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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 1 month ago

Winter Garden, church reach right-of-way agreement

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The city will trade an acre of land near Tilden Road to First Baptist Winter Garden in exchange for right-of-way needed for the Dillard Street project.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

Winter Garden commissioners approved an agreement to acquire right-of-way necessary for the upcoming Dillard Street improvement project.

The agreement discussed during the Jan. 14 City Commission meeting includes a land swap, acquisition of property and option agreement. It involves trading city-owned land near Foundation Academy’s Tilden campus for an 888-square-foot right-of-way from First Baptist Winter Garden.

According to city documents, the right-of-way in question — located at the northwest corner of Plant and Dillard streets — is needed for a roundabout in conjunction with the Dillard Street project. After the roundabout is built, city staff said, that area will be used for trail right-of-way, as well as sidewalks, signals, landscaping and signage.

“Here’s one of the keys when you build these roundabouts and what requires you to take so much land,” City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said. “To make those crosswalks safe, you really need to move them a certain distance from the roundabout. By designing these crosswalks safely, it takes up a little bit more land, but you cannot move it in any closer because then you lose that safety factor. … Roundabouts are great, but the problem with roundabouts that people find is they take up a lot of land, and that’s the tricky part. If you try to minimize the land they take up, they’re no longer safe.” 

With acquisition of the right-of-way, the church will be losing one driveway access point and four parking spaces at its Plant Street campus. However, city staff said, that’s where the land swap comes into play.

The city owns 4.14 acres of land south of Tilden Road, which it had purchased for future retention ponds for any road widening in the area. The church’s school, Foundation Academy, is undergoing expansion and needs that land for its retention needs.

“They suggested — and we agreed — to work on a situation to deal with solving our problem getting the right-of-way and theirs getting the pond back,” said Ed Williams, the city’s planning consultant. “We are trading one acre of land we had purchased for the land being given at Dillard and Plant, as well as the damages caused by closing the driveway, losing the parking spaces and avoiding the costs of all the condemnation fees by going to court. That one acre equals the amount we were paying the for the right-of-way, all the damages and all the costs that they were going to assume on that.”

Williams said the church had previously purchased a .8-acre easement there from the city, and they also need another 1.67 acres of the 4.14-acre property. Along with the 1-acre parcel of land the church will acquire for the school’s expansion project, that comes out to 3.47 acres.

“The contract we have in front of you allows for them to purchase that (1.67 acres) now and pay it over time as income comes into them from their school situation,” Williams said. “All of these costs are at what we paid for the land. They are not getting any discount from what the value of our property is that was purchased with taxpayer money. That left us with a small remainder of 0.67 acres that they’re not sure if they need it or not. 

“They have put in the contract — and we agreed — to have them option that 0.67 acres,” he said. “That covers the entire 4.14 acres, it gets us the right-of-way that we need, it gets them the land they ned to allow for their expansion of the school, and yet it refunds and gives us the money we paid for that land.”

Williams said the church can exercise the option to purchase the 0.67 acres in the future.

He added that Dillard Street project engineers were careful to try and minimize disruptions to the church’s Plant Street campus.

“The church did not feel like that encroachment caused them irreparable harm,” Williams said. “We’re paying them for the parking spaces and loss of the access.”

As for the rest of the Dillard Street project, Bollhoefer added, city staff has been negotiating with every property owner whose land will be impacted. 

“Everyone has been notified, and we are close on all of them,” he said. “We feel pretty good about every intersection. We shifted these all different directions … to try and minimize the impact on everyone.”

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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