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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jun. 15, 2022 1 month ago

Orange County denies Discovery Church's Lake Avalon campus request

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Discovery sought a special exemption it needed to construct a 737-seat church within the Lake Avalon Rural Settlement.
by: Andrea Mujica Staff Writer

Orange County commissioners on Tuesday, June 7, denied a special-exception request needed to build a church within the Lake Avalon Rural Settlement near Horizon West.

Discovery Church sought a special exemption it needed to construct a 43,190-square-foot, 737-seat church within the Lake Avalon Rural Settlement. Based on the number of seats for the church, the project would have required about 270 parking spaces.

The parcel currently is zoned A-1, which allows agriculture use of the land, as well as nurseries and greenhouses. In larger lots, the A-1 zoning allows for the construction of mobile homes and single-family homes.

"The application was for a Special Exception to the limitations guiding development in the Lake Avalon Rural Settlement," District 1 County Commissioner Nicole Wilson said. "Discovery Church would not need a special exception if (it) had planned for the project to be built in Horizon West or anywhere else with the underlying future land use designated for Institutional use. 

"I met with the applicant prior to their application for Special Exception and relayed the challenges they would encounter building a 44,0000-square-foot structure in the rural settlement," she said. "I also asked them to come out to the community so they could meet with neighbors and better understand the concerns of the Rural Settlement. The community meeting was standing-room only, and rural settlement landowners begged them to build in Horizon West instead of the rural settlement. 

"In the alternative, the community asked that if the church moves ahead with the application whether they could reduce the footprint to match the existing churches in the rural settlement — 16,000 square feet," Wilson said. "The applicant was unwilling to change the footprint and never altered the floor area ratio after meeting with the community."

Currently, Discovery operates a Winter Garden campus at 4064 Winter Garden Vineland Road, Winter Garden; a Sand Lake campus at 881 Sand Lake Road, Orlando; and an Alafaya campus at 2504 S. Alafaya Trail, Orlando.The Board of Zoning Adjustment previously had recommended approval of the church. However, county staff considered the proposed structure to be incompatible with the current use of adjacent land — which primarily includes single-family homes. 

Ultimately, the County Commission voted 4-3 to deny the request.

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Andrea Mujica is a staff writer for the West Orange Times & Observer, the Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida....

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