After three hours of community, council and developer discussion on a Windsong residential development in Windermere, the Windermere Town Council unanimously voted Oct. 14 to revisit a revision of the development plan at its November meeting.
The council voted 3-2 to approve with changes the first hearings of Windsong’s rezoning ordinance, developers agreement and preliminary development plan. The council delayed its decision on future land use of the 36-acre plot so it could collectively approve or deny these four aspects pertaining to the plot.
Dozens of local residents and all of the council expressed various concerns with the proposed development between Maguire Road and The Willows at Lake Rhea, including lot sizes, distance between houses, traffic and water systems.
“We really don’t have any problem with development in general, but we have some concerns,” said engineer Roger Ambuter of The Willows Homeowners Association. “Groundwater is a primary concern. The Willows has experienced flooding in the past from Lake Rhea. We want to be sure approval of this plan will include a thorough analysis of water runoff. If we get a 20-inch similar to what we had in 2004, that’s 8 million gallons. It has to be accounted for someplace. I would suggest that instead of approving this proposal of 55 houses, approving the concept, subject to (conditions involving water).”
Council members Mike Pirozzolo and Richard Gonzalez had problems with lot sizes and traffic congestion the community could cause, but they voted to advance the plan to a second reading because of their trust in the developer and a hope for compromise.
“We’ve got a good developer here and a good piece of land,” Pirozzolo said. “We’ve got to make this work.”
Council member John Armstrong dissented, saying the council had already made compromises it would not allow even for its members.
“We’ve made people in this town walk the line because they didn’t follow the (residential development) code,” Armstrong said. “I wouldn’t go for anything smaller than a half-acre plot size. Setbacks are a must. They should be the same setbacks we all abide by, including myself. Our town setbacks, which are also the county setbacks, have to be 10 (feet between houses); yours are 7.5. And the rear setback has to be 35; yours are 20 or 25. I’m not going to budge on that at all. There is no compromise on that, and I’m not going to compromise on the lot sizes any further, either.”
Council member Molly Rose also took issue with the lot sizes, which she said did not fit in with the rest of Windermere.
“I think that Windermere, unlike many other towns around here, is a rural development,” Rose said. “That is because of the trees and the lot sizes and the local feel. Windsong is lovely, but it’s concrete, and it’s not what we are about. Everybody else in town has to abide by our (lot sizes), which I am willing to reduce only to a half-acre. The Willows average is .6 (acres). Less than a half? That’s not Windermere. We want to keep Windermere Windermere.”
Councilman Jim O’Brien was absent from the meeting, leaving the deciding vote to Mayor Gary Bruhn, who said the parcel was important as possibly the last potential development space in Windermere.
“We can change it next month, council,” Bruhn said. “For now, yes, give the developers the opportunity to come back and re-approach us.”
David Evans, president of Evans Engineering, presented and spoke on behalf of the development team. He said the team had addressed any water issues and would do its best to return with lot sizes and setbacks as close to the mandates as possible, but 50 lots would be necessary to make the plan work.
The fate of the Windsong plan will be determined at the next Windermere Town Council meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 11.
Windermere will host the formation of the NFL Alumni Association Central Florida Chapter at a special meeting, 6 p.m. Oct. 23. Police Chief David Ogden will be on the board. About 157 former players will be in the chapter, which will be a non-profit organized to benefit charities, including player visits around the area.
The council unanimously approved an ordinance to require a permit for special events with 250 or more people on private property in Windermere’s corporate limits. Along with a $50 fee for the permit, hosts must pay at least $64 per hour for various services.
The council approved the purchase of a $6,624 projector and screen from Technomedia Solutions. The screen will be available for public access through Windermere Wi-Fi and used at council meetings.
The mayor issued four proclamations. The proclamations recognized the Young Marines for work toward a drug-free nation; declared Oct. 14, 2014 “Kids Car Safety Awareness Day;” designated October 2014 as Windermere Police Appreciation Month for the first time in years; and labeled Nov. 1-8 the “Week of the Family.”