Tavistock representatives reportedly agreed to withdraw their development application as a show of good faith.
WINDERMERE – For the past three months, Windermere has been engaged in negotiations with Tavistock Development Company to potentially reach a mutual vision for the future of the northwest corner of Conroy-Windermere and Apopka-Vineland roads.
The contentious 43-acre corner — dubbed the 4th Corner — remains undeveloped, but the property owner, Tavistock, presented preliminary designs during a January community meeting showcasing future plans. Those plans proved unpopular with local residents.
Since then, Tavistock representatives have cut ties with their former planner and entered into a new contract with Canin Associates Inc., with the goal of creating revised designs that might appease area residents.
However, to avoid the risk of Orange County commissioners approving amendments to the future land use and zoning designations of the property, Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn proposed to Windermere Town Council members the option of involuntarily annexing the corner into the town.
Further discussion of the issue eventually led to negotiations with Tavistock, and Windermere Town Manager Robert Smith feels positive about the possibility of arranging a voluntary annexation of the corner. Although negotiations are expected to take a few more months, he believes Tavistock has an incentive to annex into the town.
“They would know what they’re going to get with the town,” Smith said. “I mean, right now, we have a council that you can negotiate with face-to-face. But with the elections coming up, they don’t know who they’re going to be dealing with next year (in Orange County).”
Tavistock also has agreed to withdraw the development application it had submitted to Orange County, Smith said, in an act of good faith. However, as of press time, Tavistock had yet to officially withdraw its application.
“They submitted an email to the Orange County Planning Department stating that they are pretty much stalling with the application,” Smith said. “I didn’t read anywhere in the email that it was a withdrawal, so I’m trying to make sure that we have some sort of statement that they’re withdrawing the application at this time. ... I think a withdrawal would show the council and the public at large, which has been opposed to this development, that they’re serious about negotiations with both the town and the residents in the area to develop something everyone would be proud of.”
If negotiations ultimately fail, the town will have no qualms moving forward with its original strategy, even though it would require the annexation of more properties and push the town’s boundaries more north than anticipated, Smith said.
“It’s a long process, and we want to make sure that if we decide to annex them in involuntarily or voluntarily, then it’s done for the right reasons, and it’s done by the book,” Smith said. “Currently, we’re working on the voluntary annexation, but if push comes to shove, the town still has the right to bring them in involuntarily.”
Council members have instructed Smith to first exhaust all options to bring them in voluntarily, particularly if Tavistock’s application is withdrawn from the county. With the application withdrawn, the time constraints forcing the town to act quickly on an involuntary annexation no longer apply.
“I don’t believe that we’ll lose the timeframe (for an involuntary annexation), because the timeframe to obtain new entitlements through the county is very cumbersome, especially with the way that the current land use and zoning is structured,” Smith said. “And in addition to that, the town would have some legal standing to possibly contest any amendments to the land use for that northwest corner if they were to circumvent discussions with the town. But I think we’re just trying to figure out something that’s beneficial not only to the town, developer and the county, but also the local residents.”