WINDERMERE — Crews broke ground on Windermere’s newest residential development last month, and one of its 10 lots already has sold.
Rosser Reserve is located on Conroy Windermere Road, just east of Jennifer Lane. It borders Rosser Road to the north and has boat ramp access to Lake Down to the east.
The development will comprise five lakefront lots of 1 acre each and five interior lots of .75 acres each. Interior lots start in the low $800,000s, while the lakefront lots will cost $1.6 million to $1.8 million. Each home will be custom-designed by its owners.
“We don’t have any plans to build any spec homes,” said Tim Green, CEO of Rosser Reserve’s development company, Green Tree Development Group. “If we do, it will only be one or two homes.”
Just south of the property on Conroy Windermere Road is the Isleworth subdivision, a 600-acre luxury community, which is one reason Rosser Reserve has been a focal point for development in recent years.
“Because we’re right across the street from each other, we’re obviously in support of each other,” Green said. “But from what I’ve seen, people are interested in a brand-new product, brand-new subdivision.”
Green also pointed to the intimacy of Rosser Reserve as a reason families might prefer it over Isleworth, a community of 298 built homes and 15 remaining vacant lots. He said Green Tree Development hopes Rosser Reserve will be taken “up to the next notch” compared with Isleworth.
John William McMurtrey owned a series of grocery stores in Georgia in the late 1800s. By 1909, a customer named S.S. Griffin had accumulated a small debt at McMurtrey’s stores.
The two men made a deal: McMurtrey would eliminate the debt and give Griffin $50 in exchange for 40 acres of Griffin’s property on Lake Down in Windermere.
Two of McMurtrey’s sons helped him clear some of the land for a tent. McMurtrey’s wife, two youngest daughters and granddaughter, Emma Marcelle Bennett, soon permanently moved to the property.
“My family traveled by covered wagons, and it took them three months to get here from Atlanta, fighting bears and panthers along the way,” said Sue Prosser, a descendant.
In 1917, Bennett married John Wesley Rosser. The couple bought 10 of the original 40 acres on Lake Down and planted a citrus grove. The land became known as Rosser Reserve and stayed in the family for two more generations.
“The heirs who survive spent their childhood years visiting our grandparents at the house on the grove property every week for Sunday supper and playing in and around the citrus trees,” Prosser said. “For many decades, it was a lush, productive citrus operation that contributed support to our grandparents and parents.”
Citrus greening eventually hit the Rosser groves, and the family decided to put the land on the market for the first time eight years ago. Various developers submitted proposals for high-density housing, a parking lot, an assisted-living facility and other uses, but none of the proposals received the approval of the Rosser family and the Windermere Town Council.
In 2014, Green Tree Development presented plans to build a luxury residential community at Rosser Reserve.
“They had a plan to do a low-impact development, which is pretty much matching what is surrounding on the north, west, east and south of that property … so that was something that the council was really in favor of,” Windermere Town Manager Robert Smith said.
Prosser and her family agreed — a subdivision with only 10 houses was more appealing than bigger projects proposed.
“The Rosser family is pleased to be a part of the Rosser Reserve and tirelessly worked to find a purchaser who was willing to create a worthwhile legacy for the Rosser family,” Prosser said.
SEWER, SECURITY AND TRAFFIC CONTROL
Rosser Reserve is the first development in Windermere to be served by sewer lines instead of septic systems. Green Tree Development worked with Orange County to add more than 1,200 feet of oversized pipes that will service the development.
Green said this could benefit the town in the future, if leaders decide to start adding sewer lines in Windermere. The new lines could connect to the existing Rosser Reserve lines.
Throughout the last decade, the Windermere Town Council has annexed some gated communities, but it has not approved any new developments to be gated communities. The reasoning was typically that Windermere should be accessible to everyone.
Some residents were unhappy that Isleworth was gated, Smith said.
“That was a point of contention with the Development Review Board, and they had to make a lot of concessions in order to get that gate in place,” Smith said.
But every development is examined on a case-by-case basis. Rosser Reserve was approved for a gate because of its boat ramp.
“If you have an open development area, it’s more likely that people would just drive in there and park their cars with a boat or trailer in that development, and that could become a major issue,” Smith said.
Green said his team also took care to make sure the entrance to Rosser Reserve would not cause traffic problems. Even if every Rosser Reserve homeowner were trying to turn into the subdivision at the same time, there wouldn’t be any backup.
“Windermere is known for its traffic,” Green said. “Ten cars can fit in our turn lane … so we feel that that’s also going to reduce the traffic congestion.”