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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015 5 years ago

Oakland Town Commission fights widening of Oakland Avenue

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by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

OAKLAND — The Oakland Town Commission has approved the first reading of an ordinance that addresses transportation as it pertains to growth — with one exception. Oakland Avenue is not to be widened under any circumstances. This was the message stated repeatedly at the commission’s Jan. 27 meeting.

Brent Lacy, senior transportation planner with Littlejohn Engineering, in Orlando, highlighted the changes to a transportation presentation he originally gave to elected officials Jan. 13. This Transportation Element is part of the town’s overall Comprehensive Plan, which determines growth and development.

“The changes to the Transportation Element work to implement a new roadway master plan and have it apply to development review more substantially, while maintaining the integrity of the community vision,” Max Spann, Planning & Zoning director, said in his report.

Oakland has three main arteries: West Colonial Drive, Oakland Avenue and, to a lesser degree, Tubb Street. As the town grows, so does the need for wider roadways and more connector streets to accommodate the additional residents and businesses.

Lacy has said the town’s existing transportation network will not serve future demand. He stressed the importance of creating through-streets instead of cul-de-sacs and dead ends, building two paved north-south connector roads and widening Colonial Drive. Another possibility is to expand Oakland Avenue from two lanes to three or four lanes.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in this town that would be in favor of widening Oakland Avenue,” Mayor Kathy Stark said.

Commissioner Rick Polland said he was still concerned about the widening after seeing it on a list of proposed improvements in the presentation.

Lacy said the list offers only suggestions. He added that the town is in conflict with itself by agreeing to growth but not agreeing to provide the means to handle it.

“That says you are accepting more traffic and congestion on your roadways,” he said.

“I accept that,” the mayor replied.

Polland pointed out that Plant Street in downtown Winter Garden has just two lanes, and this seems to work there. West Plant becomes East Oakland Avenue at its intersection with Tildenville School Road. The picturesque two-lane road — with its preserves, parks, trails, historic districts and education and recreation centers — became an extension of the Green Mountain Scenic Byway in 2006.

Stark and commissioners Polland and Joseph McMullen all said they would be amenable to adding periodic left-turn lanes to help keep traffic flowing.

“We’re not widening the right-of-way under any circumstances,” Lacy assured them. “The big trees stay where they’re at.”

IN OTHER NEWS

• The commission held a lengthy discussion with Rich Thurston and Ron Thurston, of Thurston Auto Sales, admonishing them for improperly storing recreational vehicles at 16123 W. Colonial Drive. One of the conditions of a special-exception agreement between Thurston and the town was that RVs had to be kept behind a fence at the former Performance Honda dealership while the Thurstons were in negotiations to purchase the property. They took ownership Friday.

Mayor Kathy Stark maintains the vehicles have been prominently displayed for two months, which was not part of the agreement.

The Thurstons assured the commission that a 12-foot fence will be in place by Feb. 15.

• Human Resources Director Tonna Duvall asked the commission to amend the section of the town’s employee handbook regarding pre-employment drug testing. She said many Central Florida cities are changing their policy after the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida ruled that a public employer’s policy of drug testing “all job applicants” was applied in an unconstitutional manner in Voss v. City of Key West.

The commission voted to change the wording in the handbook to the following: “A candidate extended a conditional offer of employment whose job duties are safety sensitive, satisfies a ‘special need’ or furthers an important town of Oakland interest must take and pass a urinalysis drug test before beginning work.”

Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].

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