Plant Street Market LLC, the private company funding the microbrewery and artisan market planned to replace a blighted apartment building at 426 Plant St., postponed its scheduled closing on the property from May to June because a lower-than-expected appraisal reduced the size of the mortgage available to the company. The group paid a $10,000 penalty to extend the closing date and raised an additional $400,000 to close the gap between mortgage and construction costs. It also eliminated some of the amenities in its construction plan to reduce costs.
At its June 12 meeting, the Winter Garden City Commission approved a city staff request to provide Plant Street LLC an additional $60,000 grant to match the Community Redevelopment Fund’s grant of $60,000 already reserved for the market. Commissioners also voted unanimously to spend up to $30,000 improving the pedestrian right-of-way near the property and make other improvements to Plant Street.
Commissioner Bobby Olszewski said, “We have always wanted to develop Plant Street to Park [Avenue]. It’s an investment in the city that will benefit any business.”
Commissioner Kent Makin said he “supported the project 100 percent,” and Commissioner Bob Buchanan said, “Most people I talk to can’t wait to see this project.”
Representatives from Plant Street LLC said that with this additional support from the city, they expect to close by the end of June and start construction in July.
In other business, commissioners:
• postponed a vote to rezone 426 Plant St. until the July 10 meeting, after Plant Street LLC has closed on the property.
• postponed a vote rezoning 33.79 acres at the southwest corner of Beard Road and Ninth Street and a vote on rezoning 14.14 acres at the West Orange Business Center.
• annexed 3.412 acres of land at 17901 Marsh Road at the request of the property owner. The second reading of the annexation ordinance will be June 26.
• approved an ordinance vacating draining and utility easements between the lots at 695 and 711 Garden Commerce Parkway. The lots’ owner, Thermo King, wants to build one office building on the two lots, which will eliminate the need for an easement between them. The second reading is scheduled for June 26.
The commission also approved the site plan for the property. Thermo King provides transportation refrigeration parts and services for trucks and trucking companies.
• approved a site plan for LVS Project Inc. at 721 Garden Commerce Parkway. LVS Project is a truck scheduling business that matches drivers with loads. While the building will mostly house office operations, 18-wheelers might occasionally park overnight in the lot. The new plan meets the city’s screening and buffer requirements for truck parking.
• approved a site plan for 1630 Avalon Road to build a Ladybird Academy Day Care Center, which is expected to house up to 90 children. The company expects the increase in new home construction in that area will create a demand for day care.
• approved the final plat for Oakland Park Phase 2B.
• approved the final plat for Waterside on Johns Lake Phase I. This phase will have 139 lots on 52 acres. Mayor John Rees expressed concern about whether or not the Orange County School Board’s construction plans can keep up with increased population density. City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said most of these projects were initially approved two years ago. The developers agreed to pay higher impact fees to ensure they would have sufficient elementary and middle schools built to serve residents.
• approved blocking Plant Street between Central Avenue and Main Street for the Kids All-American Parade on July 4. Mayor Rees said, “It’s a good event. We all agree.”
• reappointed John Benoit III and Jack Litteral to the Code Enforcement/Nuisance Abatement Board. Both men expressed interest in remaining on the board for another term. The city received seven applications from citizens who also wanted to serve on the board. Even though commissioners decided it was best to reappoint the incumbents, Commissioner Buchanan said, “I hope the people that expressed an interest will stay with it.” Commissioner Olszewski asked City Clerk Kathy Golden and other staff to follow up personally with those who expressed interest. He said: “A few years ago we couldn’t find anyone to serve. Now we are getting very qualified candidates.”
• appointed Matt Moore to the General Employees Pension Board to replace resigning member Marguerite Kennington.
• confirmed Phil Cross as the fifth trustee on the Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension Board for a two-year term.
• appointed Kelly Purdy and Benjamin LaTorre to fill vacancies on the Election Canvassing Board. They were the only residents who submitted an interest form for the open positions.
• approved a request from Community Development Director Ed Williams to allow West Orange Habitat for Humanity to begin building a house for a wounded veteran while the group pursues a zoning variance request for the property. Usually construction wouldn’t start until the zoning variance was granted. Since this variance would only require a foot and a half less setback than normally allowed, and time was of the essence, the commission allowed construction to proceed. Director Williams expected the Zoning Board to approve the request after a formal review since it has approved similar requests in the past.
During the comments from commissioners, Mayor Rees read a letter from Orange County Sherriff Jerry Demings thanking the commission for helping the family of slain Deputy Jonathan Scott Pine by waiving their utility fees for six months. Deputy Pine was a Winter Garden resident killed in the line of duty in February.
The next meeting is June 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Winter Garden City Hall.