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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Jun. 19, 2014 4 years ago

Residents oppose possible development in Windermere

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by: Tony Judnich

A handful of residents who live in and next to Windermere told the Windermere Town Council on June 10 that a potential mixed-use development would destroy the town’s ambiance.

The site of the possible development of about 55 single-family homes and 25,000 square feet of commercial space — collectively known as Windsong at Windermere — encompasses 36 acres at 1800 and 2042 Maguire Road. It is bounded by the unincorporated Orange County community of the Reserve at Belmere to the north, Windermere’s Willows of Lake Rhea subdivision to the west, Windermere Road and the remnants of an orange grove to the south and a few private residential properties to the east.

The owner of the 36 acres, Jain Family Holdings Ltd., of Orlando, recently submitted a request to Windermere that asks for the site’s future land-use designation to be amended from county rural to Windermere planned development. While the rural designation permits one home per 10 acres, the planned development category would allow a much more intensive use of the land.

“Let’s find out the costs and what’s exactly being proposed” before moving forward, Windermere resident Raymond Kellett urged the council.

Kellett and other residents said a planned-unit development, or PUD, would destroy Windermere’s ambiance that stems in part from its dirt roads, massive tree cover and small-scale commercial development.

Mayor Gary Bruhn said he and his fellow council members live in Windermere because of its ambiance, as well.

The council also heard from a man from the Reserve at Belmere who said problems with bottlenecked traffic would increase if the potential development becomes a reality. But according to the land-use amendment application filed by Jain Family Holdings, a traffic study found that Maguire Road has “adequate access and capacity for this property.”

Another Belmere resident, Rick Montgomery, said he is supportive of the tax revenue the possible development would bring but is concerned about the project’s potential roundabout on Maguire Road.

The developer and owners of the 36 acres “can propose what they want, but the five of us [council members] up here will decide what will go there,” Bruhn said.

After further discussion, the council unanimously approved submitting the proposed land-use amendment to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for consideration. The state’s review will take at least 30 days.

Some council members assured worried residents that they were not approving any specific aspects of the possible mixed-used development.

“There is nothing set in stone,” said Council Member Mike Pirozzolo, who also expressed hesitancy about the project.

Council Member Richard Gonzalez said he’s OK with residential units being built on the property, but not commercial. He also said he is against sprawl and that commercial properties should be restricted to downtown Windermere.

And Council Member John Armstrong flatly said, “I will not vote for commercial” uses on the 36-acre site, a remark that brought a smattering of applause from residents.

If the state approves the land-use change, the council later would be presented with a rezoning request and proposed site plan for the property, said engineer David Evans, of Orlando, speaking on behalf of the property owners.

In other business, the council:

• agreed to discuss at its next meeting on July 8 ways of memorializing the late Windermere Police Officer Robert “Robbie’ German, who was killed in March in the line of duty. Possible memorials could consist of naming or renaming a park or street after German or having a monument in his honor placed in front of the police station, council members said.

• approved paying $119,000 to low bidder Sun Road Inc., of Oviedo, for Ridgewood Drive/Sixth Avenue drainage improvements.

• approved the first reading of an ordinance that would regulate the distribution of unsolicited advertisements, many of which reportedly are often scattered on residential properties.

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