fronting Johns Lake, located at 17812 W. Colonial Drive, is owned by Gary M. and Dana D. English and was annexed into the town in August. The applicant behind the rezone request, LIV Development Inc., has proposed to construct a 242-unit apartment complex that has many surrounding homeowners worried.

To construct the complex, LIV Development needs to change the future land-use designation from Orange County Rural (one dwelling unit per 10 acres) to Mixed Use Activity Center and rezone the property to Planned Unit Development. 

During the March 19 meeting, about 25 homeowners from the Deer Island and Oakland Trails community signed up to express their concerns, which included traffic congestion, property devaluation and the project’s incompatibility with surrounding properties.

Gerry Klaus, who owns a home on Tubb Street, believes the proposed project fails to conform to adjacent property uses and offered to purchase the property for $3.75 million, which was met with a round of applause.

Klaus suggested the best use of the property would be a custom-home enclave with up to 15 homes ranging between $1.5 to $2 million that would be similar in architectural style to homes commonly seen in Dr. Phillips and Windermere, he said.

“It would be significantly less of an impact to the community, and I think the folks in town would appreciate something like that that conforms to the surrounding properties,” Klaus said. “But whether that amount is acceptable to Mr. English, I don’t know.”

Several residents also expressed concerns with the findings of a traffic analysis that stated the project would add minimal traffic to the highly congested State Road 50 segment nearest the property, which currently operates at an F level of service.

“The traffic impact analysis found that this segment of State Road 50 has a level of Service F now,” said Jay Marder, the town’s planning and zoning director. “But there’s been a traffic analysis and it essentially proved, and we generally agree, that the numbers (from the project) will not really cause a significant impact on the existing traffic. ... There are two access points, and there’s quite a bit that can and should be done. We have a responsibility to make darn sure that what we do permit here has been properly mitigated. So there’s a list of five key stipulations that are required, which includes a 220-foot additional eastbound turn lane onto Oakland Avenue … and right-in and right-out turn lanes for the property’s eastern access ... as well as improving Orange Avenue.”

The town has also asked the developer to provide $100,000 worth of enhancements to the intersection of Oakland Avenue and State Road 50, he added. And the town has plans for a $1.5-million roundabout to improve the Oakland Avenue intersection, which Marder expects will make a big difference.

According to Tim McKeecher, of LIV Development, the project proposal’s density also differs from what the requested future land-use actually allows: 622 units — 380 more than what the developer has requested to build.

Both Marder and McKeecher also emphasized to the board members and meeting attendees that the proposal is only in the preliminary stages, and it will need to come back to the Town Commission again when the site and architectural plans are designed.

“There are many more steps to this process,” McKeecher said. “The Comprehensive Plan amendment still has to go through state review. You’ve got the architectural design, site design, construction and engineering to go through, then the town commission has to approve, again — assuming the future land-use change and zoning is approved — the site and architectural plans. So we’re making some progress, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

Gabby is the news editor for the West Orange Times and Windermere Observer newspapers. Have a story tip? Contact her at (352) 448-5856 or at [email protected]....

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